9 minute read

The famous line from Field of Dreams is that “If you build it, they will come.” That’s fine for the movies, but not much of a marketing strategy for your startup business. You’ve built it, but nobody is likely to come to your business unless they know about, and that requires marketing.

But after all the startup expenses to get your business up and running, you probably don’t have a lot left over in the budget for marketing. But you can still implement an effective digital marketing strategy on a shoestring budget if that’s all you got to work with.

In this post, we cover how to execute startup marketing on a budget that costs you little or no money and time. It comprises the following elements:

  1. Tell your story
  2. Publish your story so it is widely read
  3. Use keywords
  4. Know your audience
  5. Network
  6. Blog, and blog often
  7. Offer valuable information

Let’s break down each in more detail.

every startup has a story to market and its budget friendly

1. Tell Your Story

Everybody likes a good story. Tell yours. As David Masters points out, “Telling powerful stories about who you are and how you help your customers makes you stand out from the competition.”

What elements go into effective business storytelling? It’s by answering these questions:

  • What makes your business/product(s)/service(s) unique?
  • How can potential customers benefit from your business/product(s)/service(s)?
  • What lessons did you learn/obstacles you overcame to start your business?
  • Why did you want to start a business in the first place?
  • Are there any charities or causes you support through your business?

Your responses form the basis of a compelling business story that underpins a successful marketing strategy.

2. Publish Your Story So It Is Widely Read

The great thing about social media is it provides an easy and cost-effective way to tell your story to your target audience. It doesn’t cost you anything to post organically on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media.

The use of #hashtags in your social media marketing will expand your free reach. Think of hashtags as keywords or categories that people might look for that would be interested in your product, service or information provided. Here is a free hashtag generator that will help you find the most popular ones.

Now, it almost goes without saying you need a website to. That will cost you something to purchase a domain name and pay hosting fees, though it’s hardly expensive. Think of it as an investment that will eventually provide a return.

Related Article: How Much Does A Website Cost & My Options

True, WordPress, Wix, and Weebly, among others, offer free websites. However, free websites either contain ads and/or promote the website builder both in your domain name (e.g., “yourbusinessname.com/wordpress.com) and on the website (e.g., “Made by Wix). Also, there can also be limits on the number of pages you can have, as well as limited basic page templates to choose from.

But, the cheap comes out expensive and first impressions are everything, we all know these sayings. Basically, right off the bat you are looking spammy and unprofessional to potential customers, and once they’re gone they are 88% less likely to ever come back.

You want a professional look that presents your brand, not shared with the website builder or, it should go without saying, ads for products that have nothing to do with your brand. You can offset the (relatively minimal) costs of your own domain name and web hosting by building the website yourself rather than hiring a professional. All of these web builders offer popular templates using modern designs with drag and drop features that don’t require any coding knowledge. All it requires is your time to develop a professional-looking website from a predesigned theme.

We recommend hiring a professional if you have the budget for it, but if not, here are the groups or organizations that would benefit most from website builders:

  • Bloggers and hobbyists
  • New business and unfunded startups
  • Solopreneurs and small nonprofits
  • Unproven concepts

finding keywords to market on a budget

3. Use Keywords

Keywords are, well, the key to telling your story. Keywords need to be part of your story, especially on your website, but also on anything you post to social media. Keywords describe what the main focus of each webpage or blog article is.

It’s the word or phrase that your prospective customers enter into search engines to find you. Search engines include Google, Bing, and yes Facebook is one also. An SEO (Search Engine Optimization) consultant can advise on what keywords best describe your business and (this is the important part) are the most likely terms potential customers use to search for a company that offers your products/services. Or, if your budget doesn’t allow for an SEO expert, you could use a free keyword planner.

4. Know Your Audience

The great thing about social media is it helps you deliver your message to a specific segmented audience. You can buy an ad in a magazine, or send out a mailer, but it’s a best-guess if it’ll get read. Digital marketing provides you with tools that can tell you in real-time how well you’re getting your message across to the right audience.

As Daniel Newman writing in Entrepreneur points out:

“Once you have a well-constructed story in place, you need to distribute it across multiple channels to get it heard. Know the places where your target audiences are most likely to hang out: social media channels, blogs, messaging platforms, or forums. Pour your story out on these channels and gauge the interest of your audience.”


5. Network

Networking during a pandemic is difficult because the in-person aspect is out. But you can still network online in lots of ways.

Commenting in related blog articles or sharing relevant social media posts about your business is another great way to make yourself known and build an audience. Again, use keywords in your posts. Sharing someone else’s posts or linking to their blog articles increases the chances that they will return the favor and repost or link to yours. In either event, you’re broadening your Internet footprint at no marketing expense other than a little time.

Gary Vee has a great marketing strategy for a low to nothing budget called the $1.80. He used it for Instagram with great success, but it can be used on any social platform. Basically, leave your .02 cents on the top 9 trending posts for 10 different hashtags that are relevant to your business. Learn more about that here. All this means is comment on them, there’s no actual money that is spent.

blogging is a great, low budget marketing strategy

6. Blog, And Blog Often

Regularly publishing a blog, what is sometimes described as an online diary entry, to your website has a twofold purpose:

  1. It’s a forum for you to continually tell and refine your story with new ideas, developments, and pertinent topics that create interest in your business.
  2. It helps boost your search ranking. Search engines like Google rank web pages in order of, among other factors, activity. Websites that lay dormant show up lower in searches than sites that are regularly updated with new content. Needless to say, the higher you rank in searches, the more likely searchers will click through to you to your site.

Don’t restrict your blogging just to your own website. Many other sites relevant to your business allow guest posts where you can repost your original blog or write a revised version. In almost every case, these sites don’t pay for a guest blog. But you’re not doing it to get paid. You’re doing it to present yourself as an industry expert and promote your business. The website where you’re posting the blog gets no-cost relevant content, while you get a forum to reach a relevant audience that may click through to your website (which is why you always include your website address at the end of your guest blog).

As Dan Reich writing in Forbes observes, blogs are “your own public relations soapbox. It also helps surface your views on a specific topic or industry. Views that might help you win new business. In the past, we needed radio and TV to get our messages across. Not today.”

marketing offers your audience valuable information

7. Offer Valuable Information

Whatever you are posting and wherever you are posting, the content you’re providing should be useful for your target audience. It’s not just, “Hey this is my company and this is what we do.” It’s providing information that demonstrates your capabilities and entices people to learn more about you, and your products or services. It must be answering the questions that your potential customers are searching for. How, when, who, what and why.

Educating them with different content types will improve your messaging also and drive home your point. Afterall, not everyone thinks alike. Some people might want to see a detailed white paper with lots of great text. Others might be overwhelmed if they saw that and would prefer more of a visual like a video you shot or comparison chart.

Mike Templeman writing in Entrepreneur provides this public relations advice: “The greatest secret in media and public relations right now is that the press (and your potential customers) are most interested in the value-added information that will help them succeed in a given area—not in hearing promotional information from you. By thinking of your readers’ needs first—not your own self-interests—you will receive business traction and audience engagement beyond your dreams.”

Digitally Marketing Your Startup On Shoestring Budget

Digitally Marketing Your Startup On Shoestring Budget

So, there you have it. You can market your company to a targeted audience using inbound organic marketing and social media with useful content that promotes your company and your expertise. Without hardly spending anything.

This is a great way to bootstrap your startup, but not sustainable over the long haul.

As your startup gets more established and your business grows, you’re not going to have time to blog, monitor social media, and update your website. Your focus is going to be making your business more efficient, expanding your products/services, growing your revenues and customer base. Not being your own webmaster and copywriter.

When this time comes, tap in an expert digital marketing company. They can map out a series of inbound marketing initiatives and execute them across various channels that align with your specific marketing goals and budget.

Examples of such marketing objectives include:

  • Turn your website into a lead generating machine
  • Announce a new product or service
  • Drive traffic to a promotional offer or event (online and/or brick-and-mortar)
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Manage and improve your reputation
  • Convert traffic and leads into actual trackable sales

If you like what you learned above, feel free to download any and all of our FREE marketing resources. They will further help you design and execute digital marketing strategies that build your brand, improve sales and create loyal customers all within your budget.


Need some expert help or have a question, give us a call at 773-985-1680. That’s why we’re here.