Startups face many challenges, especially in the first few years of inception – and one of the biggest of those is to stay in the black and maintain cash flow. According to The SBA, 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years and that number rises to 50% during the first five years.

That’s a pretty scary number, and one of the main reasons these businesses don’t succeed is because they don’t invest in marketing. But just how can you create great marketing campaigns when you only have a shoestring budget? Here’s some Marketing Strategy Ideas for you:

1. Creating a Blog for Your Startup

When you’ve had your business website designed and built, a blog page was probably included. But since your site has gone live, has anyone actually posted on it? You might have put up the odd bit of company news, but creating regular blog posts with a thought-out strategy behind them can be a cheap and effective way to boost traffic and generate leads.

As a small startup with limited resources, you might be thinking that you don’t have time to do this. Everyone on your team is probably already stretched pretty thin and their time could be better spent on other tasks. The reality is that content marketing has become one of the most popular methods of marketing for startups and for good reasons – it’s both cheap and effective.

Content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less.

If you don’t have time to be generating blog posts then check if your website design agency is full service, that way they might be able to help you generate a strategy or even do the copywriting for you. It can be hard for startups to pass on responsibility and trust someone else with the voice of their brand but if the agency you chose also built your website, they will have a good understanding of your product and audience.  

2. Write a Guide or E-book

Going through the process of starting your own business, developing a product, getting funding and creating your startup, you will have accumulated a wealth of knowledge about your industry as well as other topics. Why not share some of that with your audience?

You likely have already done all of the research needed to create an ebook at some point during setting up your startup. All you have to do now is sit down for a few hours, write out what you know, and pass off the copy to a designer that can create a slick and professional ebook you can add as a downloadable resource to your website.

Ebooks are great for generating targeted leads. Your audience will happily hand over their contact information if they feel that they are getting something valuable in return. The people that fill out your lead gen form will have a genuine interest in your product or service, so if you’ve got a great sales team behind you, you should start converting them in no time.

3. Set up an Email Newsletters

We keep hearing that email marketing is dead but it’s just not true–Email marketing has been shown to generate a 4400% ROI (no that’s not a typo, it does say four thousand). If used effectively it can be a great budget marketing tool to help you scale your startup quickly.

You probably already have customers and website visitors so can create a list by adding a sign-up box to your website, which is both easy and quick to do so your developer won’t charge you much. For a greater chance of getting sign-ups, you can add an incentive–perhaps the ebook you’ve just written?

From there generating emails is really simple, there are loads of great free email marketing automation tools that can keep you within budget. With regards to design, you can get an HTML template created which only requires a one-off fee from your designer, which you can populate with your content.

4. Put a Referral Program in Place

Surprisingly one of the best budget marketing tips for startups is to stay away from marketing altogether; instead set up a referral programme and let your customers do the marketing for you.

As humans, we trust personal recommendations more than anything else. Hearing about a friend or family members experience can do a lot more to sway us into making a purchase than a flashy ad on our Instagram feed. Referral programmes don’t cost a lot to set up and they continue to generate revenue on their own over time, making them a perfect option for any startup on a budget.

You can simply offer current customers and new customers a discount or credit for each referral giving them the incentive to recommend your product or service to people they know. A startup that has had massive success with this is Airbnb, whose referrals drive an almost 900% year on year growth as a program.

5. Be Active on Social Media

Social media is freely available, literally anyone can set up an account, so why not set one up for your business?

Having a profile on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can add legitimacy to your business but it’s not something you can just slap together. While it is a budget option because you can do it for free, it will take up some of your time to flesh out your profiles and create a social media presence that accurately reflects your brand.

Once your profile is set up you can then start syndicating content that will appeal to your audience and sharing your own original content if you have it.

Social media isn’t something you should do casually, creating regular updates, communicating and reaching out to other people are important parts of the process. This can be time-consuming, but with free tools like Buffer you can schedule up posts in advance and get a whole week worth of social updates done in one sitting, to help you stay organised. 

6. Create a Press Release

People from all walks of life consult news publications daily, probably the vast majority of your audience do as well. If you have something newsworthy to report, tell people about it by reaching out to publications – whether that’s top tier news sites or sites specific to your industry.

If your press release really is newsworthy then chances are sites will be happy to publish it. This gets you attention in a major publication to build your brand awareness and can generate referral traffic to your site.  

Top Tip: Add an inbound link into your press release for a bit of link juice to boost your sites SEO.

If you write the press release yourself and do your own hunt for journalists (Twitter is a great place to start), this marketing tactic can actually be completely free. If you don’t have the resources or time to do it yourself you can always pay an agency to give you a hand, while this is more expensive than doing it internally it is still is well within a startups budget.

7. Personal Branding

Creating a personal brand works in a similar way to creating a corporate brand, just on an individual level. You promote yourself as an individual on social media, through your blog and any other platforms you utilise.

You can share and promote your expertise to become a thought leader in your industry and generate a personal following. You can then use the influence you have created to suggest your product or service as a solution to problems that your audience is having. You will find that it is easier to generate this kind of influence and trust as an individual over your business, as it is difficult for people to trust corporations whereas it is easy for us to build relationships with other humans.  

8. Collaborate With Other Brands

As a startup, you are not just marketing your business to your target audience but also to potential investors. One of the big challenges that startups face is finding the capital they need to produce, distribute and promote your products or service.

Collaborating with other brands not only allows you to get your business in front of their audience but can allow you to network with already established businesses. Sharing ideas and collaborating on projects with other companies can then be a great way to get financial support. It shows others have faith in your business and can give you a quick in into the desired market you are trying to target.  

Starting a collaboration doesn’t require you to spend any of your marketing budget, it can be as simple as sending an email or a message on LinkedIn. While not everyone you want to collaborate with will have the ability, desire or time to do so, if you continue to target businesses that you can give a genuine and helpful offering to, you will find the perfect company to collaborate with in no time.  We do this within BNI with Power Teams – businesses with natural synergy with each other.

9. SEO

SEO should never be ignored. Those searching for your offering on Google are often the hottest of prospects, that’s because they have already identified their pain or need and are already taking action to solve it.

If you are creating content for your site–which you should be–you might as well invest a little bit of time or money optimising your content for search engines. You can either take the time to research, learn and implement SEO on a continued basis or you can consult an agency such as our chapter member Springhill Marketing.

The idea of SEO might seem terribly complex if you are new to online marketing but in reality, it’s built on 3 elements:

  • Technical SEO
  • Content
  • Links

Using an agency or by doing some research you may notice ways you could optimise your site with technical SEO but fingers crossed you pick a good website design agency and they put all the best practices in place from the beginning.

With that out of the way, optimising content and generating links comes next. Keyword research is key here and something all startups should invest their time in. Once you have your keywords sorted you won’t likely have to change them again for a while so this is often a one-off cost and the research can be used to influence all future online marketing campaigns.

Generating links is your next step, and that can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • Organic links that come from sites citing great content you have created
  • Links you’ve acquired through outreaching to websites and pitching them content for their site that will have a link back to your site in it.
  • Profile links from websites that give you the option to add a link when setting up your profile.


If you find that you have a small budget for your startups’ marketing, don’t start cutting corners and creating damaging campaigns. Instead, it’s time to get creative and look at the budget options you have available such as those mentioned above. They can take time and effort to implement but when done effectively they can generate a tonne of leads for your business.

Need help marketing your startup? Lets talk

About Sam Sayer

Currently leading DeType Ltd, a digital creative agency working with a client base across a wide range of sectors - specialising in web design and branding.

Over 12 years experience in the design industry, working for some of the leading design agencies in the Midlands on branding, motion, UX, online and print projects. Key projects include branding projects for West Cornwall Pasty Company, All Bar One, Searcys and Team GB for London 2012, and working with multi award-winning TMC, Click Travel.

One time promoter running Stimulus, a successful event for 17 years in and around the Midlands. Keen DJ when time allows, playing for the award-winning event Spectrum as well as my own ventures, though these days I'm building the sites rather than spinning the tunes!