Many entrepreneurs are often stuck in a chicken and egg situation. They need money to set up their business and create a customer base but they need a business and a customer base to make money in the first place. This is a very common and one of the first obstacles that entrepreneurs need to overcome to become successful.
The obvious way to break this catch-22 situation is to get funding from an outside source but even that comes with its own problems. Even when you get funding from an external source, it is limited. After all, no sane investor is going to give start-ups money to burn. As a result, start-ups almost always operate on shoestring budgets. If you’re leading a business with minimalistic funding, then you already know how the story goes.
Most of the money goes into establishing the business and making it operational. Very rarely is money left for marketing. Effectively, start-ups need to learn how to market without a budget, at least up until they establish a loyal customer base. So, how you market without a budget? There are some options available to you.
Market without a Budget Idea #1: Using Online Communities and Free Groups
The best development on the internet in recent years has been User Generated Content (UGC). As the name suggests, this is content created by individuals in the public. It can be anything from a selfie and a blog comment to an article and in-depth review of a service or a product. A large chunk of UGC on the internet, however, revolves around problems.
People have a tendency to post their problems online when they can’t find obvious answers in their immediate surroundings. This type of content is available on different platforms including social media, forums, and blogs. The key point is that anyone and everyone can comment on this type of content. This means that you, as a business, can actually find pages with relevant problems and then present your product as a solution.
More importantly, you can do this for free. Reddit, Facebook groups, Quora, Twitter, LinkedIn, third-party forums, and even Craigslist are places where you’ll find opportunities to flog your product or service to a pre-targeted audience without spending a dollar.
Market without a Budget Idea #2: Incentivising Existing Customers
Even if you have a large marketing budget, you won’t find a better way of acquiring new customers than this. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding better advocates for your products or services than your existing customers. The only challenge is to get your existing customers to talk about your product or service. This is precisely where incentives come into the picture.
You can incentivise your existing customers in a wide variety of ways. You can provide a small incentive to get them talking i.e. sharing stuff about you on social media or give them a bigger incentive for directly bringing you buyers. The first is easy. You simply offer them a small discount for a share of their activity. Even the second one is simple in nature even though it requires unique codes and URLs for all customers.
You could incentivise your existing customer base in any way you like and it all depends on your product, service, industry, and sector. In fact, if you’re creative about how you incentivise your audience, you’re bound to get better results.
Market without a Budget Idea #3: Leveraging Affiliate Programmes
Affiliate programmes are simple in nature. In these programmes, businesses pay others to sell their products and services. However, the reason why affiliate programmes are useful is that the business only has to pay when a sale is made. This creates a form of safety net for the business where if a particular affiliate isn’t holding up his end of the bargain, he doesn’t get paid.
The affiliate system, thus, not only become a very safe method for a business to increase its effective sales force but also an incentive for the sellers to sell better. Setting up an affiliate system is also not that difficult especially with the number of facilitating software programmes available on the internet. The trick, however, is to have a very marketable product at the centre of a very attractive affiliate programme. This means good commissions and solid marketing support.
Market without a Budget Idea #4: Reach Out To Influencers
Influencer outreach is the perfect way for start-ups and small-scale businesses to get their name out there. Influencers are people in your industry who have a solid following in your target audience. There are different types of influencers out there but you’ll find that most of them are willing to listen to you.
For example, the majority of bloggers and Vloggers will happily receive your products and enjoy your services just to write an in-depth review. While some may demand payment to highlight your business, you should note that these influencers will have such a huge following that your potential returns will render your expenditure almost negligible. You may even find influencers willing to highlight your product for nothing provided you can prove to them that your product is a genuine solution and very unique.
Another way to piggyback on an influencer’s following is to ask to submit a guest blog. Every influencer will have his own editorial policies that you’ll have to follow but simply for writing content, you’ll be able to get access to his followers.
Market without a Budget Idea #5: Get Up, Close, Offline, And Personal
A very good replacement for a hefty marketing budget is legwork. Wherever your business is located, you’ll find various groups, committees, associations, and simply gatherings that you can tap to acquire new customers. It is a good idea to find subjects laterally relevant to your product or service and then look for communities surrounding that subject.
You should even look to enter communities of entrepreneurs so that you can get leads for your product or service. You’ll find numerous formal and informal gatherings of entrepreneurs that you can gradually become a part of. These gatherings often always result in new business because each of those participants has influence in their respective networks.
If you want to market without a budget, then your best friend will be creativity. It is very much possible to start a business and make it flourish without a marketing budget, provided you have a decent product or service and know it inside out. So long as you understand your market, you’ll always be able to spot avenues and opportunities.