No other area of business attracts quite so much prestige and glory as marketing. Marketers are still seen as hugely successful people, who possess some kind of secret knowledge.

Due to the flexible nature of marketing and its sheer number of techniques, few entrepreneurs have the confidence to take it on themselves.

Paired with the outdated believe that marketing can generate X number of sales for Y money invested, this leads to some bad decisions in the start-up community. To combat that lack of overview, we will take a look at some ways to do effective start-up marketing without bankrupting your business.

High-investment marketing

Before we talk about the techniques that will save you money, let’s take a look at the ones that won’t. The following are not bad marketing but could very well put a strain on already strained start-up funds.

Traditional marketing

It is exactly what you think. Billboards, TV advertisement, newspaper ads and so on. While they are still viable ways to market products for some sectors, their prime is over.

A big reason for that is the amount of money you have to pay for them. Just check what a TV ad on a reasonable time slot would cost you and try to implement that into your business plan. It will crush your finances.

But why is it this expensive? The majority of traditional marketing never evolved properly. They are still targeting huge corporations with hundreds of millions of revenue. What they don’t do is account for start-ups, because they weren’t hugely relevant during the height of traditional advertisement.


Be it Public Relations, Marketing or SEO agencies, they all try to get a piece of the start-up cake. When hiring an agency, you will get big results for big money.

Long-term strategic campaigns with set goals and several audits are the standard. For a start-up entrepreneur, this sounds almost too good, because getting the product in front of the customer is usually a hard and at times unnerving job.

The danger lies in the timing of the hire. When starting your business, you will be in constant struggle between investments and financing.

If you plan to hire an agency in this phase of your business, the added financial pressure can lead to other critical parts of your start-up being neglected.

Another challenge you need to be aware of, is the fact that no agency can match the vision and enthusiasm you have for your product. Be sure that any campaign started contains your passion.

Marketing manager

CEO, CFO, CTO and CMO. These positions, while being highly prestigious in established companies, are distributed freely among startup teams.

The CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) directs and oversees all marketing measures taken by a company. In early start-ups, this usually means that the CMO takes all these actions by themselves.

Whatever you call your marketer, there is a big chance that his department will be a single person unit, when the company is founded.

Since the marketer is solely acting and solely responsible for all things marketing, they don’t really have to manage and control anybody else. Chances are one of the founders will take this responsibility on by themselves in addition to their other duties.

Reserve the post of CMO for when you have a marketing team that requires leadership and control. Best practice when starting with a dedicated marketing employee is to groom that person into the future CMO.

Unfocused marketing

While the other three marketing component is actually viable, but costly, unfocused marketing is what really drains funds in start-ups.

Granted, start-up marketing requires a lot of trial and error. Unfortunately, if you let this trial and error run without a clear underlying strategy, it turns into a way to burn money.

Any concept starts with a new idea from a team member. Now everybody involved should come together to create a marketing strategy.

Define intermediate and final goals. Set a time frame. Arrange audits to check if the actual effect is the same as the projected. All this helps to stay accountable and to only continue concepts that actually work.

Related: An Ultimate Guide To Marketing Your B2B Startup

Low-investment marketing

Digital marketing

Roughly all strategies that use search engines and the web 2.0. They have the distinct advantage that they usually only require labour in terms of investment. To give you a quick overview here are three of the most widely used techniques:

  1. Content marketing

The Internet environment is changing. Due to Google’s constant drive to supply better content to searchers, digital marketing has changed in the last years.

To gain traffic these days, you have to supply unique and interesting content. You can do that on your own site and blog, or venture out and guest post content on different blogs.

All of this will increase your rankings in the eyes of google and drive traffic onto your website, which you can then convert into customers.

If you or one of your team has a talent for writing, this is an excellent and relatively low-cost way of gaining customers.

  1. Email marketing

Once you have gained a steady flow of website traffic, you have to find ways to bind the customers to your brand. A good way to keep them engaged is email marketing.

You are going to need the email addresses of your customers. Either through an opt-in during registration or a simple input form on your website, you can gain permission to send newsletters to your customers.

By informing them about updates, new blog posts and current events, you will stay in your customer’s awareness.

  1. Social marketing

Using the countless social media networks that keep popping up all over the place will amplify strategy number 1 and 2. You can use them to distribute your content, even further and at no additional cost.

Additionally, social media offers the possibility to build audiences. The way social networks work means that, your social audience can be a whole different target group from your website audience.

B2B Marketing

All the strategies we talked about so far are relatively normal and well known. A concept a lot of first time entrepreneurs ignore is business-to-business marketing. The antiquated concept that it is you against the world can keep you from exploring excellent opportunities.

Your market does not only contain you and your direct competition, but a whole number of entities that are more or less connected to the product you sell. This opens up many opportunities to combine resources for greater added value.

Let me give you an example: Imagine you sell running shoes. This means you are part of the shoe market and on a greater scale of the apparel market.

There is a retailer that sells sport shorts and shirts. By cooperating with this retailer, you can create a spring special, where the customer can get shirts, shorts and running shoes in a set at a bargain.

The first advantage is investment. Since there are two companies planning one campaign, the cost is halved for you. Secondly, you gain attention from not only your own target audience, but also that of your partners.

To find opportunities like this, try to spot businesses that are loosely connected to your sector and inform yourself if they are interested in cooperating. The best way to do that is to have somebody make introductions. That builds trust and increases the chances of success.


Marketing these days is a science in itself, especially when you have to rely on limited start-up funds. To ensure you pick the most efficient marketing measures, clearly define goals and continuously audit them.

It will take some trial and error until you find the marketing mix best suited for your business. Whoever, even the smartest marketing strategy isn’t free.

Don’t be afraid to spend money on marketing, just spend it on the right things.

Author: Julius Pankoke is content contributor and start-up enthusiast. His areas of expertise are entrepreneurship, business development and digital marketing. He enjoys both writing and reading good blog articles. With SmartBusinessPlan he currently helps entrepreneurs write excellent business plans.

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