Although Internet is huge and there are millions of users - this fact doesn't mean all of them would suddenly find your site and begin to purchase your product or service. It's an overcrowded megalopolis and your business' starting position is somewhere in the suburbs. To find some leads you must be as close to the center of the city as possible.
But how can a bootstrapped small SaaS business solve this problem?
It took me some time to understand that for SaaS business there are no free marketing channels (marketing through Twitter, Social Networks, Blog etc. takes a significant amount of time to pursue, so it's not free anyway).
And regrettably, I don't know a 'sure fire' way to attract a reasonable number of leads to a site even by the means of aforementioned time-consuming techniques.
At this moment I have found the following techniques (I list them here, because they seem to be working due to the experience/authority of people who mentioned those). I don't list the approaches that were provided without any measured results ("You must write new post twice a week! It can help").
Check the following:
A blog. A blog with unique and interesting content. No SEO, no Social hacks. Just post interesting essays for about a year or two to get some readers. As Jason Cohen wrote in his blog, it took him more than a year to gain a reasonable amount of readers. So if your content is unique and interesting, there is some probability that someday you'll be noticed and people will begin to read your old posts, comment on them, share, etc.
Niche SEO. A very interesting interview with Patrick McKenzie reveals some real numbers and practices. In two words: find a niche search query (e.g. 'Easter Bingo Cards') that (a) has a very few incumbents in the search results page (first 10) and (b) has unsatisfied demand, e.g. 1000 search queries per month. Create a page on the EasterBingoCards.com domain and get listed in the top 10 search query results, because your domain name coincides with the query and your site is all about Easter Bingo Cards. Ah, place a link to your main site there.
Ride a hype: a recent post from a Russian tech blog Habrahabr exemplifies an interesting case. An entrepreneur noted that due to the launch of iPad that uses microSim there would be a demand from users who want to interchange a sim between their iPad and iPhone. Here goes the microSim adapter. He found a manufacturer of these adapters in Germany (500 pcs for 400 Euro), made a simple 5-page site (design template - 12 euro) and added Paypal payment option. Then he started to comment on blogs and forums that are in the top-10 search results page for 'Microsim, Microsim Adapter, Micromsim IPad'. (example: http://gizmodo.com/5532572/make-your-own-microsim). He got first order on the first day, the second order a few hours later, and after a couple of days he was mentioned in a blog post by some Brazilian blogger and that was a real start. On the iPad 3g introduction day he processed orders every ten minutes. The result - 15 000 Euro of net profit for the first month. No SEO, no AdWords, just a few comments on blogs.
Another thing that I consider worth mentioning is the notion of a 'missed boat'. As I can see now the most successful blogs (size and quality of audience) were started a long ago. The 37signals example that has already set everybody's teeth on edge was started in 2000 (http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://37signals.com/svn). If we follow Jason Cohen's experience with his own blog we can infer that the more time passes the more quality audience you get.
The same thing about Twitter: those who've started to tweet in 2006 have more tweets, more followers than an average 'belated adopter'.
And above all of this 37signals advise to exploit free marketing channels (blog) instead of paid advertisements.
So, my question is the following: How can one gain a certain audience for his site where one sells some bootstrapped software?
Here are the constraints:
One doesn't need huge traffic. 4000-5000 unique visitors (from target audience) per month is enough for the directly paid (not free) service at the beginning.
One doesn't have much time: about 5-6 months to find those users.
Paradoxically one will prefer to spend time on some marketing activities than to pay for those (yes, the budget is vanishingly small).
Is that possible?