Promote Your Business for Pennies: Affordable Marketing and PR Tips for Lean Startups

Check out this recent article from AllBusiness Experts on small-budget marketing campaigns:

Developing an effective marketing and PR strategy is a cornerstone to building your company’s success. Unfortunately, marketing and PR can sometimes be expensive, especially if you are just starting out and running a very lean operation. Luckily, there are some affordable marketing and PR tricks that can provide your small business with a cost-effective means for successfully increasing sales and growing your customer base.

You might have a great product or service, but if no one knows about it, generating sales can be challenging. Effective marketing and public relations are proactive ways for you to get your message out to the marketplace and attract potential clients and customers.

Marketing is all about finding ways to reach your target audience—those potential clients and customers who have an interest in and possible need for what you sell. PR involves getting positive publicity and press about your business regarding its latest innovations, brands, and services.

Do-It-Yourself Marketing and PR

Hiring a PR team might seem like a good way to promote your business, but it can cost you tens of thousands each month, sometimes without producing the desired results. Mike Zammuto, president of, advocates the concept of “self-serve PR.” He points out, “Why pay a monthly fee to a PR agency that may or may not fulfill your business’s needs? When you’re on a tight budget like so many budding companies, there’s no reason to trust your media appearance to a firm that can’t give you a fair output for a fair price.”

Basic tips for beginning your own “self-serve” marketing and PR initiatives include:

Printing inexpensive business cards
Using email to keep in touch with customers and clients
Managing your own social media accounts
Building and maintaining your own website
Using blogging to reach your target audience

Back to Basics: Business Cards

By searching online, you can find a selection of printing companies that offer business cards at a reasonable price, or you can buy software and print your own business cards. can design a professional card for you for $5.00. Giving out business cards is a way to network with people and advertise your business by providing your customers with the information they need to contact you. Plus, for more visibility you can post your cards on the bulletin boards of businesses that potential customers might frequent.

Touch Base with Customers via Email

Email is an affordable way to keep customers apprised of new developments and products. Because of the vast amount of spam out there, you need to make your email communications interesting and informative. Starting a monthly email newsletter that targets the various segments of your customer base can help your small business market new products or attract new business. (Also, be sure that your email communications are in compliance with the CAN SPAM Act.)

Harness the Power of Social Media

Managing your own social media is a tremendously valuable way to promote your business. Social media offers your customers a platform for interacting with your company by asking questions and giving feedback regarding your company’s products. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are all economical ways to network and advertise your business. Nellie Akalp, founder and CEO of CorpNet, says, “When I have a new product or promotion, I will reach out to some of the top small business influencers I know and ask them to update on their social media pages. Most of the time they are all more than willing to do the favor, so don’t be afraid to ask.”

Establish a Professional Web Presence

Building and maintaining your own website boosts your visibility and customer base. By using search engine optimization techniques, your business can appear at the top of the list when potential clients and investors search for products and services that your company provides. Also, linking to other websites gives your business even more exposure. There are many Web tools available that allow you to build your own website, but if the task is too much, you can barter with a Web designer to keep your costs down.

Build Your Brand via Blogging

Blogging can get your message across to prospective customers and investors. Set up a regular blog on your website to promote your business, and be a featured guest blogger for other like-minded websites. Brad Shorr, director of B2B Marketing at StraightNorth, says, “Guest blogging has been a terrific source of free publicity for me personally and our agency. When you appear on relevant and respected blogs, your articles get a lot of social media shares and positive comments.”

Be Part of the Online Conversation

Another low-cost online marketing tool is Hootsuite. To expand her customer base, Nellie Akalp says, “I’ve found that the most cost-effective route has been signing up for Hootsuite and utilizing their search tool. I have set up search terms and phrases that are relevant to my industry and when I see someone tweeting with a question or issue, I jump in with friendly advice.”

Also keep in mind that non-traditional, economical methods may prove to be just as effective as costly traditional methods for reaching your target audience.’s Zammuto recommends cutting out the traditional approach to PR altogether: “Stop relying on press releases and start releasing genuine news content about your brand when you want to and how you want to. Any other PR strategy is just throwing money at the wall of demographics and hoping something sticks.”

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