By Leah McHenry
From $0 to $100,000 in No Time Flat With No Start-Up Captial and No Audience
This is something I just experienced in my latest venture, Mythologie Candles, and I’m happy to share this free information with you (just leave me some love in the comments!)
This is also known as "bootstrapping" (zero investors or capital).
2) Mastering the art & science of the pre-order
When you master the pre-order, you don’t need start-up capital and can bootstrap your way into profit zone in record speed.
1. First, you need a minimum viable product (MVP).
It doesn’t need the bells and whistles, just enough to give someone the gist of what you’re doing.
If all you have is a smartphone, use the portrait setting or use Instagram’s focus filter to take semi-professional looking photos.
If you have an actual good camera laying around, then go for it.
Try to set the mood.
Put some effort into the setting and environment and lighting.
You must set the MOOD.
I can’t stress that enough.
In our Pinstagram culture, people are obsessed with aesthetics. The aesthetic of the PHOTO must match what they identify with (you are appealing to ego).
If you can understand from the get-go that people getting excited about your product has nothing to do with your product and everything to do with their OWN self-expression to find products that match their own worldview and preferred view of themselves… then this all becomes very easy.
2. Gauge interest through niche Facebook groups
My sales philosophy is this: Why guess when you can ask!
Want to know if a product is worth pursuing?
Want to know if it’s a terrible idea, or don’t want to put capital into something you’re not 100% sure of?
I joined several Facebook groups that had to do with the culture of my product.
You’ve got to think bigger than your product.
Think about what kind of person is this?
What kind of movies do they watch?
What kind of lifestyle are they into?
I mean, everything.
Know your ideal customer and get in their head.
Now, what interests do they have that might have some crossover with YOUR product?
In my case, it was a specific movie collection.
Now there’s a right and wrong way to go about this. Don’t just start posting your products in a group, which will come off slimy and probably break the group rules.
Instead, I reached out to the admins and permission to post my photo and if it was alright to ask their group for feedback. Almost always I got a yes! They appreciate it when you follow rules.
Now comes the fun part.
If your photo matches the aesthetic of their ego and your product is unique or interesting, this is when people start salivating.
I mean, they will go BANANAS.
It’s even juicier the fact that you are NOT posting links. Let them ask!
Then, if and when people are drooling over your product, you can post an opt-in link for them to sign up to be notified when your product becomes available.
This cost you $0.
3. Build a grassroots email list of 1000-5000 highly interested people
This is where things start to get exciting.
From the grassroots Facebook group approach, you will begin to build a seed audience. Your business will be built from this tiny group of people.
You will need an opt-in page that is connected to a CRM or email service provider. Any of them are fine. I am using Leadpages and Drip.
Make sure the aesthetic of the landing page MATCHES the same photos you used in the Facebook groups, or you will confuse people and they won’t sign up.
It doesn’t get more simple than this. I used the same image I took on my phone as the background. I tell them what I want them to do. I tell them why and what the benefit is, and the button is a bright yellow.
Continue working this Facebook group strategy until you have at least 1000 people in your seed audience (email).
If you want this to go faster, also run an opt-in ad on Facebook to a very targeted audience of people in that same niche/interest demographic you just posted in the groups.
If your product is interesting and exciting to them, all they’ll need to see is the same image you posted in the group, and copy something like this:
“COMING SOON: [Blank product] for [specific person] to help you [giant benefit]. Sign up to be notified when it launches!”
I got $.10 -.20 leads doing this.
Make sure you have a Facebook page and Instagram account so when you’re running ads you’ll also get simultaneous follows/likes as a result.
4. Launch a pre-order to that highly interested group of people
Next comes the big moment you’ve been waiting for.
While you are building your list and your audience, you are building your shop. I strongly suggest using Shopify but choose your platform.
When I first launched, I only used the photos from my phone on my product pages. I worked more on the theme design, color schemes, aesthetic and mood, and the product descriptions. Product descriptions are make or break, aside from the photos.
I studied other brands in the same industry and niche and took notes on what I liked and didn’t like about their shops. I learned and adjusted mine accordingly.
RABBIT TRAIL: I also bought from many of my competitors before I began this whole thing. I took copious notes in a binder, taking note of every little detail from the shipper box, to the packing tape they used, to the packaging, the postcard or business card they threw in, the quality of the product, anything I liked or hated during my shopping experience, the follow-up emails, did they try to upsell me or not, etc. And I rated them all.
Most of them were MEH. Only a few really stood out to me, and almost always there was some form of personalization. My favorite was a hand-written note with my NAME on it. That made it feel special and like I was given a gift!
Back to the shop.
I made sure it was as absolutely good as I could get it without going crazy or spending money on customizations. After all, we are still in product validation mode.
Next, set a date for the pre-order launch, and WRITE UPDATES to your seed audience. Let them in behind the scenes as you build this from the ground-up. Ask them their opinions (everyone LOVES to give their opinion, don’t they!), ask them to vote on things, get their feedback on your logo, and have real conversations with these people. Treat them like gold - they are launching your new business or product to the world.
Send emails leading up to the launch, including the day before “Watch your email tomorrow!”. Make sure they understand there is real scarcity and urgency as this is a new product and you will likely sell out fast or have to close down the pre-order at any time. Make sure they know they need to act fast.
Launch the pre-order and send at least 2 emails that day, maybe more. One of them can simply be a status email (i.e. “Wow you guys are blowing me away! I can’t believe how many orders we have already and it’s only noon!”)
Make sure you have abandon cart emails set up too as well as at least a short nurture flow if they don’t buy right away.
5. Fund your product and business operations
By this point, success will completely depend on how the pre-order goes and how excited people are for your product, but if you built it the right way with salivating superfans from the grassroots techniques outlined here, selling out of your first round should be no problem.
In our case, we had to shut it down because orders were coming in too fast and we wanted to make sure we could fulfill them all as we worked out all of our manufacturing kinks.
From this initial round, you will pay for any manufacturing you need, plus your materials, and any first hires. Customer service will be one of your first hires, at least part-time.
This is how we bootstrapped our way to our first $100,000 with zero capital and zero audience.
BONUS: Accelerate your audience growth through giveaways
I recommend you rinse & repeat steps 1-5 over and over again, with each new additional product you bring to the market.
If you end up doing multiple rounds of pre-orders before you’re able to take orders full-time, I suggest continuing to build your audience on your social platforms and get them onto your email list as your top priority. One great way we continued to do this, even when we were not taking orders (the pre-order was closed), was through giveaways.
We have been enjoying the app Upviral and it’s worked great, with a couple of minor bugs. The leaderboard on the thank you page really made people competitive and worked wonders. It’s a great way to build your email list.
Make sure your giveaway is juicy. We used sample packs as our chosen item, which people went nuts for. We now continue to use this method every 4-6 weeks and run cold ads for this giveaway (often to our competitors’ audiences)
Continue to launch new products to all the new people you’ve added to your email list and social accounts, and work your way to 7 figures in record time!
Tell me what you're launching! What's scary? What's doable? And what is your big goal? I'll be reading your comments!
Meet Leah: Starving artist to millionaire in 12 months. Overcoming a past of pain, a poverty mindset, and lack of business education, Leah went on to create multiple businesses into the high six and multiple seven figures. Aside from her passion for being a wife, and mother to her five children, she's also a well-known recording artist in the Symphonic Metal genre, lover of freedom, free-market capitalism, and follower of Jesus.