Unfortunately, starting out really isn’t as easy as becoming an overnight sensation. As much as we think and hope that our product or service will be an instant hit, that doesn’t happen. When it comes to getting your name out there, startup marketing is a huge deal. But what can you do when you just don’t have the budget for a big marketing campaign?
The old adage “you have to spend money to make money” no longer always applies to marketing. If you have a product that people want, you don’t need a $100,000 marketing budget to acquire customers. There are ways to acquire them without spending a penny. To help get your marketing moving in the right direction with little or no budget, here’s a few tips:
SEO and website content
Basic search engine optimization is fundamental for your website. SEO will help you position your website properly to be found at the most critical points in the buying process or when people need your site. Both SEO and content are the foundation of any website; not requiring a budget to start. So, what are search engines looking for?
First, determine what you’re actually optimizing for. This means identifying the terms people are searching for (also known as “keywords”) that you want your website to rank for in search engines like Google. Once you know your keywords, start publishing great content on a regular basis. Write a blog that covers topics in your general niche. By posting about things that your ideal readers will want to share with their friends, family and colleagues, you’ll start to get noticed.
The next step is to make sure that you have appropriate website content. And each page on your site should be targeting a core term. Basically, people search for pretty much everything online. Organic growth requires a strong product or service that people will speak about positively. Instead of focusing on catchy ways to promote your brand, focus on product development so that your offering provides real, unique value to consumers. That means you may need to reach out to people by collaborating or doing guest posts as well. Whatever the case, you have to reach out to people, because they might not come to you.
Build a network of online influencers
Building a strong social network should be the foundation of any low budget marketing strategy. Having other people share your brand simply because they want to is an incredibly powerful thing.
If you find yourself in a position where no one is following you, get out there and start being active with influential people. Follow them on their social networks, comment on their posts, share their content with your friends, engage with them and make them notice you. Don’t be a pest, but show them that you care about them and that they should care about you too. Make sure to always include a link to your site in your signature.
By targeting and cultivating influencers, they can become your marketers. When an endorsement comes from someone outside of your company, like a trusted blogger or social sharer, it has greater value and reach. Unfortunately, you can’t control what influencers say about your brand directly, but you can certainly point them in the right direction.
Find out the best times to post on social media.
Create an affiliate network
While we are talking about networking, we should also mention affiliate marketing. By using affiliates you can rely on other people to sell your services or products. Of course, you must be prepared to share some of the profit with them. But on the other hand, the marketing and promotion task is on them.
Some affiliates are highly motivated, and thanks to the Internet you can expect incredible results. Keep in mind that with professional marketing services and a marketing plan with a budget, you can begin to drive leads faster and in greater numbers than with free marketing. Establishing a marketing plan should become a priority, even for someone with little to budget.
Create a prospecting list
If you don’t yet have a list of subscribers, you can start building one by utilizing a landing page or set of opt-in forms on your website. If you’re website isn’t up and running yet, you can even use your landing page as your main page until then. Offer potential subscribers an incentive for signing up; contests are a great way to collect email addresses.
You can also find people on LinkedIn or other social media sites like Facebook and Google+. Either way, your goal is to build a prospecting list. Once you start collecting these email addresses, you can use a tool like MailChimp and find out exactly who is opting into your website. Now you can start generating leads and market to these people too.
Sometimes the easiest way to get your name out there is by utilizing your friends and family; ask them to share your brand with their friends and families. You can also make a few posts on your local Craigslist community and discussions forum. Place a free ad in your local newspaper or a local magazine. Also consider speaking publicly about what you have to offer. You can speak to local Chamber of Commerce, rotary clubs, or other professional organizations. A lot of people may be intimidated by speaking in front of people, but it’s really just as simple as talking about things you know and relating to your audience.
Create an amazing customer experience
Any product or service with the smallest amount of success can (and will) be copied. What can’t be easily copied is the customer experience: What you do to make your customers lives easier and how you handle their support questions. These will determine how likely someone is to recommend you and become a repeat customer.
Try one or try them all, there are many ways to promote your business on little to no budget. As we move into the busy fall marketing season, there has never been a better time to start trying some of these tactics. Let us know what you’re doing to promote your business that costs nothing?
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.