Many start-ups have limited marketing budgets. But you can advertise inexpensively, if you apply some creativity. Start by determining you marketing goals – keeping them practical and realistic – then determine which low-cost marketing options will best help you achieve them.
Some options include:

  • Classified Ad Websites – Websites such as Kijiji and Craigslist allow you to post an ad for free and attract plenty of traffic. However, it can be hard to stand out on these websites and your ads disappear over time. In addition, the stigma of ad postings on these sites can be consistent with poor quality.
  • Local news segments – Getting a spot on a local news show can be a great way to earn free publicity and can be much more effective than a high-priced commercial spot. Often news shows are looking for material that local viewers can relate to and like to profile local businesses. Shows such as Breakfast Television frequently profile local businesses that aren’t necessarily related to any other current news stories. News shows such as CBC and Global profile unique businesses that are relevant to current news topics, or offer an interesting product.
  • Charity – If your business doesn’t quite fit what news channels may be looking for at the moment, doing some charity work can also earn you some free publicity – anything from rappelling down the RBC building for Easter Seals, or hosting an event where all profits go toward a charitable cause.
  • Google – Google offers Google Places, in which business owners can add keywords and business descriptions to offer a more informative search to Google users. In addition, Google AdWords provides an affordable way to attract traffic to your webpage. You have full control over your budget and only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
  • Submitting Articles – Write an article that is related to your business and offers readers an interesting topic. Submit to online publications and other media outlets and include your business name in the signature. Be careful not to self promote throughout the article, as this can be a turnoff. Instead, try to position yourself as a thought leader on a relevant topic by creating content that is interesting and helpful to readers.
  • Email Lists – an opt-in email list can be useful to keep ongoing contact with existing and potential customers.
  • Networking – attend industry events where your potential customers, investors, suppliers and leads will be present, and speak with as many people as possible about how your business can serve them.
  • Associations – Join an industry association that is relevant to your business for potential advertising and networking opportunities.
  • Forums – Some industries have local websites for people to post discussions, review vendors, and more. Post your business in the vendor list or reply to discussions with your business website in the signature. You can also participate in forums for your industry using LinkedIn Groups.