How Can I Market a Startup on a Very Low Budget?

I ran marketing for a startup in 2009. I’m pretty sure this was before Facebook pages and all that jazz. Well, even if it wasn’t, we didn’t use Facebook since we were a b2b company and it just didn’t make sense at the time.
 
I don’t think I was even given a budget to market. If I was, then it was very minimal. Regardless…
 
This is what I did to take revenues from $0 to $50,000 a month by month 3.

  • Create Copy

Luckily, writing is free. We created various ads to a/b test that we used by email and posting on the internet. After some trial and error, we found some copy that was converting well enough to stick with.

  • Youtube

We made a video (actually around 10 of them) of me wearing a suit next to a white board talking about features, function and benefits of the leads we offered. We embedded them on our website and in emails. This didn’t cost a penny as someone in the office already owned a video camera. I’m pretty sure with technology nowadays, you can make a neat cartoon instead.

  • LinkedIn

We joined relevant LinkedIn groups and posted our copy into these groups. People from LinkedIn then contacted us to buy leads. LinkedIn generated a lot of business for us.

  • Craigslist + Kijiji + that other site that escorts post ads on. Backpages? I don’t remember, but it sounds dirty so it’s probably it.

This generated a few leads but not really, especially since they were communities designed for people who are looking to buy and sell goods.

  • Phone calls

Phone calls initiated most of our marketing efforts, as we were able to build rapport and start a dialogue with our prospective clients. Plus it allowed us to gather email to send over copy and videos. If you run your phone lines through your T1 line, it is more inexpensive than buying separate land lines for each individual sales person.

  • Email

We used email to follow up with our clients and give them updates on our progress along with new information and updates. We also presented them with our copy and videos so they could make more educated decisions on whether or not they wanted to buy our service.

  • Fax

We went old school and faxed clients our copy as well. Some people got mad and faxed back hundreds of black pages back to us, thinking they could drain all our ink from our fax machine. But it was just eFax so it did nothing. This generated very few leads, but then again it was a few more than what we had before.

  • CRM

With our CRM we were able to track everything. It was a pretty poor CRM. I don’t even think you can set up reminders in the system. 
 
VTiger or something free and open source. I’ve used much better CRM’s in my life, but hey, we were on a shoe string budget so we had to work with what we had. It was pretty sad though, because it didn’t even integrate with email, so we had to attach files to each email we sent.

  • Referrals

Referrals were the lifeblood of our business. If we had a happy client, we would ask them to refer us to a few more clients. Most of them were more than happy to send us referrals.

  • Verticals

We increased our product line from just servicing one industry to multiple industries, so we could target more businesses to sell leads to. This opened up the doors to increasing our revenue as we neared the cap in our specific industry.

So from this company that I ran, what helped us the most was the following:

  1. Having copy
  2. Phones
  3. Email
  4. A horrible CRM
  5. Youtube
  6. LinkedIn

Nowadays, if I were to do it again on a shoestring budget, I would use a better CRM, a better email tool, set up landing pages, do product comparisons, implement other social media networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Quora, etc), recruit affiliates, heavily blog/ guest blog about my industry, speak at relevant conferences, run webinars and retarget ads. 
 
If I had more of a budget, I’d book interviews, run giveaways/free trials, sponsor events, create video, set up direct mail campaigns, hire influencers and run paid print/digital ad campaigns on networks that cater to my niche.


If you liked this post, recommend it.

Leonard Kim consults startups and write books. He also blogs at LeonardKim.com.