Glasses on a Desk

Startup marketing on a shoestring: 10 ways to market your business on a budget

When we recently explored the reasons why so many startups fail, we found that poor marketing was a common thread between those that don’t make it. 

Marketing can be a daunting prospect for a startup owner. You know it’s important, but where do you start? And is it not going to be expensive? 

Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to get the word out about your business and build your brand without breaking the bank.

In this article, we’ll explore ten ways to market your startup on a shoestring that you can start implementing in your business today. 

1. Streamline your efforts

You’ll get the biggest return on investment with your marketing if it’s focussed around your key business objectives.   

By constantly keeping in mind where you are aiming to get to, you’ll eliminate activities that have no purpose. This will not only save you time and money, but also ensure your marketing efforts are as effective as possible. 

You may find it useful to have your objectives or mission statement on your office wall as a reminder of what you’re trying to achieve to help keep your efforts streamlined.

2. Set your budget

A mismanaged cash flow is another common reason new businesses fail.

To avoid this, calculate your marketing budget first and stick to it. Utilising free marketing tools, like social media and blogging, and taking up trials of services before you spend is a good way to stay under budget.  

This requires self-control, but if overspending could cause cash flow problems it’s safer to shelve your plans until you have enough revenue to fund them. Find our complete guide to this here.

3. Define your market

You’ll get the biggest return on investment from your marketing efforts if you’re targeting them at clearly defined customer personas. 

A customer persona is a profile of a specific customer type. It details who they are, what problems and ambitions they have, and how your product or service helps solve them. 

An effective way to create buyer personas that sum up your target audiences is to think about their:

  • demographics,
  • use of your product,
  • and purchase behaviour.

This level of understanding allows you to customise your marketing messages in order to get the biggest return on your investment. 

However, be wary not to try to reach too many target audiences at once. This could confuse your audience and make your brand message inconsistent. Instead, focus your efforts on marketing to the buyer persona most willing to part with their cash for your product or service for the best results.

4. Validate your product

You’ve already spotted a gap in the market for your own business idea, but it’s well worth revisiting that to confirm there’s still a need for your product now that you have a deeper understanding of your market. If not, it’s crucial that you pivot your offering, as the most effective marketing in the world won’t convince a customer to buy a product or service that doesn’t benefit them in any way. 

A word of warning – you’ll view your business idea with rose-tinted glasses, which may cause you to miss or ignore potential pitfalls or findings. Having a mentor that you can turn to can be extremely valuable to ensure you’re taking an honest look at your business.

Don’t know where to start with a mentor? Joining a programme like ours will provide you with this and much more. 

5. Build your marketing plan 

Now you understand your market and marketplace thoroughly, it’s time to pull together everything you’ve gathered so far to create a structured marketing plan.

Define your value proposition and unique selling proposition (USP) – what makes your product or service unique from the competition – and the channels through which you’ll most effectively reach your audience.

You may want to use some of your budget to outsource this service if you’re not receiving support from a programme like DCI. To keep the cost down, consider a smaller, local marketing agency who will likely be less expensive – ask your network or mentor for recommendations.

6. Create a website that converts

Due to the technical nature of website development, you will likely need to spend some of your budget on a developer to get a website that converts customers as effectively as possible. 

But it is money well spent. Your website is a one-off cost and one of the most valuable marketing assets in the digital age. 

We strongly recommend involving your marketing agency on the web development process, as they’ll be able to ensure your website is designed in a way that attracts and converts visitors. They may even be able to recommend a developer.

7. Create quality content for the long-term

It can be easy to focus on quick wins when you’re first starting out, but investing in activity that will support your business in the long-term is crucial if you don’t want to become one of those 60% of new businesses to fail. 

Even the smallest of businesses can have huge success through crafting content that’s interesting and relevant to its customer personas. Even if they don’t buy from you straight away, luring them to your site with a quality piece of content is a great way of building your brand and getting on potential customers’ radars. 

So, ensure there’s a blog built into your website and aim to create at least a piece of useful content per month, sharing it on your social media channels to help circulate it. 

8. Invest in PPC

When you’re just launching a brand, your online presence will need a helping hand in order to drive leads to your website. PPC, or Pay-Per-Click advertising, displays online adverts directly to your potential customers and can be invaluable in getting your first customers onboard. 

Similarly to the other digital marketing channels, you may want to consider using an agency for this, but remember to stick to your budget. PPC can be expensive, but you can get a huge return on your investment if you’ve really defined your personas. 

9. Encourage social proof

Social proof – testimonials from real people who love your product or service – is an invaluable tool in any marketers arsenal. It can build confidence in your brand and increase the chances of your target customers choosing your business over a competitor. 

Social proof comes in the form of reviews on Google, Trustpilot and Facebook. It can be as simple as a tweet praising your product or service or as in-depth as a detailed case study.  

Organic social proof can be unpredictable and take time to build up, so try incorporating a friendly direct request to consumers into your plan. This usually works best at the end of the buying process. 

Encourage your customers to leave a review in just one format (Google is a good one if you have registered your business on Google My Business) so your reviews aren’t spread thinly across the web.

10. Evaluate and evolve

Last but not least, don’t be rigid with your marketing plans. Regularly review your approach and be sure to evolve it based on the results you get and any changes in the market. 

This will help ensure your marketing budget isn’t going towards activities that aren’t working and that you’re always getting the best return on investment on your spend. 


Stick to these tips when it comes to marketing your startup to build your brand and get your business out there without breaking the bank. 


If you’d feel more secure growing your business within a structured, supportive environment, apply to be part of the next DCI programme now.

The next application deadline is Friday 6th May 2022

apply now