Think you’ve got no marketing budget? Think again. 3 common marketing challenges for startups and how to solve them with next to no money.

marketing budget

So, you’ve got a fantastic idea, maybe even a convincing prototype and a ton of passion, but no marketing budget? We got you.

Because yes, you can overcome early-stage marketing challenges without breaking the bank. Here are 3 hurdles that may seem overwhelming without a big budget, and some tried-and tested tips to overcome them with creativity.

  1. Understanding your customer. Like, really understanding them.

So, you’ve got a killer product or service, but who exactly are you selling it to? And why do they need it? Understanding your customer is crucial (at any stage to be honest, not just startups) but where can you get real insights as you start out without pricey market research?

Dive headfirst into Facebook and LinkedIn groups, Twitter threads, Slack channels and Reddit communities related to your niche. Listen, engage, and learn from your potential customers directly. Heck, be honest, join in and ask them outright there and then. Their likes, dislikes, and pain points will unveil valuable insights that money can’t buy. 

Another goldmine is reviews of your competitor’s offering – what are they getting right, and more importantly, where are they getting it wrong…? Bingo!

  1. Getting your message right. (Yes, turds can be polished.)

So you’ve made a start on getting to understand your customer, but how do you craft a message that resonates? A compelling mission statement is nice to have, but if your customer doesn’t understand what you’re actually offering and why, they’re going to be left clueless and will move on.

Pick a customer. One you already have (or if you’re not there yet, one you’d really like) and with honest outreach, ask them for their valued feedback. If you’re in a position to offer something in return, even better. Use their insight to help craft a simple and straightforward value proposition. 

Road test what you have with them (and one or 2 others if you can) and rewrite it as many times as you need to. Don’t be precious and avoid the temptation of being overly-clever, or using too much jargon, until you’re established enough to play games with your audience.

3. Connecting with your audience: from little things, big things grow.

Now that you know your customer better than you did yesterday, and have improved your messaging, how do you actually reach your audience without a hefty ad spend? 

If you can afford to, go back to that ideal customer and offer your product (free or discounted) in exchange for some review or testimonial support. It may not seem as sexy as the latest viral video on Tik-Tok, but you really do need to start somewhere, and genuine experience and word-of-mouth can’t be beat. (Not to mention it could help build a long-term relationship that pays dividends on challenges 1 and 2 above!).

Use this testimonial and re-package it to amplify it in as many ways as you can. From blogs, vlogs and infographics to Q&A’s, how-to-guides, social media snippets…. Most of this can be done very effectively using popular tools and AI. Share it for free on your own channels, those of your customer and other review platforms. 

Go back to the online channels your technical community is already using (such as Reddit or Discord) to make sure you are represented while sharing and supporting the community.

Or, for the price of some beer and a pizza, you can build grassroots support in the engineering community with casual meet-ups. Over time, and with consistency, you could own your space by delivering great content that engineers can learn from, and in return, you learn from them.

As your reach grows, so too will your understanding of your customer’s engagement habits which will be a great place to start committing budget when you have it. 

Rinse and repeat 

While a big marketing budget can certainly speed things along, it’s not the be-all and end-all for startup success. With a dash of creativity, reasonable expectations and a sprinkle of resourcefulness, you really can build the beginnings of your empire. 

So; roll up your sleeves, unleash your inner marketing maverick and get to work!

When things start to take off and you need to rope in some support, drop us a line to see how we can help.


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