What’s the Most Cost-Efficient Marketing Strategy for New Startups?

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Startup entrepreneurs face an interesting predicament in marketing. They need to market their business as fast as possible to raise awareness and facilitate growth, but at the same time, their budgets are so limited, it often seems impossible to build momentum with any speed.

If startups didn’t do any marketing, they’d be able to save money-but they also wouldn’t be able to generate much new revenue, leaving them in the same predicament until they run out of money. So what’s the solution? Most entrepreneurs strive to use the most cost-efficient marketing strategies possible.

Least Expensive Marketing Strategies

There are tons of marketing and advertising strategies to choose from, but not all of them offer the same advantages. Startup entrepreneurs should seek the marketing strategies with the lowest amount of overhead and the highest potential gains. These are some of the best to choose from:

  • Content marketing. Some companies invest thousands of dollars a month on content marketing and see an impressive return, but according to Kissmetrics, it’s also possible to run a content strategy on a limited budget. You can produce new content on your own-investing time, rather than money-and if you follow best practices, you can use it to generate a strong recurring readership. Starting a blog is free and easy, and the best part is that you can scale your efforts over time. That means, once you start earning revenue from your efforts, you can reinvest in your strategy and make it even more effective.
  • Printed ads. Compared to the more technologically advanced marketing methods, printed advertising may seem obsolete, but the reality is printing is incredibly cheap (under the right conditions). Facilities like Printing Center USA have become known for being able to produce flyers, brochures, and other printed marketing materials, even for tight budgets.
  • Word-of-mouth. Budgeting doesn’t get any better than when you don’t have to spend any money whatsoever. With word-of-mouth advertising, your goal will be to spread awareness of your brand simply by doing a good job for the people you already serve. This is ideal for local businesses, whose surrounding communities may be able to support them in this way. Start by optimizing your profiles on local review sites like Yelp, and incentivize referrals with a rewards program or similar customer loyalty program. The more you give your customers, the more they’ll give you in return.
  • SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website and online presence to earn higher rankings for relevant consumer searches in Google and other search engines. According to Search Engine Watch, a monthly retained SEO service will run you between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars per month, but you could feasibly learn the basics and do them yourself for nothing more than an investment of your time. Plus, the long-term payoffs of SEO often more than make up for their initial investment-just don’t expect fast results.
  • Social media marketing. Social media marketing is also inexpensive, considering you can start your business or organization’s page and post for free on most platforms. There’s some finesse required in building an audience, but even if you enlist the services of an experienced professional (or agency), social media marketing is cost competitive. The sheer potential here is the real appeal; it’s possible to scale your efforts until you have tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers.

How to Choose the Most Efficient Strategy

All of these marketing strategies seem feasible, but how can you tell which one is right for your startup or small business? You’ll need to consider the following factors, all of which will vary from business to business:

  • Goals. First, consider what your real goals are. Are you merely trying to increase awareness of your brand? Or are you trying to secure as many paying customers as possible? SEO, for example may help you increase traffic, but you’ll need a secondary strategy if you want to convert that traffic into a stream of paying customers.
  • Demographics. You’ll also need to consider your demographics. Different social media platforms offer different demographic makeups, some of which will be more advantageous to you than others, and of course, some audiences don’t even use social media-which is where printed ads could come in.
  • Competition. Take a look at what your competition is doing; this may push you away from one strategy or pull you toward something different. There could be an advantage in being the only company in your niche executing a certain strategy. You can also learn from the experience of others; talk to other entrepreneurs by finding networking events through a site like Meetup or rely on entrepreneurial communities like CEO World.
  • Future. How long will you be doing this? Some strategies yield instant results, while others only pay off after months or years of investment.

There’s no right or wrong way to market a business, but there are some more cost-effective strategies than others. It may take some time for you to figure out which approach is best for your business, but as long as you do your research and invest conservatively to start, you should be able to find the right balance.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.