top of page

8 Low-Cost Marketing Strategies for Startups That Cost Less than $1000/mo

Marketing doesn’t have to be a budget killer to have an impact. The key to saving money is to be laser-focused on your target audience and your main objectives. Oh yeah, and pick a strategy you can stick to.


What does every company need to stay in business? 


Customers, of course!



And not just any customer. You want customers who are easy to sell to, who will turn into repeat buyers, and recommend you to all their friends. 


Finding these sparkling unicorns can feel like a Sisyphean battle—always working, but never arriving. 


What you need is a marketing strategy that cuts through the noise, attracts your ideal customers, and finally converts them into paying customers who keep coming back from more. 


And do it all on a shoe-string budget…


Yes, you can easily spend thousands every month on any one of these strategies. But you’re a startup. Pennies are precious and every choice you make needs to be efficient and intentional. 


We’re going to cover 8 different strategies you can implement on your own or with an agency for less than $1,000 per month.


Marketing Pre-Workout: Your Brand and Budget


Figuring out if something is “cheap” is all relative, amiright? Here’s the spectrum I use to determine if a service is cheap or not. 


B2C companies will typically spend more on marketing, around 9-11% of their revenue. B2Bs will spend 6-8%. (Source: SBA)

If it feels like a stretch to spend even that much, there are ways to cut that cost down even further. 


  • Scale your efforts by picking one strategy at a time.

  • Max out as many free accounts and bonuses as possible. 

  • Set realistic goals, such as posting 2-3 times a week or writing one blog a quarter or emailing your list once a week. 


Remember, you’re building your business to grow and last. It takes time, consistency, and a healthy dose of resiliency. 


Budgeting, done. On to branding.




3-Step, Quick Branding Exercise


To be clear, you can spend thousands of dollars working with a branding agency to interview customers, analyze the current market, and build new branding assets to weave into your marketing. 


But you’re either new to business or just starting. Nobody got time (or money) for all that! Before you implement any marketing strategy, you need to know who you’re marketing to. Any strategy will fail without focus.  


Step 1: Who’s your target audience?


Start with basic demographics: age, gender, education, location, etc.


Then dive into hobbies, digital haunts, and purchasing. If you don’t have data to rely on, use your best guess. 


💡PRO TIP: It’s easier if you envision one person. Give them a name and pull in reasonable assumptions. For example, married people with kids are generally concerned with providing for their families and spending time with them. 


Step 2: How will you speak to them?


Think about the types of messaging that capture your customers’ attention and how you want to be seen as a company. 


Determine the tone of your messaging (playful, respectful, technical, professional) and the images you’ll use (bold colors, digital designs, life photos, videos, or memes). Whatever you land on, make sure it’s consistent with your brand. 


You never see a SaaS company use mountain-scapes in their advertising, do you? That’s because it isn’t on brand and doesn’t connect with their product. 


Lastly, determine your USP, or unique selling proposition. What sets you apart from other companies offering similar services. 



Are you local? Do you offer a trial period? Do you make in-home visits? 


Step 3: Choose your marketing strategy


Now you’re ready to pick your strategy. I’ve got 8 low-cost strategies for you to choose from! Whether you do it on your own or work with an agency, anyone of these strategies will connect with your customers without breaking the bank.


Strategy #1 Content Marketing


Content marketing involves creating and publishing content, like blogs, videos, and social posts that don’t explicitly sell, but attracts customers to learn more before you ask them to buy. It’s most often a lead generator rather than a sales generator.


Fun Facts: Content Marketing 74% of companies say content marketing is an effective way to boost lead generation.

In content marketing, knowing who you sell to and what you offer will determine the keywords you focus on. You’ll want to find the right keywords that match what your customers are searching for. 


Google's latest changes give preference to content that is helpful to the user and relevant to their search. You can’t just throw the keyword into your headlines and descriptions and think you’ve nailed it. 


Knowing your customers’ pain points will help you build content around the things they’re actually searching for… helpful and relevant.


The medium is up to you, but here are some stats to help you decide:



Cost:


Mostly free if you create the content on your own, though 48% of businesses outsource content marketing. If outsourcing, you can expect to pay between $200-$1200 a month depending on frequency and the service, such as copywriting, graphic design, or video design.


Metrics:


The name of the game is eyeballs on your stuff. Look at metrics such as views, visits and impressions


If you’d like to connect content to sales, include a CTA (call to action) that invites them to enter your sales cycle, like scheduling a demo or joining your email list. Then you can track clicks and leads, too. 


Tools:


So. Many. Tools. 


This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s filtered for budget-conscious beginners. These tools have free versions, are easy to use, and great for business owners looking to get their feet wet.


FUNCTION

TOOL

Graphic Design

Keyword Finder

Copywriting

Video Production

Publishing*

Medium or LinkedIn

Analytics

*Publishing Note: If you have a website, you should be able to easily create and publish to a blog page. This tool is for those without a website to post from.


How long it takes to see results:


6-9 months of consistent publishing


Strategy #2 Search Marketing


Search marketing focuses on acquiring traffic from search engines by improving SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing). Like content marketing, it’s triggered when customers enter a query into a search engine. 


You’re “winning” search marketing when your website is on the first page. 


Fun Facts: Search Marketing The first page of search results earns 71% of all clicks. Only 25% of users even visit the second page.

You earn that top spot through SEO and SEM. 


Your SEO strategy can be unpaid, while SEM consists of using paid ads or pay-per-click (PPC) ads to get your site listed on the coveted first page. 


Let’s look at SEO first. 


It’s more than having the right keyword-focused content. The search engine algorithms pull in a range of factors to determine the quality and relevance of a page, like:


  • Off-page SEO or links to your website from sources like reputable news sources an social media pages. 

  • On-page SEO, which focuses on the user-friendliness of your website.


Here are just a few things to lookout to improve your on-pages SEO.


✅ Does your webpage load quickly?

✅ Do your pages include title tags?

✅ Do you have engaging content? 

✅ Is your site easy to navigate?


SEM is the other, paid side of this coin. Businesses using search ads will show up on the first page, under “Sponsored.”


Screenshot example of search marketing with a search results page for travel credit cards, highlighting sponsored content at the top of the page.

To pay for a sponsored ad, you start with:


  1. Keywords that relate your services

  2. Your bid or how much you’re willing to pay for each click

  3. Your monthly budget for paid ads

  4. Any other targeting options, like location and other interests


Although this is a paid strategy, how much you pay is completely up to you. Once you set the limits, you’ll never pay more than your bid—and may sometimes pay less—and you’ll never exceed your budget. 


It also means you may lose out on clicks if your competitors can pay more per month and per click. 


Cost:


Depending on your target keywords, you can pay between $500-$8,000 per month


My advice? Start with one or two keywords and use a keyword generator to find words that aren’t as competitive, i.e. expensive.


Metrics:


For SEO, you’ll want to track:


  1. Organic traffic: all non-paid clicks to your website.

  2. Keyword rankings: how your site ranks per keyword compared to competing sites.

 

Two prime metrics to track for paid ads: 


  1. Conversion rate: percentage of users who clicked on your ad and completed an action like filling out a form or purchasing.

  2. Clickthrough rate (CTR): percentage of impressions that lead to click. So, a user sees your ad, thinks it’s relevant, then clicks on it.


Tools:


Google Search Console or Google Analytics. 


Other platforms like Ahrefs and Semrush have free trial periods to test their entire SEO toolbox.


How long it takes to see results:


Unpaid: 3 to 6 months


Paid: Immediately


Strategy #3 Email Marketing


This is my favorite definition of email marketing: 


Curating a list of engaged, interested customers you can regularly email about products and discounts, new services, and nurture a relationship.


Beyond subject lines, open rates, and segmentation—these are all elements of email marketing—growing and using an email list is about creating a relationship with your customers. 


Of all the marketing strategies, this one you have the most control over. 


You know exactly who receives your messages, when they receive them, and what they’re shown. Unlike search, content, or social, where you’re waiting for customers to find you.


Fun Fact: Email Marketing Customers rank email as their preferred method of communication.  US companies make an average of $36 for every $1 spent on email marketing.

Start with growing your email list. Here are a few easy ways to build your list: 


  • Require an email to purchase product

  • Invite customers to subscribe to your newsletter through pop-ups on your website

  • Offer a discount for new customers who create an account

  • Offer a freebie, like a template, guide, or how-to, in exchange for an email address


Yes, you can buy a list, but I don’t recommend it. These people haven’t opted in, seen any of your products, and will be less likely to open an email from you. By using any of the methods listed above, these leads are already warm and willing. 


Once you have a list of email addresses, it’s time to get to work!


There’s a definite art to email marketing.  




From knowing which subject line will perform the best to designing an easy layout to getting the email to hit the inbox instead of junk or spam. 


Fear not, there are loads of tools to help you write, send, and manage every campaign (see below).


💡Pro Tip: This one is huge: build automated campaigns. These campaigns are triggered by some event, like subscribing to a newsletter, making a purchase, or reading a review. Build it once, refresh once a year, and don’t think about it.

Cost:


The cost can range from as low as $12 per month to manage the emails on your own—you’ll want to pay for a platform to send and manage campaigns—to $500+ working with an agency. 


Metrics:


Watch your open rate and CTR (clickthrough rate).


Open rate tracks how many people open your email. 


The CTR tells you how many people opened your email, then clicked on links within it.


Tools: 


Again, lots of tools. My favorite for beginners is . They have a Lite package for $12/month that gives you access to email templates and reporting. 


Pricing is based on the size of your email list. The $12 package is for lists under 500. 


How long it takes to see results:


It’s considered a long-term strategy because your list is always growing. You can start to see increased engagement within 2-3 weeks of sending a campaign.


Strategy #4 Social Media Marketing 

While technically under the Content Marketing umbrella, it has its own set of tips and tricks that it deserves a solo mention. 


You can use social media marketing to build brands, interact with customers, increase sales, and send traffic to your website. It’s the jack-of-all-trades of marketing! 


You can even pay for ads like you would for search engine marketing, but we’re just going to focus on organic marketing.


Fun Fact: Social Media Marketing 76% of users have purchased something they saw on social media. 90% of users follow at least one brand. 

Before you start posting on your business account, let’s set a few ground rules. 





🚫You do NOT need to be on every platform.


The average user has 7 social media accounts, but that changes depending on demographics. Instead of a buckshot method to social media, focus on the platforms where your audience is most active.


🚫You do NOT need to post every day.


Sure, you can build up to that, but posting every day is a recipe for burnout. The goal is consistency to stay in customers’ feeds. Instead, pick a posting schedule you know you can stick to while you build your processes. 


🚫You should NOT spend hours monitoring your channels.


You’ve got 101 other things to do to run your business. Pick a “social media hour” where you check comments, DMs, and other connection requests. 


🚫You do NOT need to create social media-specific content


Again, you have about 101 other things to do. Leverage existing content from your blogs, ads, or PR announcements and reformat it for social media.


Before you go all-in on your social media marketing strategy, make sure you:


  1. Have clear goals, like increasing likes, followers, or views.

  2. Do some customer research so you know which platforms to focus on.

  3. Create a content calendar that mixes new content with refurbished content, user-generated content (UGC), videos, and polls.

  4. Practice social listening by reading and engaging with your customers.

  5. Analyze what works and repeat.


Cost:


Like email marketing, there are lots of ways to cut costs. If you do it yourself, you only need to pay for a scheduling platform—highly recommended to save time—that costs as little as $20 per month.


To outsource creation and management, you’ll need to budget at least $1,000 per month, depending on posting frequency.


Metrics:


Engagement metrics (likes, shares, comments, etc) are great beginning KPIs. As your following grows, you’ll want to focus on follower growth (and their demographics), as well as CTR. 


Tools: 


You absolutely need a social media scheduler to save time posting to your chosen platforms. 


If you’re just focusing on social media, Sendible is a budget-friendly option at just $29 per month. 


But…if you’re combining strategies, many email marketing platforms have a social media platform, too. Check out Constant Contact (my jam) and Mailchimp.


How long it takes to see results:


Like content marketing, about 3 to 6 months. You can shorten that timeframe if you pay for ads. 


Strategy #5 PR Marketing 


Public Relations, or PR, marketing centers around creating a good relationship with the press to give you and your company exposure and credibility. PR marketing is more focused on getting the public to like, know, and trust you, rather than selling. 


For startups, a PR campaign is a great option to promote grand openings, new products, expansions, or funding announcements. 


PR outlets are more than mentions in the paper, including newspaper write ups, radio, TV spots on the news, podcasts, online media outlets, social media mentions by influencers


Again, the goal is exposure, so tying the success of a campaign to sales requires more than just writing a press release. 


Start with your story


Every media needs a good hook or angle. This can include your unique brand story or why your expansion or funding announcement is so exciting. Make sure there’s enough interest to catch the eye of journalists and publications. 





Include links to your product or website to translate views into clicks and leads. 


Your press release will also include a boilerplate, or a basic summary of your company. Like this one:


Example of boilerplate text taken from the bottom of a press release for StashWorks

Create your media list


Like all other forms of marketing, your media list is targeted to your audience and industry. Find a list of publications that you personally read or you know your customers read. Every publication will have an email listed for submissions and pitches.


💡Pro Tip: PR Marketing Stand out from other pitches by finding the direct email of the editor or journalists. You can contact the publication directly, explain you want to pitch a story, and politely ask for  their email address. Search social media for mutual contacts.  Persistence, politeness, and professionalism go a long way.  

Send your pitch to your targeted outlets


This is usually an email with all the information the publication requires. When you’re looking for editor emails, you’ll also find a pitch kit or a list of info each publication needs. 


Follow up!


Don’t be annoying, but regularly following up with publications will keep you front of mind, encourage a response, and hopefully start a conversation with the media. Once you have a good relationship with different outlets, it’s much easier to get your name out there for the next release. 


Analyze your success


This should probably be step 1 before you write your press release… you need to start with a PR goal. What does a successful campaign look like?


And most importantly, how will you turn the exposure into sales.


Cost:


Hiring a firm can be a budget-buster for startups, with prices ranging from $2,000-$5,000 on the low end. Clutch found many PR projects in the $10,000-$49,999 range. Yikes. 


To cut costs consider:


  • Asking a PR firm to put together a strategy that you execute yourself.

  • Hiring a copywriter to create your press release and boilerplate, especially if you aren’t a strong writer. 

  • Go the influencer route instead of targeting big outlets.


Metrics:


Since we’re after exposure, your PR metrics or KPIs reflect that. 


  • Media outreach: The number of pitches you are sending and their responses. You’ll track the success of your pitches and your progress in building media relationships.

  • Potential reach: Total viewership for publications and websites. 

  • Social engagement: The number of likes, shares, and comments. 

  • Earned traffic: The number of visitors guided to your website from links in the press release.

  • Domain authority: This is an SEO score that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. Having your company featured on a reputable website is a great way to improve your domain authority and SEO. It’s the internet’s way of saying, “Yeah, this company is legit and an authority in their field.”


Tools: 


Lots of tools to choose from, and most of them are expensive. Here’s a comprehensive list grouped by function from Prowly (a PR software company, so they’re a bit biased). 


But we want to save money, so here are a few alternatives. 


  • LinkedIn. Put together a media list and find contact info for editors and journalists. Upgrade to Sales Navigator for $80/mo for unlimited messages and track your messages with publications.

  • Good ol’ Google. Sleuth your heart out and never pay a dime. Your DIY list and pitch progress will need to be tracked manually on Google Sheets or something similar.


How long it takes to see results:


PR is another long-term strategy. Most PR contracts last a year to align with news cycles, trends, etc. You should expect the same and work to build momentum on newsworthy stories.


Strategy #6 SMS Marketing


Marketing through text may be the best new way to connect with your customers, stay top of mind, and boost your sales. 


Here’s why. 


Like your email list, you have complete control over who sees your messages and when. No algorithms or trends to jump on. 


SMS messages have a 98% open rate and 10.66% clickthrough rate! (Sender 2023). That’s better engagement than you’ll get from nearly any other marketing channel.





Fun Facts: SMS Marketing 45% more businesses are using text marketing compared to 2 years ago. And it crosses multiple industries like healthcare, retail, and finance.  (SimpleTexting, 2024)

When SimpleTexting surveyed users this year, over 50% said they would opt-out of messages if the company messaged too often. 


To build your SMS marketing strategy you’ll need to:


  • Send clear opt-in and opt-out messages 

  • Tell customers what type of messages you’ll send, when, and how often

  • Personalize the messages however possible to avoid sounding spammy

  • Build in automation, known as a campaign or customer journey on SMS platforms

  • Keep the messaging fun and quick


Consider this your sign to start text marketing ASAP!


Cost:


It costs $0.01 - $0.05 to send a text message. Depending on the size of your contact list, you can see how this cost can skyrocket. 


So start small. Don’t invest heavily into SMS until you’ve worked out some of the kinks and you have proof that your customers respond well. 


Metrics:


Like email marketing, you look at the SMS open rate and clickthrough rate. 


Track your customer list by watching the contact growth and unsubscribe rates.


Tools: 


There’s no way to DIY this thing; you need a platform to create, send, and manage your campaigns.


Integrated is best, so check with your email platform provider to see if they also offer SMS marketing. Many of them do, like Mailchimp and Constant Contact. 


Otherwise, test out SMS marketing with Postscript. They have a starter plan that’s great for beginners.  


How long it takes to see results:


Given the response rate for SMS, as soon as you send a campaign! 


Strategy #7 Print Marketing


Old school, traditional marketing that relies on printed media to promote businesses, like: 


  • Brochures

  • Flyers

  • Catalogs

  • Signs

  • Direct Mail

  • Coupons

  • Invitations


The reach of print marketing is much lower than its digital counterpart, it’s still a reliable arm to any marketing strategy. 


Many consumers see printed advertisements as more trustworthy than digital ads. 


They have a higher response rate (9%) and 77% say they recall print ads more than digital ads.


Fun Facts: Print Marketing 79% of consumers find reading physical mail more convenient than reading email. (USPS) Print ads generate a 20% higher emotional response, which leads to better conversion rates and brand loyalty. (R.C. Brayshaw, 2020)

But will print marketing really work for you?


Check out this Forbes article listing the types of industries print favors. 


Think about where print ads can be used, too. 


  • Trade shows

  • Networking boards

  • Neighborhood flyers

  • Targeted, direct mail

  • Catalogs that feature your entire product line


It’s Sales 101: if they touch it, they’re more likely to want it.




Cost:


There’s such a wide range with print marketing. Factors like the type of paper, popularity of the magazine, or the size of your mailing list can keep your print costs in the hundreds or thousands. 


To keep costs at a minimum think through some of these sneaky extra costs:


  • Not maximizing the size of your paper

  • Using different molds or shapes

  • Using too much color

  • Printing on both sides instead of folding the paper

  • Have a targeted mailing list

 

Metrics:


Print advertising is on the expensive side of marketing strategies and you want to make sure it works! 


Look at your response rate and conversion rate. To do so, add a unique QR code, text keyword, or phone number to your print ads to measure traffic and effectiveness. 


You’ll also want to keep a close eye on the cost of response, which measures the cost of the campaign divided by the number of responses. 


Remember, one of the big benefits of print ads is brand recognition, so you’ll want to track responses, not just conversions. 


Tools: 


There are print marketers in nearly every city who will design, print, mail, and place ads for you.


Here’s your low-budget, DIY alternative. 


  • Use Canva to design your ad, poster, brochure, etc. 

  • Depending on your distribution, print the ad yourself at UPS or similar printer.

  • Work directly with the magazine instead of working with an agency or broker. 


How long it takes to see results:


Industry recommendation is to run ads every week or every other week over 3-5 months.


Strategy #8 Experiential Marketing


Also known as engagement or live marketing, it’s the process of creating a memorable experience for customers. 


This isn’t a new-fangled strategy. It’s been around since the beginning of retail. Just think about door-to-door salesmen who carry samples or prototypes in their bags or trade shows. 


Technology has opened up experiential marketing to include live webinars and virtual conferences. 


Other examples to get your mind turning: 


  • In-person demos

  • Farmer’s market booth with samples

  • Handout discounts at a carnival

  • Set up a game or swag giveaways at a concert

  • Fundraisers

  • Christmas sweepstakes


Basically anything that gets customers to interact with your brand or product.


So. Many. Fun Facts: Experiential Marketing 79% of marketers drive sales from experiential marketing. 85% of consumers are likely to purchase a product or service after attending a live marketing event.  96% of millennials who engage with a brand take pictures or videos and share them online… 86% of recipients will open these messages. 

However you use this strategy, it’s clear experiential marketing creates unforgettable, engaging, and profitable experiences. 


Cost:


The cost, obviously, depends on the venue, technology, and if there’s any travel involved.


Start small. Hand out samples at a park. Invite your followers to a live demo. Host a webinar (with a gift) to launch a new product. 


Metrics:


Again, depending on the event, look at foot traffic or registrants, as well as social media reach and engagement. 


Use this moment to grow your contact list through email or SMS to continue nurturing these newfound (and hard won) customers. 


Tools: 


Webinars and online events are great, low-cost options for experiential marketing. 


There are a number of platforms to choose from, but we recommend Zoom for its familiarity and ease-of-use. 


How long it takes to see results:


The buzz is automatic and can create leads that can stay warm for months afterwards.


 Wowza! What should you do first?


At this point, you may be feeling excited, overwhelmed, inspired, and maybe a little daunted.


Rome wasn't built in a day, my friend, and neither is your business.


So, step 1 is to start.


  1. Figure out who your target audience is and how your company serves them.

  2. Determine your budget.

  3. Pick ONE marketing strategy.


Pick the strategy that fits your budget and your skillset or comfort level. Once you've built up processes and automation in one area, add another.


You can do this! But not all at once...


Want to know where your business has the most room for improvement? Get FREE Snapshot Report to see how you perform online.






Comments


bottom of page