7 tips to market your startup for free


As a startup business owner, you must know the value of every penny - unlike big brands, which readily spend thousands of dollars every month on marketing. Also, a startup entrepreneur cannot wait too long for ROI to come in.

So what can you, as a small business owner, do to minimize your spending on marketing to around zero rupees – yes, literally not even a single penny? There are actually many ways, if you ask me, but I’ll give you my top seven tips. Are you ready to know?

Image Credit "ShutterStock"

If you don’t have enough time to read this entire article, then here is the summary for you:

  1. Identify your target market and competition
  2. Attend startup events & network with your prospective clients
  3. Create a blog and start writing
  4. Free email marketing with Mailchimp
  5. Leverage the power of LinkedIn
  6. Make Twitter your best friend
  7. Free tools for SEO, keyword research,and much more

Let’s explore each one of these one at a time. Feel free to put in your own suggestions at the end of this article if you think I’ve missed anything.

Identify your target market and competition

According to me, this is an important thing, one that you should be certain of before beginning to market your startup. Having learned from my own past mistakes, and from other entrepreneurs’, I realize that you just cannot begin anything without a concrete understanding of who exactly you consider your target customers, and who all are selling the same service or product as yours.

For instance, if you wanted to sell an invoicing tool, or provide bulk emailing service to your clients, you should first be sure of what types of clients you’d want to target, what industry and niche they fall under, and what their minimum budget should be, in order to work with you. Often, as startup entrepreneurs, we say ‘yes’ to every other opportunity that comes our way. But we never think about the consequences of choosing the wrong clients. So you should learn how to say ‘no’ to the people who don’t fit your definition of “target market”.

Similarly, it’s equally important to see how others are selling a similar product or service to yours, in order to learn and make a better strategy for yourself. Targeting a niche can be difficult, but once you master a particular segment, you become the trendsetter. So, take your time and study it in depth. It won’t cost you a penny, and will be very useful for both your offline & online marketing endeavors.

Attend startup events & network with your prospective clients

It’s always good to be at such places; you can meet the decision-makers themselves, and network with them. Of course, you can’t be omnipresent - but try to attend at least three events a month, even you have to travel a few miles to do so. This will allow you to meet new people, validate your assumptions about your product or service, and meet potential customers.

Startup events have actually helped me meet many of my customers in the past, and they continue to do that. Why? Because people love to work with people who are problem solvers and have answers to their problems. In order to gain something, you should first generously help others without expecting anything in return.

Also, look at it from a different perspective. Whatever business you do, you need suggestions from experienced people, who could maybe show you the right way to do things. Thankfully, there are hundreds of such initiatives going on in every city. People come and share tales and learnings of their entrepreneurial experiences, and mentor new entrepreneurs.

Create a blog and start writing

When you start your own business, you learn a lot everyday. Eventually, with time, you overcome challenges and master the skills you need to run your business successfully. With each challenge you encounter, you learn a lot, and tend to share it with people you meet. So why not share it with the world through a blog?

A blog is extremely easy setup, and free. All you need to do is to put your thoughts into writing. The blogs whose authors are really honest,and share opinions derived from their own lives, are the most popular ones and get noticed really fast. Writing a blog can open doors to an audience you never knew existed.

But the only condition is persistence. Many people quit blogging very fast, because they expect miracles to happen overnight. You don’t have to choose blogging as a profession. It can actually support your mainstream business very well, by making you meet new clients and followers for your business. You can setup your business’ blog free of cost on wordpress.com. This will also help your business’s Search Engine Rankings boost up.

Free email marketing with Mailchimp

Under its free plan, Mailchimp lets you create email lists of upto 2000 subscribers, and send upto 12000 emails. This is a god send for any startup business. What I like the most about Mailchimp is that most marketing emails sent through it get delivered to the inbox, and not the spam folder.

You can check the status of each email sent by Mailchimp. This will show you how many recipients opened your email, which of them clicked on the links in your email, and who all unsubscribed from your list. All for free, at that. It is a great tool for marketing your product/ service, but make sure you don’t spam people.

Leverage the power of LinkedIn

As a professional and an entrepreneur, you meet hardly anyone who is not on LinkedIn yet. If you are already on LinkedIn, connect with your friends, ex-colleagues, key people in your industry, people you meet at startup events, and so on. LinkedIn has always connected me with industry leaders, and they almost always respond to my messages.

Since all CXOs are on LinkedIn, there is a good chance your business will get noticed by decision makers themselves, provided you build connects the right way, and leverage them without annoying anyone.

For instance, if you are building an interesting product, it’s all right to go ahead and write a polite request to a CXO you have just connected with, asking him/her if he can give you feedback about your product. Today’s beta testers can become tomorrow’s customers, if they need your product.

Make Twitter your best friend

I may not be the first one to tell you this; but I really mean this. Although you will have just 140 characters to express, you won’t regret a presence on twitter. Most of the visits and subscriptions on my blog come from my marketing my posts on twitter for free.

All you have to do is choose catchy taglines and good hashtags to attract the audience you were never connected to. Suddenly, you will find yourself followed by new people across the world. They will also share your tweets, thus furthering your network.

From product feedback, to trying your services or product itself, you can ask your new connects for any favor on twitter via DMs or tweets. Just make sure that your intent and call to action is clear. And don’t spam people posting the same things repeatedly.

Free tools for SEO, Keyword Research & much more

Last but not least, this is the area where most startup entrepreneurs lack. They don’t know how to reach the desired audience online, and often fail to attract and acquire customers through their website.

If you leave your website unattended, and don’t care for optimizing or updating it with time, you will not get any leads or sales through it. Design, user experience and a clear call to action are a few very important factors that either make or break a successful online presence.

There are a few tools you can setup for free, just to see what exactly people are searching you up with, and also how to build your future content strategy. You don’t need any external help to setup these tools:-

  1. Google Search Console (Earlier known as Google Webmaster Tools) Create an account, verify your website and explore the search terms you are being searched with
  2. Google Analytics Setup your account, and see all your website’straffic sources, the devices and browsers your website is opened from, visitors’ locations, and a lot more
  3. Google Keyword Planner Used for Google Adwords mainly, but you can make use of it for SEO as well. Find potential keywords and use them in your content strategy.
  4. WooRank Free application with which you can study your website’s SEO score and suggestions to improve it

The good part about a startup business is that it is extremely flexible. You can experiment a lot without losing much. Everything new that you do adds to your knowledge. This is how I learned through experimenting and failing. This how every startup entrepreneur learns.

As a small business owner, growing your business is on your shoulders and marketing is one of the most important things in ensuring your business’ success. I hope you learned at least one new thing from this article.

About the Author:

Vineet Khurana is the CoFounder of Viprasoft. His twitter handle is @VineetKhurana.)

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)