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Bootstrapper’s Guide to Start-up Marketing

Imagine a man running through a forest as fast as he absolutely can. He’s pumped with adrenaline to the point where he’sdan cristo triberr blazing through branches, tumbling down steep hills and scaling rocks with no fear and no pain. When faced with an obstacle he takes only seconds to come up with a solution and tries it until he succeeds. That’s the spirit of bootstrapping. Says Dan Cristo (@dancristo), Co-Founder of Triberr

The bootstrap marketing Q&A with Dan Cristo is finally here. Learn how Dan and his partner, Dino Dogan, have grown Triberr to one of the most vibrant and collaborative community of bloggers on the Internet. Dan and Dino bootstrapped Triberr from zero to sixty five thousand users in just a few years.

Who is Dan Cristo? Dan has been in the SEO game for 10 years. I personally worked with him at two different ad agencies (Zeta Interactive and GroupM). By day Dan works for Catalyst Online as their Director of SEO Innovation, night he’s a busy programmer and web developer. Check out his blog, DanCristo.com, for great tips on SEO and entrepreneurship.

In his own words: What does a Director of SEO Innovation do? A bit of everything. Research patents, write points of views, organize SEO Hackathons – you know, the usual.


What does bootstrap marketing mean?

Imagine a man running through a forest as fast as he absolutely can. He’s pumped with adrenaline to the point where he’s blazing through branches, tumbling down steep hills and scaling rocks with no fear and no pain. When faced with an obstacle he takes only seconds to come up with a solution and tries it until he succeeds. That’s the spirit of bootstrapping.
bootstrapper effort
photo credit: Lollyman via photopin cc

When you’re bootstrapping you don’t care about whether you have the skills, resources or connections to get something done. You simply do it. If you need traffic to your site you read everything you can about SEO, content marketing, guest blogging and social. You list yourself in startup directories, you answer questions on Quora, you blog, interview experts, start G+ communities, lead Tweetchats, respond to HARO, create podcasts, go to relevant conferences, comment on blogs, shoot budget videos… anywhere there is a conversation relevant to your product, you are there making your voice heard.

3 tips for bootstrap marketers

There are three things which I directly credit much of our growth to:

Relationships –  Dino, Triberr’s co-founder, was a very active blogger before we started Triberr. Through his blog, he made a lot of great connections with other bloggers. This inner circle of online friends were the first folks to try Triberr in the early days. They didn’t care that the site was ugly, buggy and slow. They trusted Dino enough to take it for a spin, and they liked it enough to tell their friends about it.


Virality – Triberr started as an invite only service. The only way in was to get an invite from an existing member. You would join their tribe, and you would have 3 tribes of your own. Tribes were capped at about 10, so with only 30 total invitations you had to choose wisely who would get an invite. The more people who joined your tribe, the more shares your content received, so it was in your best interest to fill those tribes up quickly.

Good Will – We had created a free service that drove real traffic to small and medium blogs. Our members loved us for it, and they often showed their gratitude by writing about us on their own blogs.

triberr man

User development do’s and don’ts when you are starting out

  • DO create a “Coming Soon” page with an email subscribe area months before you launch
  • DO launch in closed Beta for as long as it takes to work the bugs out
  • DO offer registration/sign in options for social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and G+
  • DO blog about your project updates, industry news and curate useful content
  • DO email your entire member list at least once a month. It’s a great way to stay top of mind, and there will be so many changes in a month’s time they will like hearing on what features you’re adding next

boostrapper don'ts photo credit: Vicki & Chuck Rogers via photopin cc

    • DON’T try to get a Techcruch writeup right away. Your site likely isn’t ready to scale quickly out the gate. A TC mention will send a flood of traffic to what is likely a half-baked site. Try to wait a year or so before pursuing major outlet mentions.
    • DON’T spend money on Adwords, banner ads or any form of marketing where you pay for traffic. Instead, spend your money on marketing tools such as MailChimp, Buffer, and WordPress themes where you can do the marketing yourself.
    • DON’T try to be on every social network. Choose 1 or 2 that you’re actually going to invest time and energy on. Which two depends on your product, your audience and your personal preference.

Which SEO strategies to stop, continue, and start in 2014?

  • Stop: Link building
  • Continue: Relationship building
  • Start: Experience building

It’s clear that both Google and Bing are trying very hard to end unnatural link building. These days your better off spending your time reporting competitors for unnatural links than trying to build them yourself.

The key to great rankings is get people to naturally talk about you, whether on their blog, social network or anywhere else. People like to talk about things they know and like, so spend your time getting people to know and like you and your project. A great way to do that is to provide them with an amazing experience. Those who can constantly create great experiences will always do well with SEO.

What’s your favorite thing about SEO?

Did you know that the largest gold mine in the world, Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia, is actually primarily a copper mine? The gold they get is actually a byproduct of the copper they are mining. SEO is the same way.

Great SEO is actually a natural byproduct great content, great UI, great UX, great branding, great customer engagement and a great product or service. Just like mining for copper, if you’re focused on doing the basics right the gold just comes to you.


Have a question? Use the comments below.

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Matthew Capala is an Internet entrepreneur, international speaker, and author. He is the founder of Alphametic, growth hacker at SearchDecoder, life hacker at SumoHacks, Adj. Professor at NYU, and Author of four books, including "SEO Like I'm 5" and, recently, "Facebook Marketing Like I'm 5.
2 replies
  1. Ryan Biddulph
    Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Matt,

    Dan and Dave have made Triberr super popular – I stop in daily – by building relationships. The 1-to-1,intimate nature of their bonds is second to none. Awesome interview, awesome concept and yes, if you do things the right way you can grow a monstrously successful venture with bootstrapping.



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