How to Market Your Startup on a Shoestring Budget

You have a great idea. You know it, your team knows it. But you need EVERYONE to know about it. How are you going to spread the word when you are on a tight budget trying to maximize every dollar?

Here are three easy (and effective) ways you can market your startup on a shoestring budget.

1. Develop Your Personal Brand

It was your knowledge, skills, and personality that led you into this business. Your personal brand is the fastest way to build a trusting relationship between your company and your potential clients, users, or customers. Nail. It. Down.

Demonstrate thought leadership.

Know what your area of expertise is and pick the best channel to share it. Are you a social media whiz? Then you better be the first one tweeting when Instagram introduces “stories” and when Twitter removes photos from its character count!

Just like every brand needs a voice, so do you. 

Finding your voice takes practice but, once you have it, people will be able to appreciate your sense of professionalism, quirkiness, or whatever it is that you bring to the table. Every word counts.

Literally brand yo’self. 

You need to know what colors, fonts, and things describe YOU. If you create your own website to share your expertise, you might want your own logo and colour scheme that can follow you wherever your career takes you.

Know what makes you unique and find a way to share that. 

Outside of work, my life tends to revolve around coffee, cute stationery, and travel. Your audience wants to know YOU. That’s what takes your company from a logo to a team of real people.

Personal branding comes down to showing people who you are, and why they should trust the company that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into. People trust people, it’s that simple.

2. Find Partners That Will Help You Promote Your Brand For You

You did the research. You know that there is a group of people out there that want or need your product, service, or expertise! Find the organizations that share similar interests, but aren’t competitors, and turn them into community partners.

Make the relationship mutually beneficial. 

Don’t go on your profiles, guns a blazing, and start spamming every inbox you can find hoping that someone, anyone, will say yes. Be strategic. Make a list of organizations that you think would actually benefit from promoting your company. How can you test whether the relationship makes sense? Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable promoting their content too!

Don’t feel comfortable asking for support? Just start promoting.

You don’t need permission. Their content is out there for the world to see, so start sharing it. Show your potential partners that you are invested in promoting their interests and that you see alignment with your brand. It will make asking for support that much easier.

Once you have a few solid community partners, keep those relationships strong. As you promote each other’s content, you will have developed a free brand ambassador.

3. Live Tweet at Events

There are so many different free Meetup groups, workshops, and lunch and learns in our community. Looking to increase engagement with your brand? There really is no better time to be tweeting than at an event that aligns with what you do.

Cut through the noise and tweet to your target audience.

If you send a tweet using an event hashtag or handle, suddenly your posts aren’t lost in the abyss of the entire Twittersphere. Instead, you speak to a smaller, relevant community where people are actually paying attention. You’ve just sent a targeted tweet without paying a cent.


Engage with other attendees.

If you find the pace of live tweeting overwhelming (which it can be) take a few breaks and engage with others who are posting. These are the people you want in your network! Follow the event hashtag and reply, retweet, and follow away. Who knows, maybe you will find a potential customer or community partner!

Find relevant followers quickly.

If you are in the stages of building an audience, this is one of the fastest ways to do it. General hashtags are useful, but you are still likely to attract a few “spammers” who are looking for literally anyone to follow them. If you want real, local followers with a true interest in your brand, engaging in social media conversations at events is a must.

Most free events only run an hour or two and are a great way to maximize the value of your time when resources are tight!

Effective marketing doesn’t have to be expensive! How do you market your startup?


Header photo by Jenn Richardson