6 Ways Startups Can Promote Themselves on a Shoestring Budget

August 31, 2017

6:30 pm

In a recent study, 14 percent of failed startups cited poor marketing as a contributing factor in their failure. What often seems like the “fun” part of business ownership can become problematic for startup owners who don’t take it seriously. If you’ve got a great idea and a solid business plan, you’ll also need an effective strategy for promotion planned well before you launch. As a startup, you probably don’t have a multi-million dollar budget for marketing. Fortunately, you don’t need heavy pockets to jump start a promotional campaign.

Here are six cost effective avenues you can take to promote your startup on a shoestring budget.

Strategic Instagram and Facebook Ads

Social media marketing is no longer an organic tactic. If you want to do well as a business in the social space, you have to pay to play. The good news is, you can do well with a relatively low budget on Facebook and Instagram.

The first step in making sure you get the most bang for your buck with social media advertising is to carefully select your audience. The more focused your audience targeting, the cheaper and more effective your ads will be. Once you’ve taken the proper steps to identify your audience, you’ll want to watch your ads carefully as they run. Check for changes, watch your cost per click, and adjust your targeting as needed.


If you’ve got your pre-launch website up and running, retargeting is an essential advertising tactic. This strategy yields a high ROI because it delivers ads to users who have already expressed interest in your product or service. This is why it is a great tactic for business owners with a low marketing budget.

Google’s ad platform provides retargeting options, but there are other retargeting ad distribution platforms outside of Google like Adroll. You can choose to show past users ads in the search engines or even distribute a display ad. The display ad option is highly effective as it shows the user your branding and/or a specific product they previously viewed.

Email Marketing

Another effective way to recapture the interest of users who’ve visited your website is to use email marketing. If you’re still in the pre-launch phase, add an email signup list to your homepage. This will allow you to email consumers who are interested in your product when you have updates. If you’ve already launched your product, use your growing email list to promote upcoming sales, product innovations, and company news.

Once you’ve built up a contact list, develop a strategy for your email marketing.  When you’ve figured out what you want to say and when an email marketing platform like ConstantContact or MailChimp will walk you through the process of designing and distributing your emails.

Content Marketing

We’ve all seen the success that can be had from a viral marketing campaign. It might seem like these campaigns only work for crazy cat videos, but they can work for your business as well. Content marketing starts with building a stream of quality content for your blog. The next step is to come up with exciting content ideas that will earn brand coverage and traffic from established online publications.

The content you come up with will depend on your brand. A good first step in identifying what you want to publish is to look at what your major competitors are publishing. For example, if my product or service involved finance, I’d follow the WalletHub blog for inspiration.

Onsite Optimization

Optimizing your website for better ranking in the major search engines is absolutely essential and completely free if you take the DIY route. When your brand is more established with a larger budget, you’ll want to hire a search specialist. To start out, you can optimize the site on your own. A previously published article offers up an excellent list of tips to help you get started. Once you’ve covered the basics, keep up on SEO news and updates to ensure your site is up-to-date with the latest onsite optimization methods.

When you have the budget, it will be wise to hire on a freelance, or even a part or full-time SEO specialist to take on your onsite optimization. You can use sites like PeoplePerHour or Upwork to find professionals with the experience you need to continue building your site’s SEO value.

Utilize Your Expertise

If you’re an owner of a startup, you probably know more about the industry of your product or service than the average consumer. This means you could be considered a specialist or even an expert in the area. Editors and journalists at publications large and small are constantly on the lookout for credible sources. A couple of places you can look for press queries are Twitter and Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

To find journalists to follow on Twitter, search “editor” or “writer” plus the handle of the publications where you would like to earn coverage. For example, a tech startup might run searches for “editor @TechCo” or “writer @TechCo” to find journalists who might be tweeting out to find sources for a story.

HARO is a free service that bridges the connection gap between PRs and journalists. You can create a profile on the site and sign up to receive email queries from journalists who are looking for sources. When you find a query that fits your expertise, you can submit a response. If your response is what the journalist needs, they might just use it and link back to your site in a story on their publication.

Navigating the rough waters of effective advertising isn’t easy for a startup owner. When you add on the complication of a tight budget, it can seem almost impossible to effectively market your business. Hopefully, these tactics and the resources provided along with them will help you kick start your promotional efforts and build the foundation for a successful future.

Read more about marketing strategies for your startup at TechCo

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Cosette is a freelance writer and digital lifestyle expert with the goal of helping readers simplify life and work using affordable tech tools and apps. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, snowboarding, and traveling.