“Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.”
– Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
That’s easier said than done, considering one of the first things startup owners think about when trying to grow is figuring out where to find the capital to do so. But the truth is you don’t necessarily need early-stage funding to make your venture a success. If you have the right motivation, proper game-plan, and a can-do attitude, there’s a lot you can achieve despite having a shoestring budget to help you grow your business.
A major reason why startups don’t grow to reach their full potential is that entrepreneurs (even the brightest ones) sometimes neglect marketing and advertising efforts, considering them superfluous.
And even if they do divert their energies towards it, not having the appropriate funds can further stifle the business’s growth. Ironically, the lack of proper marketing efforts equates to less revenue. Consequently, making the budget tighter.
But there’s no reason to fret, especially if you find yourself in such a predicament. It’s not so much the marketing budget, but the effectiveness of the strategy that matters more. Done right, even a small budget marketing campaign can outperform ones which have had millions poured into them. All it takes is a certain amount of tact.
To help you with that, let’s look at a few strategies that you can pull off without any budget:
The easiest place to start is to regularly generate and market relevant content about your startup. It could be anything from product information to trends in your industry; from tips and tricks to interesting and quirky facts about the work you’re doing. Content doesn’t have to be restricted to your niche as long as it’s relevant to your target audience.
Leverage SEO functionalities and marketing analytics to understand your potential customers better. The more insights you can derive from consumer data, the easier it will be to produce content that whets their appetites. Try to produce diversified content across various formats like blog posts, videos, and infographics.
Rest assured, your content marketing efforts won’t be in vain. In comparison to traditional outbound marketing, content marketing costs 62% less and generates three times the number of leads as reported by Demand Metric.
Yet another effective and relatively inexpensive strategy to generate more leads is to come up with an effective referral program. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. People are more trusting of a company, especially an up and coming venture when they hear positive reviews from their friends and family.
Actively ask your customers for referrals to get the most out of your referral program. Engage them after a purchase (when they are feeling satisfied with your services) as that is when they are more likely to refer you.
You can take this one step further by offering incentives like reward points or discounts for a successful referral. This is a great way to convert your customers into your sales force – for a minimal cost at that. Having a strong referral program will not only help you stretch your budget but also drive lead generation.
Online and social media presence
Social media is everything these days. People consider you ancient if you don’t have an online presence. Different platforms suit different companies. Depending on the kind of product or service you’re planning to offer, figure out the best medium to engage your customers and prospects. Ensure that whatever you post, it is consistent on all platforms being used.
Pair this with your content marketing strategy to get the most out of both. Customers appreciate companies that are active on social media and regularly share content. Interact with your audience via comments – whether it’s responding to testimonials or reviews. Social media is a great free tool to source customer feedback to help you improve your product.
Encourage them to not only share your content but also share their testimonials on your page. These kinds of interaction will help you widen your outreach and improve brand image. Once you understand the tricks to mastering social media you’ll realize just how inexpensive and effective a strategy it can be.
In a recent research study conducted by eMarketer, companies are allocating more and more budget to influencer marketing thanks to its effectiveness. And while startups could benefit a lot from employing similar tactics, it isn’t always easy for them to afford celebrities to promote their businesses. Instead of worrying about that, budding ventures should focus on bringing on micro-influencers into the fray.
By concentrating your efforts on collaborating with influencers with a niche following you will not only get the results you want but also manage it on a tight budget. While they may have fewer subscribers, their close relationships with their audience are critical for purchase decisions. People value recommendations from local, smaller celebrities more because they are more relatable than big stars.
The obvious problem that arises now is identifying those key individuals who can help your business have the desired impact. Consider using influencer marketing tools like Grin or Buzzstream that make it easier for you to identify those key influencers, and keep track of the important data and relations.
Press releases and guest posting
Having a good PR agency to help you with your outreach is always a good idea. Unless you have a zero-dollar budget and can’t afford them. Instead, put your own efforts into your outreach program. Press releases are a budget-friendly option to achieve that. Work your network to get in touch with the right publications and reporters who may be interested in writing about your startup.
There’s a plethora of bloggers and reporters out there who’d not only be interested in your work but would also have the kind of audience you want to reach out to. All it takes is a bit of research and the right connections. You can make the collaboration even more successful by providing free samples to them for a review or perhaps a guest posting initiative that will help both parties grow their network.
Indeed, having the appropriate funds to help you market and grow your startup business is always a plus. But the lack thereof doesn’t mean your venture won’t reach its full potential. Albeit working with little or no budget may be more of a challenge to drive sales and achieve the kind of growth your startup deserves, but these strategies are sure to make things easier.