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How To Market Your Startup On A $0 Budget

Time to read: 3 minutes

Being on a shoestring startup budget you perhaps would rather throw every bit of cash into development. At the same time you're worried about marketing the product. How will your potential customers know that it's there?

Others advise you to try “content marketing”, “guest posting”, “networking” etc.

And they are right. The trouble is that these are abstract terms and it's hard to figure out how to implement them.

Since I've been at your position and learned the hard way how to market a software product, I think that you'd be better off following a practical step-by-step approach.

Your simplest content marketing process 101

The focus of this strategy is on talking to potential customers one-on-one as much as possible. It's all about natural communication.

Here's how I'd market my product with a $0 marketing budget:

  1. Define my potential customers—who they are, what they do, where they hang out, what they like. I'd write down everything I know about them.
  2. Join an online community (or several) where my potential customers hang out.
  3. Help people by answering their questions. It will be better if the questions are related to the problems my product solves. I won't spam them with links to my website. I'd just include a link in my signature or a link to a relevant blog post, if I have one.
  4. Take note of the problems that people have and see if my software will be able to solve them (this is like a “customer interview”, just doesn't sound that fancy). I'd carefully monitor how they expect the problem to be solved, so that I can possibly improve my software from that data.
  5. When somebody says “Thank you! That's very helpful!”, I'd go to my blog and expand the answer into a blog post.
  6. Whenever I see the same problem again, I'd just post a link to my blog post.
  7. In the mean time, I'd create a simple landing page for my future product. The main focus of the landing page will be the problem that my product solves for my future customers. I will use my observations from 4. to refine the copy on the landing page. I will use my potential customers' words as much as I can. At the end of my landing page I will have a subscription form to give those who want the product a way to sign up. Of course, the landing page will be the front page of the blog.
  8. Include a short note at the end of each blog post that “we're building X which solves problem Y!” I'd also have a blog subscription form at the end of each post.
  9. I will keep sending valuable content (i.e. the blog posts from 5.) to the list that I have built using my (carefully worded) landing page.
  10. I will also share with the list how the product is progressing, just to remind people why they signed up.
  11. When I'm done with the MVP, I'd do an email launch sequence to get people excited about the launch. (This point has to be expanded in a blog post on its own)

That's it. It doesn't look like much work, but it is.

This method might sound counter-intuitive to you, because “you'll be able to reach very few people this way”. Yes, that's true. What is also true is that the quality of the interaction is much higher.

What about your social media strategy?

An email list converts much better than social media.

I have several guesses why this is so:

  1. There is too much noise. Your Twitter, G+ and Facebook feeds are endless pools of information, aren't they?
  2. There is no context. People signed up to your list to be notified about the launch of your software. You're sending them a private message, just to them. You're having conversations with them. The people on this list are your target customers. On social media, you're mostly targeting random people (e.g. with a Twitter hashtag).
  3. Giving your email to someone is a bigger commitment. You know, we're all afraid of spam. Unlike following people on Twitter.
  4. Limited attention span. Social media are made for scrolling and scanning information. They were not meant to host lengthy discussions like message boards, blogs and mailing lists.

So, I'd advise you to focus on building the email list at this point. You can re-launch your product as many times as you want and try different strategies afterwards.


Your best marketing strategy is to actually talk to people. Just join a community and be an active member of it. Provide real value to other community members.

If you have helped them in some way, they are much more likely to purchase something from you.

I hope that I gave you some fresh ideas to try out.

About the author Gergana Dimova

I use my non-magical persuasion methods to help small business owners, digital agencies, entrepreneurs and consultants get more leads and sales. You can learn more about working with me here.

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