Marketing is important for any business if they want to succeed and grow in terms of both revenue and market position. The quality of your product or service counts for nothing if you do not have an effective marketing strategy in place to ensure that the consumers know about them. However, marketing isn’t free as you need to invest either money, time and energy in executing it. For startups aiming to kick start their business campaign, it’s about marketing with a rock-bottom budget as the beginning of operations is mostly about budget control and affordable loss.

Alright, let us break it down for all the hopeful entrepreneurs out there. The first thing you need to realize is that your physical presence only counts when people know you actually exist so forget about the fancy office decoration, big boss seats and a floor of employees. Instead, try to save your budget cutting down utility bills, carpooling with your team, saving daylight, subletting your space and any activity that may save or make money. This will ensure that you have something to spend on marketing to get effective results plus, some of these strategies are what the big boys in big places are doing.

Coming back to marketing, the obvious thing you need to know is that were living in the digital age which means that most of the old school marketing strategies are not as effective as they used to be. However, this does not mean that they do not work. This has to do with the fact that consumer trends are changing everyday with all the innovations, fashion and trending events happening worldwide. So, real-time digital marketing is the present and future of effective marketing strategies which can also provide ROI which enables marketers to adapt and react accordingly.

Here are 5 low-cost marketing methods that you should try out.

1. Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing

This might not be so surprising which is why it’s number one on our list. Almost 3 billion people are on social media. In the US alone, over 81 percent of the entire population is on twitter, Facebook or Instagram among other active social sites and application. If this doesn’t justify why your business should be on social media sites, then you definitely need to head back to Entrepreneurship 101. Moreover, it’s not mandatory to go for paid advertising as it can be expensive. Instead, you can start of by asking customers to leave reviews, put up some attractive posts and also answer questions which are relevant to your line of business. Also, try to keep it real with your posts. Everyone appreciates graphic and Photoshop skills but when it comes to customers they would be more interested in real pictures of products. The biggest example of this is product hands on videos which demonstrate to an extent what you would experience when going for that product.

2. Website and SEO

Website and SEO

You’ve got to have a website of your business in this age. Over 60 percent of consumers now shop online from the top 5 results on search engines. Search Engine Optimization is among the smartest and fastest growing digital marketing strategies out there. Plus, there isn’t much rocket science to it but it does require time to get around the concepts. In other words, fire up YouTube and get learning or if you can afford it, get someone to boost up your website on freelance. Lots of businesses do this today while they can focus on other tasks. You can even offer them other perks or incentives which can be further explained in the next strategy. When making a website and executing SEO, your business information should be simple. People should be able to easily find your contact information and location. Your website should contain basic information about your products or services. Having a blog also makes your SEO more effective.

3. Business Partnerships and Referral Programs

Business Partnerships and Referral Programs

You scratch my back, I scratch yours. An effective team up with other businesses can do wonders for yours. First of all, it shows that your business can be trusted, so much so, that other businesses are willing to work with you. You can promote each other businesses and even eliminate each other’s short comings. For example, an event planning business can partner up with decoration and catering businesses. Both businesses can gain from each other in terms of marketing and revenue. Referral programs on the other hand involves having loyal customers refer and get other customers for your business in return for value in the form of loyalty discounts, gift cards or even freebies. Beneficial incentives give you more than you give away. It’s a little yet effective investment.

4. Vehicle Branding

Vehicle Branding

You can check out thousands of entrepreneurship case studies to experience the stories of how successful entrepreneurs started from nothing and where they are today. One of the most inspirational and creative case study which is relevant to this strategy was SK Motor Syndicate. The CEO of the company was a BBA student who was a car enthusiast. He approached vehicles in need of technical assistance on busy roads and offered to repair them for free in return for customers to post his brand stickers on their vehicles which he had printed for those 8 dollars. He had no capital expenditure, no office, no workshop, no tools, no overheads, no rent, no utility bills and no salaries. The team worked on a commission basis and made a profit when there was business. The best thing was that there was no loss when there was little or business. The point is that if you have a vehicle, you can brand it with your company logo and contact information. Simple stickers would also do great if you cannot get a full paint job. Plus, you can give stickers to existing customers after their purchase.

5. Print Media and Trade Show Marketing

Print Media and Trade Show Marketing

Traditional methods still work even though they are not as effective as they used to. If they didn’t work, you wouldn’t find any ads in newspapers, prints, flyers, magazines and small sign boards today. Today, these traditional channels are now merged together with other channels to improve the response rates. Ads in newspapers often lead to websites, social media or other channels of engagement like mass texting. On the other hand, trade shows are the closest you can get to selling on spot. You can show case your products or services at festivals, events and even expos if you can afford it. For example, many restaurants set up stalls on carnivals and festivals especially during the holidays. Branding plays an important role here as you are not looking to make just one sale to a customer and close shop. You want them coming back.