If you read website like Tech Crunch and Venture Beat, they are filled with stories about startups receiving millions of dollars in funding, but in reality, only a very small percentage are truly well-funded.

Most businesses start with nothing. They are bootstrapped or funded by maxing out credit cards. Most online businesses have little to no budget, which makes marketing on a shoestring budget important for survival. I’m here to reassure you that you don’t have to have a Silicon Valley startup budget in order to make it.

Yes, monster budgets would help you scale much quicker, but if you don’t have that luxury you will have to roll up your sleeves and get creative.

Here are ten ways you can market your online business with even the smallest of budgets.


1. Religiously publish blog content aligned with your SEO strategy.

Google is one of the biggest opportunities when there is little budget to work with, yet many people automatically think they have no chance to pull in traffic without spending a lot of money. Sure, you won’t break traffic numbers, but you can see traffic if you just think small to start.

The biggest opportunity comes from long-tail search terms. These are keywords that might only attract 20 or so searches per month, but when you start to go after a lot of them, that traffic can add up and equal sales.

Let the big companies fight over the keywords and search terms pulling in hundreds of thousands of searches. They have the budget to properly go after them. Look for the low hanging fruit.

Imagine if you identify 60 keywords that each have the potential to pull in just 10 visitors each per month, when properly optimized. Put your head down and write 2 blog posts per day, and in a month you will have them all live and indexed on your website. Master on-page optimization and watch your traffic increase along with your sales.



2. Constantly leverage your email subscriber list.

Always build an email list, from day one, and segment it as much as possible. You want to separate customers from prospects, because the messages you will send them need to be different. Email addresses are an asset, and if you are constantly building your lists, then you always have an increased opportunity to leverage that asset to generates sales and revenue.

Your customer list is the easiest to monetize. These are people that have already purchased from you, so the trust is already there. It is much easier to convert a previous or current customer than it is to go find a new one. Send them discount codes and special offers, emphasizing FOMO (fear of missing out), and you should be generating money from every email blast.

Your prospect list will require a different approach, as you need to convince them that your product or service is the superior choice, so highlighting social proof and testimonials in your emails are great ways to create that trust. Then, include a special “first time” offer, which needs to be enticing enough to get them to take the bait. Then, once converted they need to be transferred into the customer list for future monetization.


3. Guest blog everywhere you can.

So many people say guest blogging is dead and that Google doesn’t apply as much weight to guest blog links, but that is completely untrue and you need to think way beyond links to truly understand the benefits of guest blogging.

Yes, you might get a nice link, but more importantly you get exposure, as long as you are being seen on relevant blogs within your niche that receive real traffic. If you are an expert in whatever niche you operate in, then you should be able to list off the top ten blogs relevant to what it is that you sell.

Think niche relevant, and not just huge media outlets. While a site like Huffington Post might be large, the percent of readers interested in what your business sells might be non-existent. A smaller website that is aligned with your business is going to benefit you much more.

Contact the website owner and explain why you are an expert and also propose some topics. You will have a much better chance of receiving a response if you are detailed and prepared. You need to show value, so pitch topics that their audience will be interested in and don’t worry about promoting your business in the article. If you deliver a great informative and interesting piece you will be seen.


4. Transform popular blog posts into downloadable eBooks.

If you have an established blog that’s been receiving traffic for some time, dive into your Google Analytics and identify your top performing posts, in terms of views and time on page, and consider transforming them into downloadable eBooks.

Since they are popular topics, it’s worth converting them into another content format and using them to pull in more leads and sales. Downloadable guides and case studies are great bait for opt-in offers, and you can create nice ones with little to no money.

If you have some funds, you can hire freelancers to create nice PDF documents for less than $100. If you want to do it yourself, simply create a Word document, format the background and borders, insert some nice graphics and images, and just convert it to a PDF.

You don’t have to be a Photoshop expert either. There are many free graphic and image tools you can use, like Canva, that helps you make nice images with zero graphic design knowledge. It’s the eBook topic, not design, that will initially trigger the opt-in.


5. Create informative video content and distribute it across all available channels.

Video content is the most popular format of content right now. It is outperforming blog posts, and for one main reason: it’s easier to consume. Think about it. Would you rather read a long blog post or watch a video?

Video content requires far less effort on the consumer side and they are able to watch it on mobile devices and tablets while on the go. Nobody is really sitting down, just reading blogs any longer. If they perform a Google search, and they happen to land on your blog, then yes, they will read. But nobody is actively going to a blog looking for new content to read.

You need to let your audience know you have video content available. Start to upload videos to your social media profiles and see what type of response you receive. If you can tell it’s a hit, then consider launching a dedicated YouTube channel. If you are selling a product or service that needs explaining or demonstration, then video can help convert sales for you around the clock. You might even consider explainer video calls-to-action, as they can really help increase conversion rates.


6. Encourage user-generated social media content via contests and promotions.

This is one of the easiest ways to gain a lot of traction with literally no budget. If you are selling your own products online, then you need to create a hashtag and ask every customer to post a picture on social media holding your product and using the hashtag for a chance to win free products.

I will give you an example. A client we have helped in the past selling a health/beauty product online for $50 and it costs them $2 to manufacture it. One each billing receipt that is sent out, it tells the customer that if they post a picture on social media using the specific hashtag they have the chance of winning free product.

So, each month, their social media person searches for that hashtag and randomly picks a handful of winners. Then, they re-post the winners on the company social pages. This shows their audience that the contest is indeed real, which then encourages more people to participate.

This is essentially free advertising, as these people are showing the product to all of their followers and it’s costing the company $2 for each winner. This is the most effective advertising cost-wise, when done right.



7. Broadcast live on Facebook.

Facebook organic reach is dead. Facebook ads are increasing in cost while that reach is decreasing as well. One way to still leverage the huge audience on Facebook is live video. It’s new and interesting, and a great way to command attention. When a follower watches your live stream, you have their full attention. All other distractions are eliminated.

You don’t want to use it for selling though. Instead, use it to educate and inform. It’s a great tool to use for developing a personal connection with your customers. Many online business owners don’t want to be the face of their business, but if you put yourself out there you will see more people become drawn to your company.

They like to make a personal connection, and you will always outperform a faceless company if you simply show your face. Consistency is key, so consider dedicating a half hour each week to answering questions or doing a live Q&A. Something like “Wednesday Wisdom” can be branded easily. Create your own hashtag and start to promote your Facebook live events on all social media and via your email list.


8. Launch an affiliate program.

Having other people promote your online website is something everyone should embrace. While many people focus on the payout per sale and lower profit for the company, they fail to understand that they are building their customer base and getting their products into more hands this way, without having to risk their own funds on ads and traffic.

There is an army of affiliate marketers out there that are experts when it comes to traffic generation. If your offer is enticing enough, financially, then they will often test it. You need to make sure your website and conversion path are properly optimized, because if the conversion rates are low, affiliates will pull the plug and pour their money into offers that convert higher, resulting in a bigger payday for them.

You can set up an affiliate program for free, as there are several open source options for WordPress and non-WP alike.


9. Publish infographics and share them everywhere you can.

Infographics have always been popular, and still remain a great way to distribute visual content. They key is to get them published on websites that will give you priceless branding exposure. Same reason that guest blogging is so effective, but infographics will often times allow you to get coverage (and maybe even links) from websites that don’t typically offer guest blogging.

You need to come up with a topic that is very newsworthy, even if it’s not 100% related to your industry. For example, if you are an online e-commerce company that sells custom sneakers, then you could create infographics related to sports. A topic like “The 50 Highest Paid NBA Stars of All-Time” is something that would be picked up and published by sports blogs if it’s well done, and a large percentage of the people reading it will have an interest in sneakers.

The benefits: branding, referral traffic and possibly even a nice link. Make it easily shareable. Post it on your blog, with share code at the bottom (with your link) that can be copied and pasted, making it a 30 second job for websites to post it.


10. Be active on Instagram and master engagement boosting.

Instagram is the most popular social media network right now, and many marketers still haven’t figured out how to master it. The more engagement your content receives, the higher the chance of it appearing on the explore page, which can introduce non-followers to your business.

Instagram just announced they are changing its algorithm back to how it was when they first launched, which will now show posts of those you follow in chronical order, rather than what they “think” you want to see. This means organic posts should see more eyes, which is great news for you.

Think of ways to get your followers to like and comment on your posts quickly. Give them incentive to turn on post notifications for your content and like/comment within the first 5 minutes. Give them a hashtag to use and award prizes. This can help your organic growth tremendously.


Final Thoughts

You don’t have to break the bank in order to see results from online marketing campaigns. Many business owners assume they need to be spending $10,000 per month on Facebook ads in order to see any traction, but in reality, you just need to dive head-first into the tips above.

The hardest part is taking that first leap and continue to plug away, knowing that results will not be overnight. Yes, if you dump money into paid ads, results can occur overnight, but that requires a large budget and more importantly, a large test budget. Most small businesses and startups don’t have the luxury of disposable funds.

If you commit to the strategies listed above, you will eventually see them pay off. Once you gain traction and start to generate revenue, you can scale them up, while also reinvesting the profits into more aggressive paid advertising.

If you have any questions about the tips outlined above, please drop a comment below. If anyone has experienced success using any of these strategies, please share your experiences as well.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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