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Almost free advertising
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Updated 29 January 2024

Advertising (almost) for free: 10 Low-cost marketing strategies to get your startup off the ground

If you want to promote your startup effectively, before you even think about investing your money in expensive marketing campaigns you should consider resorting to other methods that, although low-cost, can prove very useful. You may not know it yet, but there are several ways to advertise your business and your products or services for free or at low cost. Have you ever heard of organic marketing?


Low-cost corporate advertising: is it possible?

Entrepreneurs often don’t know or believe this, which is why we say it again: there are many ways to advertise for free or in a low-cost mode. However, this approach, called organic marketing, requires energy, creativity and time. It is, in fact, a less direct method of promotion than paid marketing, and the results may, because of this, take a while to come. Can you afford to wait?


Why low-cost advertising is essential in the beginning

Especially at the beginning of a new business venture and especially in the case of a startup, the budget is limited and does not allow launching overly sophisticated paid marketing campaigns. Therefore, doing low-cost advertising becomes a more than viable option also because the alternative, i.e., not advertising, certainly cannot be contemplated. Always keep in mind, in this regard, the wise words of Henry Ford:

“If you don’t advertise, you will soon notice that you have nothing to do, because you have nothing to sell.”

However, the great advantage of organic marketing, in addition to the obvious financial gain, is also related to the fact that consumers now tend to distrust traditional advertising and ignore it, instead reserving more attention and interest for word-of-mouth advertising based on actual customer experiences. Thus, organic marketing allows you to save money but also to more easily create emotional connections with your potential customers.


10 strategies of free advertising, or nearly so

We have just listed some of the main benefits you can enjoy by resorting to organic marketing. At this point, all you need to do is find out what these low-cost promotion methods are: as already pointed out, there are several of them nowadays, and within this guide on how to advertise for free or cheap, we have decided to collect 10 of the most effective and useful ones.


1. Word of mouth

The first method of free advertising we have already mentioned: it is word of mouth. You may not believe it, but even today (or perhaps, as mentioned above, even more so today) it remains one of the best low-cost marketing strategies for growing your business.

To stimulate positive word of mouth around your startup, in the beginning, you can ask your friends and relatives to talk about your business and your products or services with their acquaintances.

Likewise, where possible, you could contact your former colleagues to further spread the word and create more “buzz” around your new reality.


2. Offers, promotions and giveaways

You won’t be surprised to learn that practicing special discounts and offering freebies to your customers are great gimmicks for promoting your business “on the cheap”: study special benefits for your existing customers and provide freebies so that consumers can try your products or services and, then, increase sales.


3. Ask your customers for reviews

Getting positive reviews today is critical. Explicitly ask your customers to share their buying experience with others, both offline and online. Don’t be afraid to pester customers: those who are satisfied with their purchase will be happy to do so. Avoid, however, “tricks” in the style of “get a discount or gift certificate in exchange for a positive review.” This practice is likely to boomerang and damage your reputation.


4. Do Content Marketing

Content Marketing“: if you do not know what we are talking about, sit back and take some time to read the next few lines carefully.

Content marketing is a particular inbound marketing strategy that aims to capture the attention and interest of a target through the creation (and curation) of content that is relevant and valuable to the target audience. Content created on the basis of these assumptions is able to influence the behavior of those who read it, generating a positive attitude toward the brand and stimulating actions consistent with the company’s business goals.

In more practical terms, this mostly translates into generating traffic from Google to your site by posting articles in the blog section, but you should know that creating online content also means, among other things, preparing infographics or demonstration videos, writing an e-book, making a podcast, and exploiting the full potential of other useful channels such as email and social media.

Often, entrepreneurs outsource this particular activity, outsourcing it to SEO Specialists or marketing agencies. For a startup, however, it may not be feasible to allocate a portion of the budget for this purpose, and it is therefore important that you can learn firsthand the fundamentals and most effective tactics of content marketing, so that you can optimize your content on your own and without much investment.


5. Participates in or organizes expos or events

Don’t neglect the offline world: the fundamental question you must always keep in mind is “Where are my customers?” and the various answers to this question must necessarily also take into consideration the environment outside the World Wide Web.

Industry events, such as trade shows or expos, are ideal “real” places to meet your potential customers. Here you can, for example, distribute gadgets and other advertising material, present the latest news about your business and hold demonstrations of your products or services, but also offer discount coupons reserved for visitors to use in the weeks immediately following the event. Not only that, attending these events also allows you to network and broaden your network of contacts in your business environment.

You should also consider holding demonstrations, classes and, more generally, open house events in your company. This is a great way to engage your existing and potential customers and to unobtrusively suggest products or services for them to purchase.


6. Develop partnerships with other businesses or influencers

Networking with other professionals and other businesses in your industry is very important because it helps to make your startup known, give it credibility, and create new alliances and business opportunities.

Finding stakeholders willing to give a startup a voice is very important, and networking allows you, for example, to promote your business through guest posts published on industry blogs and portals.

Influencer marketing is also a valuable solution in this regard. Don’t be scared: this is still a guide dedicated to those who want to get their startup off the ground with low-cost marketing strategies and, therefore, we are not suggesting that you contact Top Influencers. You should know, in fact, that in every industry there are key personalities who can influence the purchases of their “followers.” Focus your attention on so-called nano-influencers or micro-influencers, i.e., influencers with a smaller fanbase but very strong relationships with their followers and equally able to inspire purchases in specific market niches.


7. Become YOU an industry influencer

If you do not have the opportunity to form partnerships with influencers, you can always try to become YOU an influencer in your industry. Instead of paying other influencers, you can use your image to promote your business, resorting to personal branding strategies on social platforms so as to create brand awareness around you and, consequently, your startup.

The benefit of this strategy is not only related to saving money, but also to the possibility of personalizing your brand and thereby increasing the chances that consumers will be able to connect with your company’s vision.


8. Create a successful website and blog

We have already mentioned in Step 4 the importance of creating a site and a blog where we welcome potential customers. Of course, having a site and blog is not enough: they must be created in a specific way and must have certain features.

To be effective, a website must be able to respond quickly and comprehensively to the needs and desires of the users who come to visit it. This means that you must be clear about who the visitors to your site are, as well as the goals you intend to achieve through it. In this day and age, it is then absolutely essential that the site, right from its design, is designed to meet the requirements of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

A blog must also have very specific characteristics: its content must be complete, relevant to the chosen keywords, useful, interesting, up-to-date and unique (it must not be copied from other sites).


9. Develop social media

Social media, despite the fact that organic (i.e., non-paid) coverage is now extremely low, can also still prove very useful for those who intend to promote their business on the Web without spending exorbitant amounts of money.

On these platforms, of course, sponsored content allows you to reach more people. Not only that: the social media provide sophisticated targeting tools that allow you to intercept the very users who are potentially most interested in that content. What you should be interested in right now, however, is that, even with not particularly large budgets, it is possible to build very effective advertising campaigns.


10. Advertise on your company vehicle

The last tip on this list dedicated to the best strategies for promoting your business at low cost might surprise you: have you ever thought of advertising your business on your company vehicle? This is an absolutely low-cost technique that can be very useful, especially if you run a local business.

Pay attention, of course, to what the law stipulates in this regard: specifically, you should know that it is possible to put up advertisements not for third parties and not for a fee, but only under certain conditions (for example, the advertisement message must not be bright).


Conclusions: how to implement low-cost advertising strategies

In the previous lines we have listed some of the best low-cost advertising strategies available to you. There is one final point to be made: any marketing plan, even one that focuses on low-cost activities, must be continually reviewed and updated where set goals have not been met or in case new goals emerge.

Keeping track of the results of your free advertising strategies also allows you to better understand where your potential customers are and what is the most effective way to reach them, so that you can later put in place more effective paid marketing campaigns.

Nicola Zanetti

Founder B-PlanNow® | Startup mentor | Startup consulting & marketing strategist | Leading startup to scaleup | Private angel investor | Ecommerce Manager | Professional trainer | Book writer

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