Startup Marketing On A $0 Budget

Ashwin Ramesh
Mar 8, 2014 · 6 min read

Are you competing with well funded competition with a zero dollar marketing budget? So am I with my startup. Here’s what I’m doing, hopefully some of this helps you out too.

TIP #1 — Quora is your friend

There’s a ton of people asking questions on Quora, which you can answer if there’s a way in which you can promote your startup without looking like an asshole.

Using swanky flowcharts to make your answer less spammy may actually be a good idea.

If you have far more time on your hands, and a lot of friends, you could even try getting them to ask questions like “What is the best software to do Y” and answer their questions to get some traction going.

TIP #2 — Blog like a crazy madman

If you can’t write and you expect to work wonders with a zero dollar marketing budget, I’m sorry but you’re running out of luck.

The key to getting SEO and other such stuff working nowadays is to keep creating consistent content that’ll help you rank better.

Stuck for blog ideas?

Google Suggest can help:

You know what terms get the most eyeballs in Google Search with their suggestions

So can unanswered questions on Quora:

But, at the end of the day, you should know what to write about. Write something interesting, that other people would like to read and you’re set.

TIP #3 — Set up Google Alerts to scan for new blog posts that you can leave comments on

Google Alerts are a great way to monitor new blog posts in your industry. Be the first person to leave a comment, you don’t have to necessarily self-promote in the comment, but you’ll still get visits from the attribution to your website.

Do you have a way in which you can promote your product without looking like a Scrapebox spammer? Great!

Inside sales dude does a non-spammy looking self promotional blog comment

TIP #4 — Write a guest blog or two

If you’re unsure about this, read this guide to guest blogging.

The general theory is that if you already have established influencer blogs in your industry, you’d much rather go write for them initially to get more reach until you build your customer base.

TIP #5 — Participate in forums and try to corner influencers

Forums are a great place to find folks who are influencers in your industry as well as reach out to an audience at relative scale without having to invest a lot of time in creating content.

I’m quite certain that for any industry you’re going after, there’s at least a forum or two which are active that you can discuss in. Write insightful responses to questions and make sure you have a link to your product set on your forum signature.

That response looks spammy, but believe it or not, I landed a client from that!

TIP #6 — Google+ Communities are not as bad as they seem

Google+ is mostly an echo chamber, unless you’re a marketer. There are some communities in G+ that do have activity and it may make sense to just participate in them and respond back to threads.

I’ve made a lot of friends this week from interacting in an industry relevant G+ community

TIP #7 — Build a free tool that doesn’t exist and solves a simple problem

Find a small problem worth solving in your industry and build a free tool to do that. It’s the #1 source of traffic for Synup, Moz and Hubspot — so, it should work for you too.

Took 1 day to build a promote, generated 150 users = WIN

TIP #8 — Offer discounts on sites like F6S

F6S, Rewardli and a bunch of others allow you to offer a discount which will be promoted to their user base.

This is a nice way to get some signups going.

500 startups members are getting “free shit” via Rewardli. Why don’t you offer some of the shit you sell to them?

TIP #9 — Run an offer on AppSumo

Folks like Piktochart are using AppSumo to get some serious lift. If you sell to the startup, tech or nerd community, running an offer on the site might be a good idea to drum up some business and get users.

If you’re product is not sexy enough for AppSumo, you can always do Groupon.

One of many AppSumo deals that Piktochart is running. All their deals are sold out, so it’s definitely working out for them!

TIP #10 — Monitor competitor mentions on Twitter

I monitor all mentions of my competitors on TweetDeck like a hawk. If someone is unhappy with their service or is looking for alternatives, I swoop in and close them. It’s a generally good idea to know what’s going on with the competition.

Took a minute, landed me a user

TIP #11 — Ask popular blogs in your industry for a product review

A lot of these blogs are looking for great products to review, and most of these posts will translate to backlinks (SEO win), traffic (user growth win) and partnerships (revenue win)

A hack to get this done more effectively is to contact blogs that have already covered your competition.

A screenshot that cries potential; alas, if there were only two of me!

TIP #12 — Mine HARO for press opportunities

HARO is a great free way to get yourself some press. Just subscribe to their mailing list and respond back to requests that make sense for you.

A co that hit the jackpot with HARO

TIP #13 — Get $100 in free Google Adwords credit and bid on your competitors’ names

Google gives away $100 in free credit once in a while, if you’re not one of the lucky few, you can always buy it off someone on Fiverr.

This gives you nice leverage to bid on a few keywords for almost zero spend and see what’s working. What I like doing with my free credits is to bid on big competitors names. They are already spending millions of dollars on promoting themselves and prospective buyers are going to research them online before buying. If you’re there as a viable alternative when they’re looking = $$$$

Look at how my $100 in free Google monies is working!

TIP #15 — Write guides about your bigger, well-funded competitors

Your well-funded competition has a gazillion users. These gazillion users need guides about how to use their bloatware. {insert random well funded co here} doesn’t care much about that in most cases, since they’re too busy spending the check they got from their VC.

There’s demand — why not be the supply? Write a guide to use your competition’s tools, and you’ll get the right eyeballs that may actually check you out as a viable alternative.

A post from the Ecquire blog. They have the right idea.

Now, go out there and market, growth hack, hustle or whatever you want to call it. You can thank me later on Twitter

    Ashwin Ramesh

    Written by

    A (s)crappy entrepreneur who runs and tweets @ashwin_ramesh

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