When starting a new business, often, we see people struggling with marketing. It is a challenging but necessary feat. In a world where we all are bombarded with branded content - videos, photos, and other attractive and expensive promotional materials, starting with zero budget is a considerable challenge. For the average startup, CEOs have recommended a marketing budget of 12-20% of the company budget. If you're one of the many entrepreneurs starting on a new venture with little to no money, you can still create a marketing campaign that is guaranteed to expand your brand's reach. You just need to be aware of the time and energy you need to invest in.
But first things first!
Few things to consider before we start:
Identity - Defining your brand identity will help you build a recognizable brand from the start.
Writing down your marketing strategy - It might sound too much for a startup with no budget, but once you do it, you'll have a plan to follow. It would help you incorporate the same idea in every piece of communication you send out there; hence you will be building a recognizable brand.
Commitment - Be prepared to spend a lot of your time promoting your idea.
Creativity - It is not all about using free resources to advertise your brand but how you do it. Ensure the content you create is engaging and, at the same time, helps you achieve your goal.
Use Social Media
One of the well-known ways to market your brand and expand your commercial reach is to use social media. The world's most popular social media platforms have enough audience to kickstart your business – Facebook (2.6 billion users), Instagram (1.1 b), Snapchat (397 million), and Twitter (326 m). Social media platforms are a great tool you could use to get your name out there and find your target audience. Creating content that stands out from the billions of competitors is not the most straightforward task, though. Your best bet is to avoid bombarding your audience with overly promotional content and focus your attention on engaging posts that people can genuinely and personally relate to. But where to post - TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest, 9GAG, Reddit, or Twitter? Research the social media networks find where your prospects are, and focus on 1 or 2 platforms. Here is a list of 250 social media platforms to help you start with your research.
Build a Website
I can not imagine a business without a website today. Websites are integral to any business's success in the virtual realm, whether they are operating on a zero budget or not. An online business card, a catalog, or an online shop is quite an investment. When talking about zero budget, though, we need to consider the free options to build your website. There are many plans available for monthly or annual rates, several hosting providers and content management systems offer free versions of their services. One of the drawbacks of having a free website is that your URL won't be as short and crisp as you may prefer, and you would not own the domain. As an entrepreneur, I like to own the domain (URL) I am investing time and energy in popularizing. Losing it is like losing your address in the real world, and your marketing efforts will need to start from scratch.
What do we do then?
If you can not afford to invest in a professional website, I would suggest that you spend a few dollars on a domain. Prices may vary but usually costs around 16$ per year.
Here you can check our article "All you need to know before buying a domain name". Once you buy it, you can move your website anytime, and you will own the address.
Here are some examples of free tools to build a website:
- Google Sites - it is FREE, and you can use it with your domain for FREE.
- Website.com - FREE version available or 2$ / monthly with your domain
- Webnode - FREE version available or 3,95$ monthly with your domain
- WordPress - FREE version available or 4$ / monthly (billed annually) with your domain
- WIX - FREE version available or 4,50 EUR / monthly with your domain
- Weebly - FREE version available or 5$ / monthly with your domain
- Squarespace - FREE trial or 12$ / monthly with your domain
The key to marketing your business using your website is to master the art of SEO (search engine optimization). Although SEO is something you can not learn in a week, you can start by integrating relevant, high-value keywords and content into your website. Whether you have a blog, product descriptions, or anything in-between, it should be very well written. Fifty-seven percent of B2B (business-to-business) marketers have reported that SEO is their top source of lead generation, so you might want to start learning SEO.
Publish a Press Release
You can get the word out about your brand name by distributing press releases, even if you have no website or social media platforms. These publications are great ways to alert the public to your upcoming products or services or events that your company will be attending for community outreach.
There are specialized wire services that can boost your press release's visibility, but be aware that taking advantage of these sources may come with a fee. Of course, the free method of sharing such content would be to post it on social media, where your followers can retweet or reblog your content for no cost.
You can find 60 free press release submission websites here.
Start a YouTube Channel
Video marketing is essential for some businesses. One of the main reasons people are so drawn to this form of media is that it reintroduces the human element that text-focused platforms lack. Customers can become exhausted from seeing text ads as they scroll through their social media feeds. Seeing another human being's face is a breath of much-needed fresh air.
Some of the most potent forms of video marketing include explainer videos, general tutorials, and testimonials. Although many vloggers today use costly equipment for filming their videos, you can start using your phone or a simple camera you already own.
You should also check out this list with free video editing software here.
When creating such videos, you can grow your brand's authority, nurture a foundation of trust and rapport between you and your target audience, all while promoting your products.
Register to a Local Listing Service
Not all businesses need to reach customers around the world to drum up their ideal level of interaction. Many entrepreneurs are happy with their local audience alone. If you run a small business that only serves your local community, you can take advantage of free listing services.
Outlets such as Google Places, Yahoo! Local, and even Bing provide an avenue through which small business owners can promote their products and services to customers nearby without a single dime spent. All you have to do is register your company information with the listing and verify the information through mail or a phone call.
Once you've completed this step, foot traffic will start to flow. Seventy-two percent of consumers search for local businesses before heading out for shopping – taking advantage of these search patterns can make a dramatic difference in your revenue!
Get Referral Partnerships
Few marketing tactics work and develop partnerships with other leaders and generate traffic through their referrals. For example, imagine that you run a content writing startup. You can partner with a web development company to refer their clients to your services for a complete site-building package.
This method will give you immediate access to a broader consumer base with little effort and rapidly draw customers to you. Satisfied customers can then advertise on your behalf by writing reviews and sharing testimonials, boosting your brand's visibility even more.
Referrals are usually paid, but you can pay per client or order, meaning you will have the income to use for this payment.
Learn from the best. PayPal, for example, had calculated how much money it costs every new client. Instead of spending the money on advertising, they decided to give the clients the money, which helped them kickstart their business.
Write Guest Articles for Local Publications
Content creation holds a central place in a successful marketing campaign. Not only should this content be published on your platforms, but others' as well. Similar to the referral relationships listed above, posting guest content on another company's or individual's blogging site can do wonders for your business visibility. Here is a list of 80+ sites to submit your guest post for free.
In addition to publishing articles on the web, you should also keep an eye on opportunities to publish your work in the local paper. Although many people believe that print marketing is "dead," surveys have shown that people trust print advertisements much more than those they see online (71% versus 25%).
BONUS IDEA: Start a crowdfunding campaign
If you have a fantastic product and need money to produce it, a crowdfunding campaign would help you start your business. You can offer to the users to preorder your product so you can start producing it.
Make sure you read all the platforms' conditions and note the fees before calculating your price.
A shortlist of crowdfunding platforms to check:
- Kickstarter accepts art, design, comics, design, tech, food, games, music, and publishing projects.
- Indiegogo is focused on tech and innovation, creative works, and community projects.
- GoFunndMe has its focus on medical, emergency, education, animals, charity, but also has business fundraisers.
As your business grows, you can choose to mix and match more methods to advertise your business to an eager audience. Even with no money at all, you can boost your company's visibility and enhance your revenue.