Top 10 Low-Cost Marketing Strategies for Startups

New business? Marketing doesn't have to be a big expense if you use these cost-saving tips.

According to Startup Genome, the value of the global startup economy is nearly a whopping 3 trillion dollars. Startups have been booming in recent years, making the field more competitive — and making it increasingly important that marketing strategies for startups are more innovative, defined, and cost-effective. 

The right marketing strategies for startups can help new companies become common household names. For instance, Spotify began as a startup based in the UK and had little presence in the United States. But with its engaging marketing campaign, it expanded its user base from the UK, went global, and currently has over 100 million users around the world.

Having said that, most marketing strategies for startups demand a higher budget to support advertising, promotion and public relations because you are starting with an unknown. Marketing costs are therefore one of the biggest challenges for a startup. However, it is a misconception that startups need to incur heavy marketing costs to kickstart their business.

This article shall explore low-budget marketing strategies for startups that will help you attract prospects. If you are a hungry entrepreneur looking for alternatives to overpriced marketing strategies, keep reading.

1. Referral Marketing

We often place blind faith in our family and loved ones. One may even decide to trust a stranger’s suggestions over advertisements from a new, unknown startup. At the end of the day, we are heavily influenced by reviews of things, recommendations made by people, testimonials for jobs, all of which can be categorized as some form of referral.

Referral marketing lets customers carry out and direct their marketing campaigns for a specific company through word-of-mouth marketing strategies.

Don’t trust us? Well, then take a look at the following facts:

  • According to ReferralCandy, customers gained through referrals tend to spend twice as much and make 2x more referrals themselves.
  • The impression made by referrals facilitates over 5x more sales than even paid ones.
  • Leads gained through referrals have a 16% higher lifetime value than those acquired through other sources.

A referral marketing approach can be four times more effective than traditional marketing tactics as people are likely to purchase a product when it is suggested to them by a friend or family member.

Personal suggestions do not cost a company much and, in some cases, can also be entirely free. This marketing program can be fueled by earning customer loyalty. To gain a customer’s loyalty, a company should offer their existing customers discounts, cash backs, and other bonus incentives. A company can also provide the same to their existing customers upon successful referrals. A referral turns out to be successful when the referred product is successfully purchased by a new customer.

An example of a startup that adopted this marketing strategy is Hawkers, an e-commerce company selling sunglasses across the globe. Hawkers employed micro-influencers on social media as their ambassadors, launching a referral program that benefited these influencers and their followers. This in turn helped Hawkers boost their overall sales.

2. Social Media Marketing

Social networking websites engage billions of people worldwide each day. And a startup company can start accounts on social media platforms completely free of charge. New and upcoming startups can utilize this opportunity to build company awareness, enhance brand presence, and make connections with large-scale businesses as well as similar-scale businesses to amplify sales.

Your approach to social media marketing will depend on the target audience of your company.If you follow a business-to-consumer (B2C) model, then you should primarily aim to increase your brand presence on social media websites like Facebook and Instagram. This is because the company can attract a large number of customers through these websites. However, if a company follows a business-to-business (B2B) model, then it must target the development of its presence on LinkedIn. This social networking website can help businesses network and eventually increase their sales.

Planning out a content posting schedule can prove to be of use for companies as it ensures that the content gets posted at the right time and right place to yield maximum engagement out of its users.

3. SMS Marketing

This form of marketing makes use of text messaging to send out promotional campaigns for increasing brand awareness, attracting existing customers, gaining new customers, and subsequently increasing sales. This form of marketing is used primarily for time-sensitive offers, updates, and alerts about a company’s goods and services. A critical advantage of this technique is that it helps a company target and focus on specific customers.

To efficiently employ this technique, a company must provide new information to attract customers’ attention and avoid redundancy. However, these messages should only be sent out to customers who have consented to receive these messages.

4. Newspaper/Magazine Features

In today’s technologically driven society, one may think that traditional media such as newspaper and magazine features may have become obsolete and have no place in any marketing strategies for startups. However, despite the emergence of several new options, print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) continues to be a successful and worthwhile marketing technique. News attracts a plethora of audiences. To this day, 51% of newspaper audiences prefer print over digitized news (news that can be read on mobile devices, desktop computers, etc.)

In this form of marketing, the advertising of a company appears alongside the editorial content that is published regularly. One crucial advantage of print media is that we have a better and longer attention span when reading newspapers or magazines as compared to when surfing online, in which our attention span is as short as 8 seconds. This helps readers grasp more information than during online reading.

5. Advertise Less Expensive Products

For owners of e-commerce websites/online businesses, advertising their less expensive products over more expensive ones can prove to be of use in driving traffic to their web page/app. The rationale behind this strategy lies in the psychology of customers. A customer naturally needs more persuasion to buy an expensive product. On the other hand, impulse is the primary force that drives purchasing decisions when considering cheaper products.

6. Earn Backlinks

Backlinks are the links found on an external website that go back to a page on your website. They work as a “vote of confidence” from the external website to your website for the reader. Google and other search engines rank a website better as their number of backlinks increases, provided the backlinks are from reliable and well-recognized websites. An SEO backlink strategy can prove to be a great tool for marketing a startup or any young business as they drive traffic to your website and attract prospects from similar websites.

An easy way to earn backlinks is by writing guest blog posts. These are articles written by a company/individual and posted on someone else’s blog/website. Other ways to earn backlinks are by publishing skyscraper content — i.e., creating high-quality content on your website that is link-earning worthy.

7. Create a GoogleMyBusiness (GMB) Account

Google Business profile posts are an effective and free-of-cost marketing strategy that can help new businesses, especially in their regional settings. For example, if you were to look up “restaurants near me,” Google would highlight the nearest, highest-rated, and currently open restaurants in a box at the top of a search engine results page (SERP).

When a business shows up at the top of a SERP, it automatically attracts more attention and thus gains customers. To make use of this marketing strategy, one must optimize one’s Business Profile by verifying its ownership, which can be done by creating a GMB account.

8. Tag Companies/Brands on Social Media

Tagging companies that cater to a similar target market as yours, have similar goals, and are big players in a similar field of business can organically broaden the reach of your business to the desired target market. Along with that, it also helps your company network and stand out in front of competitors. Encouraging your followers/loyal customers to tag your company to their posts can also help market your company to prospective customers.

9. Use Hashtags

Do you remember the hashtag as Instagram caption era? Guess what? This tactic may seem dated but it still works wonders for a variety of reasons. Incorporating the use of hashtags into your company’s social media posts on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is free and will increase the visibility of your social media posts.

Let us look at a few of the benefits of using hashtags:

  • They help label your posts and create a niche.
  • They allow for your content to be easily discoverable on ‘for you’ pages.
  • Since they narrow down themes or interests, they attract specific and targeted social media users.

The use of trending hashtags tends to attract traffic to your posts and helps reinforce the identity of your company, thus forming a brand image in the eyes of customers. The use of location-based hashtags is necessary for local businesses. Using a variety of hashtags is an easy, cost-effective way to market your business.

10. Email Marketing

Wish to engage with your customers regularly? An email marketing strategy is the solution. Sending emails to consenting customers can prove to be one of the most reliable techniques to gain a strong return on your marketing investment. This only works, though, if every email sent has some valid offer/incentive that keeps the reader engaged.

One form of email marketing includes making use of quality blogger outreach. This outbound email technique involves displaying your product in front of relevant bloggers and journalists by sending out personalized emails to them. Through this process, you attempt to promote your product to those with a large target audience and persuade them to market your product or company.

Which Marketing Strategies for Startups Are Right for You?

No specific technique of marketing, whether it be low in cost or high in cost, can ensure the success of any startup. But being able to incorporate a wide variety of distinct techniques can surely help a startup take a step closer to success.

The point of this article is that it’s not necessary to spend a fortune to get the right marketing mix. This article covered a variety of low-cost marketing strategies for startups that any company can adopt to reach its target market and thus meet its short-term and long-term goals.


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