How to market your business on a zero budget?
After a lot of overthinking, you’ve finally made it. Huh! You have a sigh of relief that your start-up is here, just in front of your eyes. What’s even magnificent that you’ve managed to get your first ever client.
How would you keep getting leads after leads?
You’re not a giant company. You don’t have a big budget. You don’t even have a million-dollar in your bank to start off with (at least for most of you).
Whatever you could do up until now is because you hustled and bootstrapped your way up.
Here’s the short answer — you need to find ways to market your business at a zero budget.
And if you want to know the loooooong answer, here is it. Use it, curate it, like it, dislike it, discard it. Each one of the following approaches works. And they won’t cost you a dime (at least in the most literal way other than your mobile bill and charges for your internet).
If you’re ready, say “I’m ready” and let’s get started.
7 ways to market your business at a zero budget
1. Cold calling
This isn’t for the faint-hearted. But let’s say that you have a healthy heart. And you can bear the pain of continuous shutting off of the receiver on the other side. If yes, try it.
Here’s what you should do when your pocket is empty.
Search out local businesses that can use your services and products. Find out their phone number.
And call them directly.
Use the script below to start off with (or you can use a script of your own) -
Hi, this is YOUR NAME. Is it a BUSINESS NAME? Is it a good time to talk? I would like to talk to OWNER NAME (if you can manage the name).
Then if the owner speaks up or the person continues to speak, talk about your services or products.
Have a look at the cold-calling duration that results in a meeting. The idea is to keep talking until you can make the other person comfortable.
2. Cold email pitch
This is an easy version of the earlier idea.
In this case, you don’t need to receive a shuutttt offffff sound. But you may experience that you just sent your pitch to a bot.
But no worries, I will get you covered.
If you decide that you will start your marketing campaign by sending a bunch of cold emails, here’s what you should do.
Find out the businesses (location doesn’t matter if you provide a product/service that is location-friendly) that may use your products/services.
Find their websites. Go to the “contact” page and get hold of their email.
Now, search the company in LinkedIn. Look at the people working in the company.
You need to find someone that can make a decision. It can be an owner or a director or someone senior.
Now, use both the company’s email and the email of one significant person and write your pitch.
You can use the following template -
“Subject Line: I found you via SOURCE NAME (this subject line has an open rate of 86.6%)
I just went through your LinkedIn profile/website. It made me reach out to you.
This is YOUR NAME & YOUR DESIGNATION. We provide SERVICE NAME that had helped our clients achieve A FIGURE. Here’s what one of our happy clients has to say for us -
Since you have a business that’s thriving, you may find our service/product most appropriate. You can reach out to us directly by responding to this email or you can visit our website at WEBSITE ADDRESS.
We would love to add value to your business and can’t wait to hear from you.
3. Use LinkedIn
I cannot talk about LinkedIn enough.
If you want to have a free tool that can quintuple your reach, engagement, influence, and brand value, use LinkedIn.
Here’s an easy 5-step guide to using LinkedIn like a pro -
- Fill out everything: Don’t leave anything for later. Take out 2 hours and fill out everything — headline, educational details, professional details, what you do, why you do what you do and why your company should be chosen as the most appropriate company. Use a headshot as your profile picture (no selfies please, LinkedIn is a professional network). Don’t leave the header image blank. Go to Canva, create a LinkedIn header image and upload it into your profile. Finally, write a great summary under your headline that highlights your skills and accomplishments.
- Create a company page: Creating a company page is easy. Use this to create a company page. If you can update your company page regularly (at least twice a week), clients will be able to see your company updates regularly.
- Post content daily (frequently): You don’t need to be a great writer to do this. You should share your thoughts, experiences, insights. You can read this and this to get started. As per Foundation Inc., the performance of “how” and “how-to” posts are much higher compared to all other posts.
- Engage with others: The keyword for LinkedIn is engagement. If you engage with others more, more people will engage with you. It’s just like what goes around, comes around.
- Help, help, help some more: It’s all about how many people you help. Your business will grow directly to the proportion of the number of people you help. How would you help? You can start by helping two professionals get connected through you.
4. Use Facebook (and Facebook Ad)
If you haven’t used Facebook yet for your business, go, create a business page right away.
There are around 2 billion people on Facebook right now. Can you image? More than 1/4th of the whole population of the world is on Facebook and you’re not tapping the database?
So, what would you do?
You can give ads on Facebook. It’s cheap and if you’re a small business, probably you will be able to manage to spend a little bit amount (around $3/day) to reach out to prospects.
Attracting prospects without Facebook Ad
I will talk about the Facebook ad later. But before that, let me talk about Facebook in general sense and especially if you’re not ready to spend on a Facebook ad yet.
Your only option then is to generate leads through an organic approach.
All you need to do is to post on Facebook once a day (even twice a day would be too high).
You can also curate or reshare a post every other day.
And as you can in the image above, you should post from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Facebook.
Post less text and more visual images to attract visitors. You can also tag your existing followers to the post so that the friends of your followers can visit your page. And they can see what your business is all about.
You can also run contests once you have at least 100+ followers to see who is engaging with you. You can run contests like giveaways. Buy 3 books from your favourite author. And ask your followers to comment on the post below and tag 3 of their friends. And you can pick and choose any 3 followers and gift the books.
Attracting prospects with Facebook Ad
If you have set aside an amount ( at least $3 a day, $1 per video ad), this is recommended.
Here’s how you should approach the Facebook Ad.
- How many videos to start with? Create 3 videos for each stage of the marketing funnel. One video for awareness stage, one video for the consideration stage, and another video for the decision stage.
- What would be the budget? Now, once you create these 3 videos, promote them on Facebook with the budget of $1/day.
- What about targeting & retargeting your audience? The idea is to finalize the target prospects that like or pay attention to your content. For example, if a set of target audience watches your video of the awareness stage for more than 10 seconds, then you should retarget them and show them the next video, i.e. the video for consideration stage. And let’s say 1000 people among the retargeting group watch your consideration video for more than 10 seconds, you can show them the video for the decision stage.
- What would be the duration of each video? Each video should be 1 minute long and not more than 2 minutes long. Too long (more than 2 minutes) videos don’t do well on Facebook (especially when you’re using it for an ad).
- How to create a video? To start off, just use your camera and shoot an informative video and post it on Facebook. Then select your audience and boost the post for your target audience. Make sure that you use Facebook’s lead ads. Using lead ads will allow you use the information of the prospect by itself (they don’t even need to fill up any form). It will look like the following -
If you want to know more about how to set up a lead ad on Facebook, you can read it here.
5. Connect with local businesses and offer a shared-service proposal
When a business gets started, it doesn’t have many customers.
The best way to get instant customers is to connect with local businesses.
For example, if you’re a web designer and you’ve started your business, you can connect with local marketing agencies and request them for a shared-service proposal.
A shared-service proposal means whenever you would get any client, you will refer the local marketing agency to the client. And at the same time, whenever the local marketing agency will get a client, that agency will refer you as a web designer.
It’s a win-win proposal and it helps bring in a lot of customers quickly.
6. Beta test your product/service
It’s not recommended for every product or service.
But this is a great way you can quickly collect a set of data points and use the data points for lead generation.
Let’s say that you created a software that will transcribe the written words into voice. Now, let’s say you have zero customers and you don’t know whether your product is good enough for your ideal customers.
So, here’s what you should do -
- Create a buyer-persona for your ideal buyers. This is the most important and critical step among all.
- Select 10–100 people (depending on how big you want to reach) that adhere to the buyer-persona you’ve created.
- Talk to them directly (via call or email or Facebook Messenger) about beta testing your product.
- Tell them that you will let them use your product for free (for a certain period). All they need to do is to give you honest feedback.
- This strategy itself will create the word-of-mouth for you. You can also ask your testers to share a product review on their blog and they can use your product for one month more (meaning you can give them a one-month extension in lieu of a product review that you can use on your sales page).
Try this strategy. It’s free. It doesn’t need you to break the bank. And it works. Moreover, you can use the feedback of these beta-testers and really use them to upgrade your product.
And you can also select the screenshot of their responses and use them as testimonials on your landing page.
You can use this same strategy for your service business. Only thing is you need to know how long you would offer a free service (not recommended if you have at least 3–4 customers, but a good strategy for beginners).
7. Start a blog (and write on narrow topics)
You may have heard this advice a thousand times before. But I’ll tell you something else and it’s not only to start a blog for the sake of blogging.
Just for the sake of blogging won’t generate any result.
Since you lack the money at this stage, blogging is a great content marketing strategy.
So, how would you blog and how much should you write?
How would you blog?
Don’t blog on topics too broad.
At this stage, you will truly connect with people with a narrow focus.
For example, instead of eyeing educational companies, focus on educational companies that have a turnover of more than $10 million and only create technology products.
Doing this will let you target a niche market.
Once you find out the niche market you will target on (take your time to find your niche market), now it’s time to find out what questions they may have (burning issues or pain-points).
Find out where they hang out, which blogs/websites they visit, what social media they use most, what they consume as information and understand their pain-points, struggles, challenges.
Now, write blogs addressing their pain-points. As if you’re answering their long-held questions that couldn’t share with many people.
Let’s take an example to illustrate this.
Let’s say that you’ve been running a company that provides coaching for old people aged 70–90 that have Alzheimer's disease.
So, if you start blogging you need to blog about what pains these aged people go through. You also need to find out ways to reach them so that they can get benefit from what you write about.
How much should you write?
You can write a short blog post, but that will not generate enough traction.
It has been seen that long-form content does significantly well.
So, how much you should write?
Let’s have a look at the data provided by Moz.com -
Look at this fascinating research.
If your blog post is 2000–3000, there’s no share (can you believe it?). On the other hand, if your content is within 0 to 2000 words, it gets shared but relatively in very meagre quantity.
But have a look at the word length of 3000 to 10,000 word-length. It gets shared around 1300 times putting together all of social media channels.
On the other hand, Backlinko did a study of 1 million Google search results. And they found the following -
Backlinko found that long-form content did much better than the short-form content in Google search. Rather they did an average of the Google’s first-page result and the average turned out to be 1,890 words.
So, write long-form content as much as you can.
Don’t half-heartedly write something.
Do your research. Find out as many sources as possible. And write epic content.
Another question that may pop up in your mind — “how many times should we blog per month?”
To answer this question, let’s look at another statistics.
According to HubSpot, companies that write more than 16+ posts a month receive 3.5 times more traffic than companies that write less than 4 posts a month.
I shared top 7 strategies you can use to market your business when you have zero budget.
There are certainly more things you can do and these are not exhaustive by any means.
But if you start with one of the above, you will be able to see results within a few months.
Building a business from scratch isn’t easy. It needs a lot of sweat, hard work, and patience.
And it’s harder when you’re on a tiny budget.
But it is possible.
Hang on to your hat. And keep dreaming and doing the work.
Wish you all the green lights on your way!