Many startups (like ours) don't have outside investors. We have chosen to self-fund our business, which has its pros and cons. While we are maintaining control (a good thing), one of the biggest challenges is funding marketing, which as we all know, is necessary to grow. The good news is that there are many scrappy marketing tactics and channels you can deploy to build momentum without spending your hard-earned cash.
Here are five tips that we've used over the past year that have worked for us.
There are always podcasts looking for guests to speak on every topic under the sun. We have been on over 75 podcasts in the past 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 one I like by Poddit that you can join. From there, you can browse through the "asks" and apply to podcasts that are relevant to you. The beauty of podcasts is that the majority do not charge anything to be a guest; they are evergreen, and most of the time, you get to tell a holistic story about your journey and your business. Plus, an extra bonus is that you'll have content you can share out and repurpose.
Another great way to grow your customer base and audience is to partner with like-minded brands. We have had a lot of success in finding new customers by partnering with brands that share our values. For us, that tends to be indie clean beauty, fashion and jewelry brands who care about sustainability, diversity and quality.
From giveaways to gift with purchases to creating content together (like blogs, IG Live or video interviews), there's a ton you can do to promote each other. And chances are if your customers like your brand, they may like a related brand with similar values. The key is to make sure everyone is aligned on the requirements for each brand so no one brand feels like it contributed more than another.
Creating a blog section on your website can help with a number of things. First, it can drive traffic to your site (assuming you have baked in some SEO). Second, it can make you an authority in your area of expertise or industry. And 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 educate around Mekabu, our hero ingredient, share hair tips, talk about clean beauty and more. This gives you another opportuity to share out content — and you can pull out quotes or soundbites for social media so you're not always reinventing the wheel.
Related: 3 Ways to Create More Content (and Views) From Your Blogs
We are active on a number of livestreaming platforms including talkshoplive, Shop LIT Live and Spin. Most of the platforms are free to join and will take a portion of revenue from sales, making it a very low risk proposition for brands. If you sell a product, these platforms provide a great place for you to share your story in an engaging way (video) and to get creative. You'll need to be comfortable on camera and get your story down, but the beauty of these platforms is that you can do most of them regularly (every week if you want), so you'll find yourself getting into a groove pretty easily and figuring out what works for you. The key is to have good lighting (a ring light) and an engaging set up.
Of course, we can't forget the power of social media. Much of the above content can be disseminated via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tik Tok and even LinkedIn. Actively working to create engaging content will help grow your audience organically (although it takes effort and time), so you shouldn't have to pay for followers. You will also have higher quality and more engaged followers this way. Ultimately, if you can cut down some of your longer form content into soundbites, you'll have plenty for social — most of it free.
We are very opportunistic about taking photos of our products in interesting spaces (and will often have a set of products with us just in case), which enables us to get beautiful imagery without needing to hire a photographer. Of course, there are times when a professional photographer is much better, but for a lot of the "blocking and tackling" content, you can find ways to get the imagery that you need (and don't forget about sites like Unsplash where you can download royalty-free photography).
So ultimately, in order to get momentum without money, you'll have to be a bit more hands-on and disciplined, but it's actually quite doable. And you'll find that many times, the different tactics feed off each other, so it gets easier over time.