7 Budget-Friendly Marketing Tips for Early-Stage Startups

November 25, 2015

11:08 am

Marketing a startup is not for the meek. There are several challenges to success, and the time, money and resources needed to implement them are often scarce in the early stages. This means it’s crucial to plan ahead and reduce the possibility of making a costly mistake.

As an entrepreneur, you always want to make the best use of your resources. Devising and implementing innovative marketing ideas will set you apart from your competitors and draw more customers to you.

Here are seven low-cost tips to help new startups market themselves effectively.

1. Understand Your Target Audience

As a new startup, it’s extremely important to figure out exactly who your target audience is. Only then can you design your marketing strategy to appeal to the people who will readily pay for your product or service. Think about who is most likely to need, want, or otherwise be interested in what you offer. Based on the answer, you can determine who your target audience should be. Some further tips:

Instead of thinking about who you’d like to sell to, think about who is looking for the kind of products or services you offer. Ask yourself how your offerings can solve their problems. Study your market, competitors, and leads and prospects that you’ve identified. Create customer personas, which should serve as in-depth descriptions of your potential customers’ psychographic and demographic data. You can then tailor your marketing to the specific needs of these personas.

Don’t stop after you’ve identified your audience. Keep the work going to stay on top of current trends in your industry. Create a way to track your sales, networking, customer service, requests for information, etc. so you can continually focus on improvement.

2. Build Strategic Partnerships

It’s easy for startups to get lost in the crowd and go unnoticed. More than 386,400 are founded in the U.S. every year. But by building strategic partnerships with other well-known companies in your field, you can maximize your presence and market your startup more effectively.

One type of partnership involves syndicating your content on other websites, as well as collaborating with relevant sites to create compelling content. To start doing this, identify companies that have users you want to reach, and that could benefit from working with you.

Partnerships have played a key part in helping us build our brand. We’ve developed relationships with popular news and auto websites and work with them frequently to create original, data-driven content that benefits their readers and gives our company more exposure.

3. Share Your Expertise for Free

You’re an expert in your field, so it’s time to share that knowledge with others in a helpful way: a free seminar, webinar, blog, guest post, or even a series of tweets.

One of the ways our company does this is by analyzing millions of data points and discovering interesting, surprising insights about cars. We publish these studies to share what we’ve learned with other people who are interested in cars. This has significantly helped elevate our company’s exposure – more than 100 media outlets, including publications, TV programs, and radio stations have covered our studies!

4. Listen to and Engage Your Social Media Followers

Social media can be used for a lot more than just “advertising” your startup. In addition to communicating with your audience, your social media pages can be used to provide value and genuinely connect with them. Make an effort to find and share useful information to engage your customers. Make them feel like valuable members of your brand’s community. We use our data and content to answer questions and help social media users whenever we think we can add value.

If you run into critics, don’t be hostile. Approach complaints with positivity and use them as an opportunity to showcase your startup’s commitment to customer-service and expertise, and you’re sure to win your critics over!

5. Add Value Through Email Marketing

Email marketing is not the same as spamming your customers’ inbox. Joke a side, when used properly to help and provide value to users, email marketing can work wonders for promoting your startup.

Successful email marketing campaigns have a well-planned schedule so that people will know when to expect your emails and can look forward to updates from you. The trick to keeping this going is to focus on your target audience when deciding on the emails’ theme, template and content to ensure what you send them will be helpful.

Our company uses emails to make the process of looking for a car more efficient. Users can sign up for alerts, and we email them whenever we have newly-listed cars that match what they’re looking for. Users who sign up for our alerts are two to three times more likely to contact the sellers of cars on our site than non-alert users.

6. Network, Network and Network Some More

One of the biggest factors contributing to the successful marketing of any startup is networking. Knowing the right people in your industry can put you on the path to success. So be sure to carry your business card with you and be ready with your elevator pitch at all times.

Actively seeking out opportunities to talk about your startup will go a long way in building awareness. Conferences and networking events are great places to connect with key influencers, spread the word about what you’re doing, and learn more about your industry.

7. Start Using Video Today

YouTube has over a billion visitors every month. Facebook users watch 8 billion videos a day. You don’t have to have access to Hollywood producers to create a shareable online video. Look at the audio and visual resources you have, and think about what type of video would be helpful and informative to your audience. Can you make a professional, informative video sitting in your office? With some trial and error, probably yes. There are plenty of free slideshows and video editing software that will help.

Last Words

For a new startup, marketing can feel like a challenging game that’s difficult to master. Using these seven tips will help jump start your marketing efforts with little to no strain on your company’s budget. You’ll have the basics such as social media and networking covered, and your startup will stand out for its focus on providing real value for customers, followers and other industry professionals.

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Phong Ly is the CEO & co-founder of, a car search engine using Big Data to help users find great car deals and save money. He has more than 15 years of high tech and business experience spanning large companies and the start-up world. Before, Ly was an executive at SAP, leading strategic initiatives to expand the company’s reach into new markets. Previously, he was an early employee of a $100M retail chain and co-founder of a mobile applications company which was later acquired. Ly has been featured and quoted in many media outlets such as ABC News, Forbes, CNBC, USA Today, Fortune and Reuters. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and BSE in computer engineering from Princeton University.