Can You Market Your Startup On a Shoe-String Budget? (5 Ways to Stretch Your Marketing Dollars)

Can You Market Your Startup On a Shoe-String Budget? (5 Ways to Stretch Your Marketing Dollars)

Startup Marketing On a Shoe String Budget

In a recent blog post on Why Startups Fail I bemoaned the lack of a concrete marketing budget as one of the 4 reasons startups tank over time. I stand by this – you cannot market a startup on a shoe-string budget. However there are strategies that you can implement to help stretch your budget so that your precious marketing dollars work hard for you and I share 5 of them:

  1. Create An Organic Fan Base

Reach out to non-competitive, strategic partners who work in your vertical and become each others’ cheer leading squad:

  • Like, comment and share each others content on social networks
  • Reciprocate guest blogs
  • Make intros and open doors for each other
  • Provide and receive testimonials

Connect with decision makers and influencers in your vertical – not to solicit them at first – but to ask them for advice and introductions (many people, even VIPs are surprisingly generous of their time and like to mentor startups):

  • Reach out on LinkedIn: follow, like, comment and share their posts, join their groups and get them to notice you. Then direct message them to meet with you.
  • Go to industry conferences & meetups and network, network, network. It still works.

Ask friends, family and colleagues to champion your cause through engagement on social media, through introductions or through an out and out angel investment.

Create an organic fan base digitally by consistently creating engaging, relevant industry content that positions your company as the experts. Content includes:

  • Blogs
  • Video
  • Contests or giveaways (if your startup is consumer based)
  • Polls
  • Whitepapers

Ask followers to share their opinion in post comments. The more your followers like, share and comment on your content, the better your organic reach.

2. Invest in video ads

Social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have amazing B2B targeting capabilities in their ad interfaces. Unfortunately running traditional lead generation campaigns (particularly in LinkedIn) can be costly for a Startup. One ad type that is cost effective across the board are social ads optimized for video views which allow you to gain exposure to a large, targeted audience cheaply.

Once you start gaining video views, now is your time to create lead generation ads, targeting those users who viewed at least 50% or more of your video. The cost per lead acquisition will be much lower as this custom audience has already interacted with your brand and the user will be that much deeper into your marketing funnel.

An eMarketer study estimated that in 2018, 25% of U.S. digital ad spend went to video totaling nearly $28 billion in ad spend. Video content is able to tell your startup’s unique story in a way that no image and text ad ever will.

Your video content need not be a slick corporate or explainer video if you don’t yet have the budget, but a 60 second video blog, where you share meaningful content that resonates with your industry, positions you as the expert in your space and gets you in front of industry leaders.

3. Line Up Speaking Engagements (And Speak For Free)

There are many organizations looking for qualified industry experts who can present to their groups. Research local and national industry trade groups and offer to speak pro-bono. Don’t pitch your own startup at these events just provide engaging, valuable content that resonates with industry audiences. This will help to position you as an expert and will open doors for you. Be sure to post about these events on social media and do spend a few ad dollars boosting these posts to your target audiences.

4. Build your Email List. Collect as many relevant emails as you can from:

  • Trade show networking efforts
  • Plugins like Email Extractor
  • LinkedIn (Primary email addresses are visible on LinkedIn with your direct connections)

Provide relevant and meaningful industry related content in your emails that position you as an expert, gain the respect of your readers and have them interested in hearing from you again. Invite your contact list to join a Webinar or Facebook Live.

5. Get Quoted In Industry Media

There is nothing like having you and or your company mentioned in industry news to build credibility and your customer base (if you’re very lucky your efforts from speaking engagements and video blogs will capture the attention of industry media). Just make sure your pitch is newsworthy and not self-promotional or spammy. Here are some possible strategies:

  • Use channels like Haro (Help A Reporter) and Cision where you can pitch your story to journalists manually. According to Haro their platform “provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage”.
  • Contact industry journalists directly if:
  1. Your company has a social mission or has provided a community service pro-bono. This may capture the attention of local media.
  2. You have conducted a survey and/or collected data of value. This will pique the interest of industry journalists.
  3. You are organizing an industry event.


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