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19 Free or Low-Cost Marketing Ideas for Start-up Businesses

Greetings, fellow frugal individuals! Welcome to the captivating world of Thrifty Marketing, where we skillfully navigate the challenging waters of start-up expenses. As we embark on this exciting journey, we deeply understand the immeasurable value of every hard-earned penny for a budding start-up. In the realm of marketing, a captivating force that often tempts us to reach for our wallets, fear not! We firmly believe that spending a fortune on marketing is an outdated approach. Instead, we are about to embark on a thrilling path, meticulously exploring and uncovering cost-effective marketing ideas that will not only elevate your start-up’s reputation but also ensure the security of your precious finances. So, get ready to take a deep dive into the realm of ingenious strategies and innovative tactics that will make a lasting impact while preserving your budget. Let the journey towards maximum savings and optimal success begin!

google my business

Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is an essential tool for any start-up seeking to establish a digital presence. This freely accessible service from Google allows businesses to manage how their company information appears across Google products, including Google Search and Google Maps. The benefits of harnessing GMB are multifaceted. For starters, it enhances local search visibility, which is paramount for start-ups targeting local markets.

Google My Business profiles provide potential customers with easy access to your business's hours of operation, contact information, location, and reviews. Furthermore, the platform also offers the ability to share news and updates directly related to your business, helping to engage and retain customers. Overall, GMB serves as a cost-effective solution to broaden your digital footprint and connect with your target audience.

- Increased Brand Visibility: By utilising Google My Business, start-ups gain an opportunity to appear in the local search results and Google Maps, which can significantly boost brand visibility. It's an effective way of getting your name out there in the digital world.

- Customer Trust and Credibility: Customers tend to trust businesses that have a Google My Business profile more. Seeing a business listed on Google adds legitimacy to your operation, translating into enhanced customer trust and credibility.

- Insightful Analytics: Google My Business provides valuable insights into how customers find your business listing on the web, which can help to refine your marketing strategies. It offers detailed information about customer actions, such as how many customers called your business through the number listed, how many asked for directions, and more.

Let Google do the heavy lifting! Fill in your details and let your customers find you while you enjoy another cup of coffee.

Google My Business


LinkedIn, or as we like to call it, the "Cyber Cocktail Party for Professionals", is an indispensable platform for your start-up's marketing strategy. Without costing you a pretty penny, it provides a splendid platform for networking and showcasing your start-up to the world. And the best part? You don't need to swap your comfy pyjamas for a crisp suit or endure awkward small talk over canapés! Let's explore what this virtual networking giant can do for your start-up:

- The Power of Networking: On LinkedIn, you can rub virtual shoulders with industry experts, potential clients, and even competitors. It's a rich mine of contacts where you can promote your brand, showcase your specialities, and build professional relationships without splashing out on expensive networking events.

- Content Sharing for Visibility: Sharing engaging, relevant content on LinkedIn can position your start-up as a thought leader in your industry. This platform allows you to share blogs, news, or updates directly to your network, improving your brand's visibility and credibility. Remember, every like, share, or comment can lead to an exponential increase in reach!

- Hire Top Talent Without Breaking the Bank: As a start-up, you need a team that shares your vision and brings the necessary skills to the table. LinkedIn's talent pool can help you find the right people for your business, saving you money on recruitment agencies and job adverts.

So, hop on the LinkedIn bandwagon, and let's make your business the talk of this virtual town. After all, when the party is online, why should your business be left out?



Ah, the wonderful world of webinars, the modern-day lecture hall where you don't have to worry about a front-row seat or even combing your hair! Webinars are live, online presentations or workshops that allow you to connect with potential customers, share your wisdom, and promote your start-up, all without leaving the comfort of your home. Plus, they're cost-effective. No travel expenses, no swanky event venue hire, just your expertise, and an internet connection. Here are some reasons why using webinars for your marketing strategy is as smart as picking up a penny on the pavement:

- Real-Time Engagement: During a webinar, you can interact directly with your audience, answering queries and receiving immediate feedback. This live interaction enhances your relationship with potential customers and fosters trust in your brand.

- Wider Reach: Unlike physical seminars, webinars are not bound by geographical limitations. Your audience can join from anywhere in the world, expanding your start-up's reach exponentially.

- Lead Generation: Webinars can be a goldmine for lead generation. Attendees register their interest by signing up, providing you with their contact details and giving you a list of potential customers who are already interested in what you offer.

Show off your expertise to the world - all it takes is an internet connection and a decent webcam. And pants, probably.

social media

Social Media

Welcome to the buzzing world of social media, the digital town square where everyone knows everyone’s business and no cat video ever goes unappreciated! Social media platforms are the open-to-all, cost-free fairs where your start-up can set up a stall without spending a single penny. Whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, these platforms are your ticket to global visibility. And the best part? It's absolutely free (excluding your internet bill, of course). It's like being handed a megaphone and a spotlight while standing in the world's biggest market square. With effective social media strategies, you can engage directly with your target audience, showcase your brand, and gain valuable customer insights. Plus, it's the one place where getting followers is celebrated, not creepy. So, create your profiles and get tweeting, posting, and sharing. After all, if it's not on social media, did it even happen?

brand ambassadors

Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors are the crown jewels of your marketing strategy. They're like your start-up's best mates, consistently singing your praises and spreading good vibes about your business to all and sundry. They're the walking, talking, tweeting embodiments of your brand, their advocacy worth more than a high-budget ad campaign. They're the embodiment of the old saying, 'Word of mouth is the best advertisement', except in this case, it's 'Word of social-media-savvy, highly influential people is the best advertisement'. So, get them on board, and watch as your brand soars to new heights on the wings of their influence. After all, who wouldn't want a friend with benefits... for your business, that is!

Email Marketing

Email Marketing

Email marketing, the digital age's answer to the carrier pigeon. Only faster, more reliable, and less likely to leave a mess on your window sill. It's how you deliver your start-up's message right into your customers' inboxes, ensuring you're not just another face in the crowd, but a welcome guest at their virtual breakfast table. Here's why email marketing is the cat's whiskers:

- Direct Line to Customers: With email marketing, you can reach your customers directly, bypassing the noise of social media and making your message as personal as a cuppa with an old friend.

- Measurable Results: Ever wondered if your marketing efforts are paying off? With email marketing, you can track open rates, click-throughs, and conversions, giving you the lowdown on your campaigns' effectiveness.

- Cost-Effective: No print costs, no postage fees, just effective communication that won't have you dipping into your rainy day fund. Now, that's something to write home about!

marketing ideas for start-up businesses - firmbee-com-gcsNOsPEXfs-unsplash

Content Marketing

Content marketing, the digital world's equivalent to a captivating storyteller at a fireside gathering. It’s all about creating and sharing valuable content that's as irresistible as a tin of Quality Street. With content marketing, your startup can offer more than just products or services; you become a trusted source of information, advice, and industry insights. It's the subtle art of selling without really selling, akin to convincing a child that eating vegetables is as exciting as a trip to Legoland. It's not about pushing a sales pitch, but about pulling in interest. So, roll up your sleeves and let your creativity flow. After all, content is King, and your startup could be its trusted advisor!



- Visibility and Ranking: SEO helps your startup's website appear in top search engine results, increasing your visibility to potential customers. The higher your website ranks, the more clicks and traffic you receive.

- Trust and Credibility: Good SEO practices improve the user experience, building trust and credibility. A well-structured, fast, and secure website boosts your startup's reputation.

- Better User Experience: SEO is not just about search engines but good SEO practices improve the usability of a website and provide a better user experience, which can translate to higher engagement rates.

- Cost-Effective: SEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies as it targets users who are actively looking for your products or services online. This results in cost-savings for businesses.

marketing ideas for start-up businesses - malte-helmhold-Vy2Y1cCLiT8-unsplash

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging, or guest posting if you want to sound a bit posh, is rather like going to a dinner party at a friend's house and being asked to cook. You're given the chance to showcase your culinary (or in this case, writing) skills to an entirely new audience. You're not in your kitchen anymore, but if you can whip up a wordsmith's version of a Beef Wellington or bangers and mash that leaves the readers asking for seconds, you've nailed it! And the best part? You're not stuck with the washing up!



Networking is not just about pressing the flesh and swapping business cards anymore. It's about being a social butterfly, flitting from one LinkedIn connection to another, tweeting, sharing, liking, and commenting until your fingers are numb. It's about diving headfirst into a sea of potential collaborators, customers, and champions of your startup, all while trying to appear nonchalant and not at all desperate. And remember, it's not called being pushy, it's called being proactive. So, put on your most engaging virtual smile, jazz up that elevator pitch, and get ready to work the room, or rather, the World Wide Web.

referral programmes

Referral Programmes

Referral programmes, the word-of-mouth wizardry of the digital age. They're like a chain letter of good fortune, only less superstitious and more profitable. It’s about turning your loyal customers into your personal brand advocates, armed with the irresistible power of a good deal. If there’s one thing people love more than a bargain, it’s sharing a bargain. Who knew helping your mate get a discount could be so rewarding? Here's why referral programmes are the bee's knees:

- Bigger Customer Base: Referral programmes are an effective way to expand your customer base without breaking the bank. Who's got the power? Your existing customers, that's who!

- Increased Loyalty: A well-structured referral programme can increase customer loyalty, because everyone loves a freebie or discount, right? Good things really do come to those who refer!

- Cost-Effective: Compared to traditional advertising, referral programmes can offer a more cost-effective way to generate leads. Plus, they offer the bonus of a higher conversion rate. Now that's what we call a win-win!


Online Contests

Online contests, the digital age's answer to the village raffle, but without the disappointment of winning the cheese and pickle hamper. They're a fun and engaging way to attract new customers, drive traffic to your website, and give your brand a bit of a buzz. It’s the digital equivalent of throwing a party and everyone’s invited. Just think of the thrill of the chase, the anticipation, the victorious whoop when one of your followers finally snags that prize. And the best part? Unlike a village fete, there's no need to worry about rain spoiling the fun!



Podcasts, the audio arm of your marketing arsenal, are like the charming radio shows of yesteryears, but with the superpower of on-demand streaming. They're a smashing way to whisper sweet nothings (valuable content) into the ears of your audience, while they're commuting, cooking, or just plain chilling. With podcasts, your brand can engage customers through captivating storytelling or insightful discussions, making rush hour traffic or washing up seem like a rendezvous with a knowledgeable friend. It’s like broadcasting your brand's voice directly into your listener's ears, without having to compete with the visual clutter of other media. So, grab a mic, clear your throat, and let your voice be the magnet that attracts new prospects to your business.

QR codes

QR Codes

QR Codes, the mysterious black and white squares that have infiltrated every corner of our lives. They're like the secret agent of the digital marketing world: incredibly versatile, always on a mission, and extremely efficient. You may have to squint a bit to see the magic, but once you do, you'll see QR codes as the hard-working heroes they truly are. Here's why:

- Immediate Access: QR codes are like an express ticket to your digital content. Just a quick scan and voila, your customers are transported straight to your website, promotional video, or latest eBook.

- Loads of Data, Little Space: No other secret agent can carry this much data in such a tiny square. Scan one and see how much information can be packed into these compact, efficient tools.

- Versatility: From menus to museum exhibits, QR codes are always ready for their next assignment. They can be used anywhere and for just about anything.

- Trackable: With QR codes, you can monitor how many people have scanned your code, from where, and when. It’s like having your own personal surveillance team, but far less creepy.

- Cost-Effective: Making a QR code is as cheap as chips – no fancy equipment or secret gadget needed. Just a bit of software, and Bob's your uncle!

To get a QR code for your business, simply use an online QR code generator, input the relevant information or URL, and download the resulting code to be used in your marketing materials.

The Benefit of Using QR Codes
free samples

Free Samples

Free samples, the irresistible sirens of the consumer world. They're like magical little appetisers that not only whet your customer's appetite but also leave them craving more. It's like inviting your customers to a free tasting session of your product - a delightful nibble here, a little sip there, all while you watch their faces light up with the promise of more. And here's the real kicker - by the time they're smacking their lips and wiping their hands on their trousers, they realise they've unwittingly become your latest brand advocate. Now, isn't that a tasty prospect?

marketing ideas for start-up businesses - anupam-mahapatra-Vz0RbclzG_w-unsplash

Free Classes or Workshops

Free classes or workshops, the ultimate bait for the knowledge-hungry and skill-seeking audience. They're like the enthralling open days of an esteemed university, but without the obligation to enrol or the frequent flyer miles. They provide an avenue for prospects to dip their toes into your pool of expertise, experience first-hand the quality of what you offer, and leave enlightened and eager for more. Here's why you should consider free classes or workshops:

- Intellectual Allure: Offering free classes or workshops is an attractive proposition that can lure in a diverse range of prospects.

- Showcasing Expertise: It's an opportunity to showcase your skills, knowledge, and the value your offerings can provide.

- Trust-Building: By giving away some value for free, you're building trust with your audience, which is invaluable in establishing long-term relationships.

- Lead Generation: Free classes or workshops can act as a lead magnet, attracting potential customers who might be interested in your paid offerings in the future.

- Brand Awareness: It's a fantastic way to increase brand awareness in a meaningful and value-adding way.

marketing ideas for start-up businesses - absolutvision-WYd_PkCa1BY-unsplash (1)

Press Releases

Press releases, the unsung heroes of the PR world, are like your brand's very own news bulletin. Just think of it as giving your brand a megaphone to announce to the world your latest product launch, partnership, or milestone. The benefits? For starters, they can boost your visibility, getting your brand name in front of journalists and media outlets who can help spread your message far and wide. They can also enhance your credibility by positioning your brand as an industry leader. So, next time you have some news to share, don't just whisper it, release a press statement and let your brand's voice be heard!

marketing ideas for start-up businesses - yonghyun-lee-RhGK4qOwxxw-unsplash


Infographics are like a vibrant carnival, effortlessly blending fun and facts. Think of them as your brand's secret weapon for tackling the ever-growing information overload. With their visually pleasing graphics and succinct text, they turn complex data into easily digestible tidbits, transforming the mundane into the fascinating. In the sea of plain text, infographics are the flamboyant flamingos that make your audience sit up and take notice. So, next time you have a heap of data to share, consider an infographic – because nothing says 'I've got something interesting to say' like a well-designed chart on a vibrant background!



In fact, why do we need you need to read about the benefits of Youtube? Watch for yourself!

3 benefits of Youtube for Marketing


In conclusion, the digital world offers a vast array of strategies to enhance your business's visibility, engage your audience, and convert prospects into loyal customers. Be it biting into the sensory delight of free samples, diving into the intellectual pool of free workshops, or decoding the magic square of QR codes, every strategy brings its unique flavour to your marketing mix. Add a dash of podcasting for that personal touch, a sprinkle of press releases to broadcast your milestones, and top it off with infographics to make data fun and digestible. Remember, the key to successful marketing lies in understanding your audience and selecting the perfect blend of strategies that resonates with them. So, make the most of these tools, and watch your business flourish in the exciting digital arena.

Alexandra handles all things marketing here at Virtual HQ

Alexandra O'Hagan

Marketing Executive

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