10+ Proven Startup Marketing Ideas That Won’t Break Your Bank

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Want to know the holy grail of marketing? 

Half a decade ago, marketers would have vowed for Google Ads. Go back a few more years, they would’ve said email marketing and cold calling are the holy grail of marketing. And if we flip the pages of time to the 1990s, TV ads, billboards, newspaper ads, and radio ads would’ve been on top of the mind. But today, the majority of these trends have become obsolete and those that are still in use have advanced to another level. 

Today’s marketing is data-driven, fueled with automation tools. But being a startup, it isn’t only expensive but also impossible to ride the digital wave with such advanced tools in the very beginning. 

So, should you sit back and accept defeat at the hands of well-funded and established competitors? Definitely not! 

In this blog, we are providing some budget-friendly startup marketing ideas for entrepreneurs and small business owners to get started. These marketing strategies can help you build a huge audience for your startup without even exhausting your funds or breaking the bank. 

Also Read: Crafting A Winning Digital Marketing Strategy

Marketing Idea #1: Become A Social Bee And Create Buzz

Social media is a weapon of mass marketing. Just the right type of content with great targeting and you can get that blue tick in just a few months. 

Having a business page on social media doesn’t mean restricting posts to business content. Play with different platforms and become a social bee. 

Here’s a tip: Make sure you follow the 80:20 (80% non-promotional and 20% promotional) or 30:60:10 ratio (30% fresh, 60% curated, and 10% promotional content). 


The 80:20 rule is beneficial in numerous ways for any brand to craft their social media strategy. If you are putting out 80% of the content that is useful, info-rich, and data-rich content, a little bit of self-promotion wouldn't harm.  

There’s a plethora of options for startups when it comes to creating social media content. 

Share your BTS videos, personal stories, set-up countdowns for launches, and much more. Create excitement and stay consistent. Tell your customer journey, reviews, and utilize user-generated content to build trust. It's a great startup marketing strategy idea to use social media in the best way possible. 

Take Inspiration From - Burger Revolution

The city of Ontario in Canada is undergoing a burger revolution, thanks to social media buzz created by Burger Revolution (an outlet selling burgers obviously). They use social media to create urgency by updating their customers with the number of burgers left each day. They even post a ‘comment of the day’ on their Facebook page, encouraging people to engage and comment more. People love this tradition and their social profiles are abuzz with engagement. 

startup marketing ideas Burger-Revolution-Belleville-s-Best-Burger-

Marketing Idea #2: Let Them Visualize Your Story

People love reading and hearing startup stories - of struggles, of success, of failures, and everything else. You can always share your brand story on your blog, on social media, and get it covered by different magazines or startup media portals. But a great way to touch deeper chords of your audience, you need to help them visualize it. 

Motion graphics are always great in catching the attention of your audience. Apart from creating videos, you can also go ahead and create infographics depicting your startup journey and share it across different photo-sharing platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, Dribble, etc. With your story, also tell the problems you solve, what inspired you, and where you wish to get.  

Take Inspiration From - Dannijo

Dannijo, a jewelry brand, perfects the art of storytelling, not just of the start but of the everyday journey. The brand is immensely popular because of its storytelling on Instagram. The founder sisters Danielle Snyder and Jodie Snyder-Morel share snippets of their own lives that help create a connection with their audience. 

Marketing Idea #3: Add Real Value With User-Generated Content 

With a limited budget at hand, startups can’t invest in a large marketing team for generating content for all platforms. The best way to stay consistent and even generate buzz among your audience is to utilize user-generated content. Even a Nielsen Consumer Trust Index reveals that 92% of the consumers trust user-generated content. 

Not only would it take the load off your shoulders but also add real human value to your content. Startups like Dune London, Warby Parker, GoPro, One-Third Stories, etc., are thriving on user-generated content. There are so many online forums, platforms, and obviously social media platforms where your customers can rave about your products or services. Be it reviews, comments, images with your product, or even a small mention, you can use it all to share with your audience. 

How do you get more user-generated content?

Try incentivizing reviews, creating hashtag contests, gamification of content generation, and other tactics to get more users to create content for you. 

Another effective way to gather authentic user-generated content is by setting up social wall tools at your event and asking the guests to share their reviews, visuals, and feedback on your brand and the event.

Take Inspiration From - Dune London

If we scroll through any product website, it’s the same old professional product shoots. Dune London took pictures of real customers with their products from Instagram and added them to their website. By giving them the “extra confidence to purchase” through this user-generated content, their sale increased by 82%!

startup marketing ideas  Dune London example of user-generated content

Marketing Idea #4: Boast Of Your Knowledge With Videos

There’s no end to gaining knowledge and humans know that. They love to gain as much knowledge as possible and you can be the authority here. An online video maker free tool can help a product company, service provider, or a SaaS product company, you can always create instructional videos to share more about your product.

And once you have your video ready, you can use all the platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Vine, etc., to help you reach out to people. 

Take Inspiration From - Dropbox

Want to know how Dropbox got its waiting list exploded from just 5,000 people to 75,000 people overnight? Yes, it created an awesome explainer video! They posted the video to Digg and the video went viral. 

inbound marketing & marketing automation guide

Marketing Idea #5: Host Virtual Events And Contests

With the world going digital, everyone wants to hone their skills and add to their knowledge bank virtually. Moreover, they want something to give them a break from the mundane of daily lives. You can be their rescuer. Host events, host webinars, host meetups, etc. virtually to attract more visitors. 

Another great startup marketing strategy idea is to host contests. People love freebies and with just a small giveaway, you can attract a huge audience to your business. More than that, you are directly offering value to your customers that will build their loyalty towards your brand. Elevate your virtual events and contests with professionally designed event invitation templates for a captivating and engaging audience experience.

You can reach out to more and more people and elicit more participation in your virtual contest through Facebook ads, Instagram sponsored posts, and even sending out emails to your subscribers.

Take Inspiration From - Mabl

This Boston-based company offers a SaaS product for machine learning test automation. It wanted to reach out to more developers that can use their tool to simplify testing and created the Virtual Meetup event. They invited an industry expert to speak on the same and got a great response. 

startup marketing ideas Mabl example of hosting contests

Marketing Idea #6: Referral Awards Are Always A Win-Win

Did you know that 83% of satisfied customers are eager to refer your product but only 29% do so? Don’t leave things on fate! Ask your customers to refer your brand to others. But who will take the efforts to refer if you just ask them to do so? No one! Give them something in return for their reference - store credits, free trials, loyalty points, discount coupons, or anything else. 

And that’s not just all! Referred people are two times more likely to pay attention to the product that casually landing on the same. You can even turn the referred people into brand loyal or brand advocates by giving them something in return - store credits, free trials, loyalty points, discount coupons, or anything else. Consider creating a dynamic QR code and add to your giveaways to allow your participants to easily claim their rewards and increase engagement with your brand

And what do you get in return? Massive traffic and customers with buying intent. 

Take Inspiration From - Uber

Uber is not just an inspiration for every entrepreneur with a startup app idea. It is probably the best example of referral marketing that almost every one of us has personally used. It offers free first rides or even free rides to the referrer on the successful riding of a referred person. Not only did it use referral marketing strategy on the website but also in its mobile application. 

startup marketing ideas Uber example of referral marketing

Marketing Idea #7: Keep Nudging With Email Marketing

Humans are not very great at remembering things. So, unless you are constantly reminding them of your presence, you’ll sooner or later fade into oblivion. 

And when you are a young company, it becomes even more difficult to stay alive in the memory of your customers. That’s where email marketing can help. Yeah, you might think that ‘email marketing is so last century! But trust us, this is one of the most effective startup marketing ideas to keep your users coming back to your site. Keeping up with the latest email marketing trends ensures that your campaigns remain relevant and impactful in today's digital landscape.

All you need to do is collect a list of prospective customers from different sources like LinkedIn, communities, business listing sites, directories, etc., and ensure they're accurately organized with the help of local citation software. A data-driven email marketing campaign is always more effective than a generic one. You can even ask people to sign up for your newsletter by delivering excellent content. 

And that’s when the magic would begin. 

You can diversify your emails and not bore them with the same thing. Send them stories, examples, offers, discounts, sale invites, FOMO messages, etc. 

Keep dropping in their inboxes with catchy subject lines.. Something like ‘I Told You This Would Work’ or ‘Are You Part Of The Top 21?’ or 'Do You Trust Me?' are sure to grab attention. 


You simply need to be present in the inbox and email newsletters are the best way to creep in. But make sure you are not creepy in creeping in! Be classy. Diversify your offerings. 

Instead of just bombarding their inbox with advertorials and sales pitches, provide value. Offer non-commercial info-rich content as well. Show them your knowledge and help them in situations with your content. Nurture them slowly as you would in any inbound marketing campaign until they become paying customers. 

Take Inspiration From: Tory Burch 

This company moved a step beyond normal email marketing and amped up the email marketing game with motion graphics. It is packed with everything- creativity, exclusivity, discount, and much more. Clubbed with a powerful and enticing subject line, this email is certainly sure to get a lot of traffic. 

startup marketing ideas Tory Burch example of email marketingSource: Hubspot

Marketing Idea #8: Invest In Good SEO

There is never any substitute for good SEO, be it a startup or a million-dollar firm. Strategic and well-executed search engine optimization can very quickly help your startup gain a lot of visibility. This is totally free and a proven way to solidify your online presence. 

You can write the biggest and the best content, if it is not optimized for search engines, it won’t be found online. It is important to have good learning of keywords, HTML tags, meta descriptions, image ALT tags, etc. 

SEO has the power to make your product reach the right person at the right moment if done right. 

  • Invest in a good SEO company to rank higher on search engines. 
  • Provide value to your customer in every way possible.
  • Research competitors and your business to find your perfect keywords and rank organically on them.
  • Be patient and invest in good and quality SEO strategies. They are sure help your startup growth-hack to success.  
Take Inspiration From: Weebly

This web hosting service and website builder wasn’t all that rage in 2007. T even lacked the budget to compete in the market. Instead of opting for expensive TV commercials or banner ads, they decided to take the SEO approach and invested in good content. They knew whom to target (entrepreneurs looking to build low-cost websites) and created content that could attract the same. Today, 680,000 websites are built on Weebly. 

Marketing Idea #9: Crowdfunding Can Grant You Press

Many startups get their finances right through crowdfunding. If your startup is also looking to create a crowdfunding campaign, why not make press with it? There will always be people who will believe in the services or products that you are building. All you need is to put your message out there in a convincing manner. This has turned out to be a startup marketing idea for many entrepreneurs.  

There are high chances your startup will not just get the required funding but also get a lot of marketing out of it. If your startup is with a great cause for the people, environment, or society, it is going to get a lot of attention from people on such platforms. 

Take Inspiration From: NeighborSchools

NeighborSchool is a startup for childcare, offering daycare facilities for kids by experienced and licensed professionals. They resorted to crowdfunding to earn funding and that even got them good press. Many major publications like BusinessWire covered the startup’s crowdfunding journey and helped in boosting their brand awareness. 

startup marketing ideas NeighborSchools example of using crowdfunding

Marketing Idea #10: Get Business Awards And Show Them Off

Who doesn’t like to add more feathers to their hats! And these awards are not for your business but your audience as well. There are different forums and platforms where you can apply online to get awards. These provide badges that you can flaunt on your website. 

As soon as you get your company registration, the next step is company incorporation, that should be to get your startup idea and business listed among the top of your industry listicles to get a better reach. This can also help improve your startup’s credibility among the target audiences. And if you belong to an industry that doesn’t have many awards, host an award of your own. You’ll soon see many businesses applying to get the badge. 

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Marketing Idea #11: Never Underestimate The Power Of Content

This is something that any marketer can swear by. Beyond writing engaging copy or visually-appealing content, there are various other requirements that one needs to fulfill for branding a startup with content.

Good content can take your brand places. It can help you share your story, build your brand, sell your product/service, make a mark, or set your brand apart. Good content, more importantly, relevant content, can take you anywhere. It holds the power to reach out to a much larger audience and at a fraction of cost. Studies have revealed that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing. 

Now the question here is, what exactly good content is? It is a content that is 100% unique, engaging, and easy to understand. To craft content with these characteristics, you will have to possess strong writing abilities; otherwise, you have to opt for professionals which will ultimately increase the overall cost. But if your startup either does not have good writing skills or the budget to hire writers, there is no need to worry. You can get help from a paraphrasing tool. It will automatically turn your low-quality content into a good one by replacing words with their more appropriate synonyms and improving the overall sentence structure.

Have a content marketing strategy in place with some realistic goals. The topics you cover in your content marketing should help guide the buyers through the buyer journey. Have an editorial calendar to stay on track. Don’t limit your content to just writing. Invest a bit in all types of content like videos, graphics, infographics, presentation backgrounds, GIFs, blogs, guides, whitepapers, e-books, and much more.  In the realm of AI, leveraging AI tools like AI presentation maker, AI image generators, AI video generators will save your time.

Take Inspiration From: HubSpot

HubSpot is this whole big entity today but back in 2006, it was initiated as a startup. The gargantuan heights that this brand has reached today, 90% of the credit goes to its content. The startup marketing strategy and idea of HubSpot was to give away free whitepapers, eBooks, case studies, etc. through a simple form that required users to enter their email. Their smart placement of CTAs, forms, and other tactics worked wonders for them. Today, 75% of their leads come from content itself. 

startup marketing ideas  Hubspot example of using content

On An Ending Note

Startups need to have some great and creative startup marketing ideas to grow. While paid marketing like banner ads, influencer marketing, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, and other strategies work well, they require a lot of funds. And as startups, not every entrepreneur has a lot of funds to be reserved for marketing.

Here, we discussed how you don’t need to drain your funds in the traditional marketing tactics. Your marketing doesn’t need to be expensive. It just needs to be creative. 

  • Start creating great content
  • Offer incentives for referrals
  • Save efforts by using user-generated content
  • Share your knowledge in a promising way
  • Save money by hosting webinars and virtual events
  • And don’t forget to stay alive in their minds

Continuous efforts are the essence of any successful startup marketing idea. 

The moment you think you have reached your goals and halt your marketing efforts is the moment you start distancing yourself from your target audience. 

Keep investing whatever little time or effort you have in marketing.

Be strategic; be creative.

Join hands with a startup solutions partner to build your brand from product to launch and its marketing. You can definitely reach the pinnacles of success with the budget-friendly startup marketing ideas discussed above. 

online marketing

Published On: 25th September 2020; Last Updated: 26th October 2020

Topics : Digital Marketing, Startup Solutions

Swati Sharma

Written by Swati Sharma

Swati Sharma, a writer by day and an avid reader by night, works with Classic Informatics, a leading web development company in India. Owing to her passion for her profession, she loves to stay updated about the current & emerging trends in the IT industry.

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