Last updated: June 12, 2020

How to Increase Website Traffic (and Sales) with No Ad Dollars

Growth Marketing

A bottoms up approach to growth when you have no ad dollars and no organic traffic.

Marketing in a downturn isn’t easy.

Your ad budget is slashed. Your tactics are failing. Customers are skeptical. 

Now, more than ever, it’s about context, understanding the “new” mindset of customers, and forging ahead with authenticity.

But, how does that change your approach? 

For some companies, it’s NOT about going for the immediate conversion. It’s about building genuine relationships for the long term.

That means catching people on different channels in a different context. 

Meet customers where they are.

But, how do you do this when you have no ad budget and no organic traffic? 

That’s when we build a bottom’s up approach to growth. Here is how it works in 5 steps.

Don’t want to read? Here is a video that breaks it down for you:

Disclaimer: It’s worth calling out that before you drive any traffic to your site, you want to be optimized for conversion.  Assuming that’s in place, let us begin.

1) Create Your Ideal Persona

First, Identify your ideal persona.

You know this exercise of persona building but here are some examples of traits we go after. 

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Lifestyle
  • Income
  • Profession
  • Complimentary brands they like
  • Geography
  • Favorite Influencers

We use tools like SEMrush, SpyFu, ZoomInfo and more to get insights around personas and for spying on competitors to understand their customers.  It’s important to understand their current mindset and the type of questions or conversations they’re having right now online.  From keyword trend analysis to social media mining, the insights from data show you where they head is at right now. 


2) Crawl the Web for Your Customer List

Second, identify where these users live online and quantify your reach.  

That means finding the exact online community you’re targeting and understanding the size and quality of their audience. 

Here are some ideas for how to find these people:

  • Facebook groups related to your industry
  • Reddit communities related to your product
  • LinkedIn groups in your industry
  • Leverage Sparktoro to do the research
  • Quora discussions around the problem you’re solving with your product or service
  • Use Buzzsumo to find the most shared content on the web related to your subject
  • Engage with Top influencers on Twitter
  • Leverage the user data from your competitive analysis (top backlinks and traffic sources)
  • Google searches around keywords in your category
  • Bloggers and editors in your space
  • Meetup groups in your industry
  • List of blogs or websites they also follow
  • List of organizations and groups they’re involved with

Slack Groups

3) Design an Authentic Activation Strategy 

Third, find ways to engage with these audiences that add the most value.  Remember that you are going at these people cold so you need to lean on the side of adding value and being authentic.  If you go for the cold sale you’ll get a cold response. Some ideas based on your business model include the following:


  • Virtual lunch & learn
  • Webinar w/ thought leaders
  • AMAs
  • Free trial / free month
  • Discount
  • Create a custom download or ebook 


  • Giveaway offer
  • BOGO (Buy one get one free)
  • Discount offer
  • Giveaway swag
  • Host virtual how-tos / consultations 

4) Quantify Your Impact with a Model

Model out the potential impact of your initiative by taking the total reach with these audiences multiplied by your projected conversion rate times your average order value.  This model with vary based on your industry, price point and average close time.  Below is a simple example of how to think about the ROI of your effort. 

OrganizationCommunity SizeSign Up RateEmails AcquiredConversion Rate AOV Projected Sales
Linkedin Community100,0001.50%1,5003.50%$129$6,773
Slack Channel20,0003.50%7003.50%$129$3,161
Slack Channel10,0003.50%3503.50%$129$1,580
Meetup Community40,0002.00%8003.50%$129$3,612
Email List Partnership15,0003.50%5253.50%$129$2,370
Influencer Instagram Account150,0001.00%1,5003.50%$129$6,773
Young Professionals Community30,0002.00%6003.50%$129$2,709

5) Scale Your Bottoms Up Tactic

Last, it’s time to test this idea at scale with technology and automation.  Start the outreach strategy by doing manual emails to test what works.  Then leverage a tool like MailShake or to scale your email outreach campaigns. 

I strongly recommend doing some pre-engagement on social media and actually engage with these brands in a genuine way.  That way your name and brand is familiar.  For bonus points, connect your inbox with Pipedrive to manage it within a CRM.


Summary: How to increase website traffic with now ads

Here are the key steps to building your bottoms up marketing strategy: 

  1. Build Your Ideal Persona
  2. Crawl the Web For Your Customer List
  3. Design an Authentic Activation Strategy
  4. Quantify Your Impact with a Model
  5. Scale Your Bottoms Up Tactic

The scalable tactics get the glory but these scrappy tactics can be the reason why most companies even survive.  If you execute a bottom’s up approach and layer on a top down approach (think paid ads) then you’re starting to diversify your acquisition channels.  These can help diversify your dependency on just one growth channel or one tactic.  This means that you’ll be able to build a repeatable and scalable way to grow with paid ads or community marketing.

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Jim Huffman

Founder & CEO GrowthHit. Startup mentor at Techstars, General Assembly, and Sephora Accelerator. Author of The Growth Marketer’s Playbook #1

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