Bootstrapping amid a pandemic: How to build a business without spending a lot

In these very uncertain times, businesses have to be more careful of their spending. Good thing though social media and the internet can now give them the exposure they need at low prices. 

For comparison, while print and TV ads may cost you upwards of a hundred thousand pesos, the cost to get yourself to 1,000 people on Facebook is only $0.25 (P1,209.44).

I lost my job last April 2020, amid the pandemic. I am part of the statistics, along with 5 million other Filipinos, who lost their jobs and livelihood in the middle of last year.

Thankfully, given my Neuro-Linguistic Programming background, I was able to immediately shift to a new industry. I used my last pay to start a new business. I pivoted to training real estate entrepreneurs on how they can transition their business online. 

By February 2021, I have already conducted 178 paid, live trainings to over 3,500 individuals, spending only $308 (P14,893.19) on Facebook ads. 

How did I do it? Here are some of the low-cost, high-value strategies I used.

Go deep in understanding your market 

I coined a term for what I do as a Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner. With over 20 years of experience in advertising and marketing and a background in e-commerce from my first business, I call it "Brain Science Selling." 

With this framework, all sales transactions happen in your brain. It starts with the business owner's mindset and how deeply they understand the market. 

In my case, I know how the real estate industry works, having been a former CMO of a developer. The sales teams are very competitive. They want what the others want. My strategy? Social proof. Using my own Facebook profile (I did not create a page until after), I shared Zoom photos of my sessions with the teams and tagged those in my network. 

The tags allowed my posts to be seen by their network, so it’s instant advertising for me. It organically magnified that content and was shown to the relevant target market.

Provide tons of value 

Trainers would usually stop on the dot, at the end of the 60th minute or whatever time agreed upon. I walked the extra mile. I asked the participants for their Facebook pages to follow them and let them know what I think about their strategies and content even after the training.

That provided a real connection between the participants and me. Many of them were promoted late last year. Now, we are doing training sessions for their own respective teams.

Work with teams 

I started my business using the one-to-many model. I targeted team leaders, sales directors, entrepreneurs with their own respective small sales team, chambers, brokerage groups, associations, networking groups. 

There are two reasons why you should do this: One, you instantly get a big following. Two, you get them on your Zoom account, they register, and you get to build your email list. Again, this magnifies your single Zoom training to a relationship you can take to social media or emails. Working with organizations and associations also allows you to meet more decision-makers who are again potential clients.

Utilize reach and video views

So, how did I use the $308 (P14,893.19) in Facebook ads? Reach and video views. 

Reach allowed me to create more awareness for my new brand. But the strategy behind this goes back to tip 1. I boosted testimonials, photos of trainings, and feedback quotes from participants. I then targeted the boosting to similar markets. 

On the other hand, video views helped build my authority when I consistently created short video tips as teasers for my live courses. This goes back to tip 2, "Provide tons of value," before and after the transaction.

These four strategies propelled me to an immediate five-figure business in four months, with only $308 (P14,893.19) in ad spend. 

I am now in the process of scaling and automating my business with digital courses and PDFs for those who cannot afford the live session. I have also added consulting, one-on-one, and one-to-few coaching with select business owners and believers of this strategy.

I get the pain of not having the capital and the infrastructure of starting a new business in this pandemic. That’s why I try to share my story and these strategies with business owners who are willing to try something new. 

My advice to those in the process of starting their business this year? Reframe your thinking, make your business a digital native, use social media. Most of all, understand who you are – the gift you are meant to share with the world. Understand your market and build authentic relationships with them. It will save you a lot of money, literally. - Rappler.com

$1= P48.36

Valerie Fischer is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner. She has over 20 years of experience in advertising and marketing, and co-founded an e-commerce site for locally made products. She was a chief marketing officer in a real estate company in 2019 but, along with millions of Filipinos last year, she was let go during the pandemic. And, as her story goes, this unfortunate incident actually saved her. It led her to her purpose.

She now helps online business owners and entrepreneurs grow their revenue with Brain Science Selling.