With SXSW in full-swing, there may be some entrepreneurs out there wishing they had gone and wondering what they’re missing out on. Going to a sexy conference like SXSW is very alluring, but for an aspiring entrepreneur the cost is significant and the return can be questionable. With that in mind, here are three things you can do instead of going to SXSW that will guarantee your business makes progress by the end of the conference.
1. Write Some Code
Working on your app is always a good way to spend your time. You probably have a handful of new features floating in your head, a big refactor you’ve been avoiding, or a backlog of bugs that keep popping up. Instead of partying it up in Austin, put your fingers on the keyboard and bang out some real work. You can do some amazing things with a solid week of coding.
Still, it’s true that simply writing more code isn’t the way to business success. You need to get out there and network, which is what a lot of conference attendees are trying to do. But, there are easier and cheaper ways, which brings me to point 2…
2. Engage Your Customers
One of the biggest mistakes tech entrepreneurs make is not differentiating between their true customers and the tech elite. We spend so much time trying to get on TechCrunch or the first page of Hacker News, but that’s not where our customers are. The same is true with SXSW. Unless you’re trying to sell a product to the tech glitterati (and God help you if you are…they’re a fickle bunch with short attention spans…), then your networking and outreach efforts are better spent focused on your true customers.
Spend this week planning and executing a contest or giveaway. Find a related product or book that appeals to your customers, approach the owner and ask if they would want to give you a couple free copies to give away as prizes. You will find that in many cases you can run a giveaway without spending any money out of pocket, plus you get to network with other entrepreneurs in your problem space. And, it’s all done from your own home and you don’t have to fly to Austin and pay to stay in a hotel. Free is tough to beat.
3. Splurge on Yourself
Speaking of cost, going to something like SXSW is expensive, especially for bootstrappers. Instead of dropping $1500 on a week of partying and another $1000 on a conference badge, take a third of that and buy yourself something nice for a productivity boost. A bigger monitor, a better mouse, or a nice microphone if you’re on Skype a lot. Any one of these things (or all of them) will be much cheaper than a plane ticket and a week in a hotel, and you can use them for years to come. Need some inspiration? Check out my list of necessities for your home office.
Nose, meet grindstone
Sure, some people will successfully launch a product or attract new investors at SXSW, but the vast majority will spend a week partying and come away with nothing in the form of actual progress. While that’s fine for most people, scrappy entrepreneurs can’t afford to waste resources like that. Keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone, and eventually your business will be making enough money that you can head down to Austin for a week of partying as a successful entrepreneur instead of as an aspiring one.