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Many startups (like ours) don't have external investors. We chose to self-finance our business, which has its advantages and disadvantages. While we're in control (a good thing), one of the biggest challenges is funding the marketing, which, as we all know, is necessary for growth. The good news is that there are plenty of questionable marketing tactics and channels that you can use to build momentum without spending your hard-earned cash.
Here are five tips we've used over the past year that have worked for us.
There are always podcasts looking for guests to speak on any subject under the sun. We participated in over 75 podcasts last year covering a range of topics: female founders, marketing, startup life, DTC, clean beauty, mompreneurs and more. Find your areas of expertise (everyone has them), then you can pitch yourself.
There are a number of Find a Guest, Be a Guest podcast groups on Facebook, including an I like by Poddit that you can join. From there, you can scroll through the "Requests" and apply for podcasts that are relevant to you. The nice thing about podcasts is that most of the guests don't ask for anything; They are evergreen and most of the time they can tell a holistic story about your trip and your business. An added bonus is that you have content that you can share and reuse.
Similar: Top 25 Business Podcasts For Entrepreneurs
Another great way to grow your customer base and audience is by partnering with like-minded brands. We have found new customers very successfully by entering into partnerships with brands that share our values. For us, these are usually independent beauty, fashion and jewelry brands that care about sustainability, diversity and quality.
From freebies to gifts with purchases to collaborative content creation (e.g. blogs, IG Live, or video interviews), there are a lot you can do to promote each other. And if your customers like your brand, chances are they might like a related brand with similar values. The key is to make sure everyone is focused on each brand's needs so that no brand feels like they have contributed more than the other.
Creating a blog section on your website can help with a number of things. First, it can drive traffic to your website (assuming you have SEO incorporated). Second, it can make you an authority in your field or industry. Third, blogs provide a place to tell a deeper story. We often blog about our interviews with other founders, but we also use our blog to provide information about Mekabu, our main ingredient, share hair tips, talk about clean beauty and much more. This gives you another way to share content – and you can pull out quotes or social media soundbites so you don't keep reinventing the wheel.
Related: 3 Ways To Get More Content (And Views) From Your Blogs
4. Live streaming
We are active on a number of live streaming platforms including Talkshoplive, Shop LIT Live and Spin. Most platforms are free to join and take some of the revenue from sales, making it a very low risk proposition for brands. If you are selling a product these platforms give you a great place to share your story in engaging ways (video) and get creative. You need to be comfortable in front of the camera and get your story on point, but the nice thing about these platforms is that you can do most of them on a regular basis (every week if you want) so you can get into a groove and figure out pretty easily what works for you. The key is good lighting (a ring light) and attractive furnishings.
5. Social media
Of course, we mustn't forget the power of social media. Much of the above content can be shared across Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tik Tok, and even LinkedIn. Actively working on creating engaging content will help grow your audience organically (although it will take effort and time) so that you don't have to pay for followers. You will also have higher quality and more engaged followers this way. Ultimately, if you can collapse some of your lengthy content into Soundbites, you will have plenty for socializing – most of it for free.
We are very opportunistic when it comes to taking pictures of our products in places of interest (and often have a range of products with us, just in case) which allows us to get nice pictures without hiring a photographer. Of course, there are times when a professional photographer is much better, but for a lot of the "blocking and grabbing" content, you can find ways to get the images you need (and don't forget sites like Unsplash that have you Download royalty-free photography).
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
So in the end, to get going without cash, you have to be a bit more practical and disciplined, but it's actually quite doable. And you will find that the various tactics often feed one another, so over time it gets easier.