It doesn’t matter how great your startup’s product or service is — marketing is the key to success. Still, no matter how much you’d like to invest in marketing, you could very well have little or no budget to do it.

no money
Photo Credit: Brainy Budget

Luckily, there are still great ways to market your startup with zero budget. Here are the six strategies you can use to do it.

1. Be Discoverable

First things first — you need to be findable on the Internet. That means:

  • Optimizing for SEO
  • Getting on free listing websites and local directories
  • Creating a website that users can easily navigate

Having a great website and getting people to it is crucial — it’s where the bulk of your marketing efforts will lie, and the perfect place for leads to get more information about your company, products and services.

Here’s a comprehensive crash-course for startup SEO.

2. Create Content

Your content is also a huge part of SEO and drawing potential consumers to your website. The content you create should be specific to your industry and offer value to your audience by answering their questions and solving their problems. Content can be:

  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Infographics
  • Viral images/videos
  • Podcast/Webinars

Content can become a huge driving force behind finding organic leads. Just follow the lead of Buffer app, whose content strategy gets their blog a whopping 866,909 page views per month.

The key to their success appears to be all about relevance:

Reach influencers
Photo Credit: Social Marketing Writing.

Try to create content that not only appeals to your customers and leads, but to anyone who might interact with and influence potential customers.

3. Leverage Social Media

Figure out which social media platforms your target audience is using and get active there. You have a lot of options. Facebook is the most widely used social network, while Twitter and LinkedIn are great for B2B connections. If your product is visual, consider Instagram, Pinterest, or Flickr.

To get the biggest bangs for your invested time, you should also think about your target audience demographics (age, income, etc.) when picking platforms. These data from the Pew Research Center provides all you need to know.

Of course, you should use social media to promote your product or service, but that should only be a small part of your strategy. Use social media to:

  • Amplify your content
  • Engage with your audience
  • Draw leads to your website

If you need some inspiration, just take a look at what SnapKnot, a small startup, managed to accomplish with social media. They developed a social contest over 90 days, and got:

  • 900% Facebook fan growth
  • 5% Twitter follower growth
  • 60% increase in unique website traffic

Here are a few other successful startup social media case studies to inspire your strategy.

4. Build Your Mailing List

Building a list of email subscribers can help you target high quality leads with email marketing. The best way to build your mailing list is by including calls-to-action in your content prompting readers to subscribe. You can also offer “carrot content” — these are free content that you give away in exchange for signing up, such as an ebook or white paper.

You’ll continue with your content campaign within your email marketing, but you can also offer direct discounts and advantages to turn these leads into real customers.

5. Network

Leveraging the prestige and audience reach of other industry leaders can only be accomplished through networking.

So make efforts to get friendly with socially influential people, and use them as influencers for your own marketing. You can:

  • Solicit endorsements
  • Get them to share your content on social media
  • Guest post on their platform
  • Collaborate on content

All these strategies will help build your startup’s credibility and expand its reach. A great way to find influencers is with Buzzsumo. Search for your target market keywords:

Screenshot via Buzzsumo.

And sort by “total shares” to reveal influential networks and bloggers. Start reading their content, leave thoughtful comments and share it on social media. Subscribe to their newsletters and follow them on social media.

Find a way to help them first and it becomes easy to build lasting relationship with them. Soon, that relationship will become a currency you can spend to market your startup.

6. Solicit Traditional Media

Getting noticed by traditional media outlets may seem like a long shot, but it’s never going to happen if you don’t put forth the effort.

Be sure to consistently circulate press releases for your latest product launches, events, and discounts.

You can also get closer to the media by signing up for Help A Reporter Out (HARO). This free service connects journalists with industry leaders that they might want to interview and quote in their news piece. Respond to their queries to increase your chances of appearing as an industry expert in the news.

There has never been a better time to be a startup with no marketing budget. In the age of social media and online content available by search, there’s less of a need to rely on expensive advertisements to broaden your brand’s reach.

Focusing on these 6 strategies will quickly get your startup on the path to a healthy no-budget marketing strategy.