Marketing your start-up on a ridiculously low budget

Having assisted and continuing to help some of my start-up friends with their marketing, I have learnt over the years how critical it is to keep a low marketing budget and yet ensure ROI for every penny spent. So how can you still market your start-up on a tiny budget?

1. Identify your target market to the T

You are not here to please the broader audience. Once the right target audience is defined one can start building strategies to engage and build that trust with the relevant customer. Start with a top-down approach – get a broad set of audience. Then, deep dive further to answer questions like – what factors impact their decision making on a daily basis, what motivates them or probably not, what are their behavioural patterns, what turns them off, what gets them going – habits, mannerisms, lingo, trends etc. Getting under their skin to truly understand their decision making is key to help increase your ‘appeal’ to your audience. This exercise will leave you with a small but a specific set of people that are most relevant to you and your business. Go get them!

2. Why re-invent the wheel, when you can just oil it and ride on!

As part of the marketing plan it is best to often look at what your competitors are doing- it isn’t  copying exactly what they are doing, as every business is unique. But looking around certainly helps get a head start. Gain your motivation by beginning with tried and tested ways that have worked for others in the same industry. Remember these can always be improvised upon with time to suite your audience.

The big benefit of this is, that you are not stuck thinking about how to get started with your marketing but to take that most important first step. Remember, take the first step and you are half way there!

3. Help and seek help

It is all about ‘giving’ and most certainly never about you.  Giving shows that you are adding value to your customers. Free downloads, whitepapers, webinars, podcasts, research papers, insights, case studies, survey outcomes and reports are all great ways to give away and help your customers. This goes a long way to generate the much needed interest in your product offering.

Similarly, in every industry there are various allied businesses, who are not direct competitors but tend the share the market place. Partner with them. Collaborate and conquer the market together. Remember you cannot be good at everything all the time. Identify your strengths, for the rest ask help!  That way you are not really coming across as a direct competitor but just agreeing to share the attention of a common audience while adding value to your partners.

4. You have nothing to loose – DM those influencers

I remember one of my friends, a start-up owner once approached a big time blogger within her industry, to just give an opinion on a blog she was writing especially since she was a newbie. This was the beginning of a long partnership (completely in kind; no hefty pay cheques). In this case the influencer became a regular feature on her blog and ended up drawing so much more traffic to her very start-up blog.

It is often a matter of just asking nicely. The worst that can happen is your request will be rejected – and as a entrepreneur you are probably well versed with handling a rejection by now.

5. Research for free stuff

I often carry out an exercise to deliberately look for free stuff before I begin looking for paid services to contribute towards marketing – well with a ‘start-up’ mindset you are compelled to – but no regrets. There is loads of information out there that is FREE. From websites giving free photos, free videos, free templates, free formats and planners the list is endless – although do look at reviews and ratings. The key is just keep looking patiently. Remember to ask, there is no harm, real people have questions, so engage with your audience and ask for stuff, though always remember to be thankful and repay!

6. Plug and play

One of the greatest constraints of a start-up is the limited financial capability to hire experts, consultants and admin staff. There are various websites that help you hire freelancers that work on hourly/daily or job specific rates. So you can plug them in when you need their services with no administrative hassle. Once you have build a good rapport with a bunch of freelancers you can use them as often as possible or have them on a rolling contract. From graphic designers, SEO experts to those who can deliver full fledged websites or execute specific marketing campaigns for a set fee within few weeks, you can find them all. Remember – not everything has to be long term!

7. Word of mouth – online or offline; is still one of the best marketing techniques

Old school is never truly ever old school. Be it coffee mornings, lunch and learn sessions, webinars, beer and banter sessions, twitter chats (my new favourite), online forums, events and networking evenings. Where ever relevant, network, network, network. This is certainly one of the best ways to raise awareness for your venture for the cost of a cup of coffee!

Talking about low cost marketing techniques, email marketing cannot be left behind. Check out my post on Why Email Marketing actually works…

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