I know this topic seems a little taboo for the owner of a marketing company to be talking about, I mean all of us marketing types just want you to SPEND money, right? Marketing with no money would put agencies out of business right away!

Well, I don’t think everyone is a candidate to start spending money right off the bat. If you have it, then by all means your life will be easier if you spend money on marketing to launch your business. By this I mean create an incredible logo, website, get professional pictures and videos made and launch an SEO and digital marketing plan! That’s ideal, however, many of the businesses I coach aren’t ready for all of that on day one.

Are websites important? 100%! Eighty-five percent of people search on Google before they make any purchases. So if you don’t have a website, you miss out on all of those potential buyers. But before you spend thousands of dollars on a website, you need to have proof of concept. Is there a need in the market for your product or service? Are you solving a problem in the world that people are willing to pay for to get a solution? Why spend thousands of dollars on a website or a marketing campaign until you know what you offer is what people want and are willing to pay for? (Build a website to maximize your online reach)

Here are eight ways for startups to market without spending money if you are a start up. As soon as you see a need in the market and that people will buy, I’ll be the first to tell you to ramp up your marketing budget!

#1) Create A Free Facebook Or LinkedIn Group

If you are selling a service, you can start a FREE private Facebook or LinkedIn group of people who would be interested in your service. Offer value in the group by sharing relevant content, and then put your irresistible offer out there to see if they will bite. You don’t need a fancy website to test that! Or post on your social media to see if friends and family would be interested. Do they like the idea? Would they pay for your service or recommend it to friends?

#2) Sell Your Products on Facebook Marketplace Or Etsy

What if you are selling a product, why go create a thousand of these products until you know there is a market for it? I talk to people all the time that have a good product idea and spend months looking for someone to manufacture it in bulk, look for a warehouse to house the items and a process for shipping the items. But what if no one buys them? Get proof before you invest. Instead of creating a fancy e-commerce website, first put your products on Facebook marketplace or Etsy to see what sells! Once you start getting sales, then it’s time to create an e-commerce site, look for a manufacturer, start marketing and make serious money!

#3) Use Your iPhone for Video And Photography

Needing professional video or photography for your business? iPhones take amazing photos these days! You can get great lifestyle photos of you and your friends using your products or create your own white box to take product pics in to make them look professional. The same goes for video. We actually have marketing campaigns where our clients are making thousands of dollars a month off of an iPhone video of themselves talking about their products or services! Once you start making money, you can upgrade to professional assets, but until you have proof, this works just fine!

#4) Use Graphic Apps Like Canva

What about a logo or professional graphic design for your marketing sheets? Apps like Canva have amazing graphic design templates you can change the colors and plug in your info! It’s easy and professional until you are ready to hire a graphic designer.

#5) Reach Out Organically on Social Media

What about paid advertising? I am the #1 person that will tell you if you have the right message going out to the right audience and there is a need for your product or service, people will buy! This is of course if your product or service solves a problem in the world. However, many startups and side hustles don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on launching a Facebook, Instagram or Google ad campaign. Organic outreach on social media to your circle of influence is a great place to start! See if your irresistible offer will work before you go all in! Now, while organic outreach is great, there’s a limit to the number of people you can reach…but why not try before you buy? This does take TIME and WORK, but it’s a lot less expensive to pivot if the offer doesn’t work than if you were spending thousands of dollars a month on a campaign.

#6) Find Partnerships

What about partnerships? They are FREE! Look for a partner that has the same audience you are going after but is not a competitor to your business. You can help each other out by sending out emails to your lists with offers or posting on your social media with partner deals. We launched 918moms.com off partnerships! We partnered with a radio, television and print media outlet in our market to give them great content in exchange for ads! We didn’t have to pay for any advertising and got air time, while the stations got good content they didn’t have to pay a reporter or writer to get.

One of the best partnerships we’ve done at D2 Branding was to white label our products to other agencies. Traditional media agencies know they need to dive into the digital world but aren’t sure where to start. Instead of changing their entire business models, they partner with us to provide all of their digital services, and they put their branding on them. They get the client and correspond with the client. We do the work and they mark up the price and present it to their client. This works well for our agency being in Oklahoma, and west coast and east coast agencies who charge 2-3x what we charge for the same services in their markets. We get paid to work with clients we would never have access to, they get to mark up our products and make money doing nothing except servicing that client!

THAT IS A WIN-WIN for all involved! Who would pay you to white label your product or service and sell it as their own? Have you ever researched makeup companies? Most of the makeup out there comes from the same manufacturer. They just put different branding on their products and sell them to 3rd parties to distribute. So that expensive mascara you just bought can probably be found at a drug store with the same ingredients! It’s white labeling! So the owner of the expensive mascara is making money off that market as well as making money off of a lower income market with the same product! It all comes down to how they brand and price the product to the different markets!

#7) Create an Email List

Another thing you can do for FREE right now is start building an email list. This is so powerful! If you ever want to sell your company, the buyer wants to know three things:

  • How many paying customers do you currently have?
  • How many potential customers do you have on your list?
  • How much revenue are you currently making?

They want to know how many people are on your “list” because that’s a warm market. I’m not talking about buying email lists, I am not a fan of that. The best way is to build your own list of people who are interested in what you are selling. These are the people that start to like you, trust you and will buy when they are hot! These are the people you will market to that are easier to convert than a cold audience that has never heard of you.

A great way to build an email list is to create something FREE that is of value like an E-book with content people want and give it away in exchange for their email address! This is FREE! An e-book is just writing good content in a document and you put a fancy cover on it with your branding that could be made in apps like Canva! This will make you look legit! You’ve got an ebook!

You can also get email addresses for people in your private Facebook group. Remember when using social media, they own your followers, not you! If Facebook goes away tomorrow, how are you going to get in touch with your followers? Before they come to your free group, make them enter their email address as an entry into the group. Then you can market to them by messaging them on Facebook and with an email series.

#8) Collaborate with Influencers

If you are selling an e-commerce product online, most of the time, you need to have a significant amount of money to test the product quickly. You should be running multiple ads to different audiences with different offers to see what hits. Not all clients have that kind of budget, but there are creative ways to get your product into the hands of your ideal and likely buyers such as collaborating with influencers.

Direct message mid-range influencers (20k + 50k followers) to see if they would like to partner with you to get FREE product in return for a giveaway or review on their social media outlet. You could also give them a special discount code to push out your product for a percent of the revenue. I’ve seen products blow up overnight doing this! Make sure you are going after influencers with followers who are your same target audience and be willing to give up a good chunk of revenue to get first time buyers who have the potential to become repeat customers!

Young influencer working on a virtual screen

If you go after influencers who have a large following they will more than likely want to get PAID up front to collaborate or they may belong to an affiliate network so you can’t talk to them directly any way. That’s why I say start with mid-size influencers that have a good following but aren’t at the 75k – 100k following yet. You treat the influencer outreach just like a Dream 100 sales system. Make a list of 100 influencers you’d like to partner with and start messaging them. You want to make it conversational and compliment them on something specific you saw them post about (don’t write a generic outreach message that you send to everyone; it will never get answered). You have to keep working the list until you get some collaborations! This is a great no cost way to get your product in the hands of potential customers! Influencers can be powerful in launching businesses! Again, this takes time and diligence, but will not cost you any money to reach out.

Close-up of a professional microphone on the background of a laptop. Radio broadcaster's desktop

Listen to marketing podcasts to learn the tricks of the trade

Another great, FREE way to learn about marketing is to listen to marketing podcasts like the DO IT MY WAY Podcast Show! There is so much amazing advice out there for FREE that you can implement right away, and it’s way more relevant than anything you would learn in marketing degree classes! Not that I am anti-college, but I do think your internships will provide the most relevant experience to what is going on in the world of marketing today!

I talk to entrepreneurs every day who never launch because they are waiting for the right time to save up money and create a website or start dumping money into marketing. Years go by and they never launch their dream! It’s better to boot strap and start than do nothing at all! The best problem you could possibly have is a massive order where someone wants to pay you for your product or service and you have to scramble to fulfill it. It’s a lot easier to figure that out once money is coming in than to put thousands out there before you make a dime.

Do you have a great business idea but are strapped for cash? Follow these proven steps to get proof of concept before you dive into spending thousands of dollars on professional marketing!

Deedra Determan, Founder

Deedra Determan started her career working in television for one of the top media companies in the country and later became a marketing consultant in the television industry.

Determan went on to launch a niche website for moms in her local market with over 100,000 moms visiting the website each month using the power of Facebook. After one year from launching, Determan sold the website to Oklahoma Media Company, Griffin Communications. Determan went on to launch a digital marketing agency, D2 Branding that was recently recognized as one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur360.

Determan is the host of the Do It My Way Podcast Show, empowering women business owners and CEO’s to do business on their terms with no regrets, hesitation or fear. Determan coaches these women on how to create a personal brand so they can live a life of financial freedom, working when they want to work and making the money they want to make!