In the world of startups, every dollar counts – making the most of limited funds is a challenge almost every founder will face. Marketing budgets are typically one of the first to go, but without efforts to build your brand, there’ll be no business to run. With that in mind, here are some simple ways to keep your marketing efforts alive without breaking the bank.

1. Network! Network! Network! (but do it strategically)

Leverage your network – it’s one of your most valuable assets.  Your inner circle is a valuable and trusted source for help and moral support, but most of them don’t need to hear the daily  ‘play by-play’ of your progress.  Be considerate with your outreach and save those valuable ‘asks’ for when they’re really needed . Spend time looking at your network strategically and map out who you might need along the way – and when. Then create an outreach strategy that will give you the maximum amount of goodwill with the minimum ‘favour fatigue.’

2. Leverage Your Adorers  

You’ve built relationships with customers that love what you’re doing – use this to your advantage! If treated properly, they can be your biggest brand champions and your most efficient customer acquisition channel. Word of mouth is both free and effective. Your customers are probably talking about you anyway – direct the chatter in a way that benefits your bottom line!  Rewarding customers who talk about your product can be simple and inexpensive; you’ve already established your relationship, now make it work harder. People who do you a favour tend to like you more afterwards – it’s called the Reverse Likeability Phenomenon.

3. Build Team Brand Advocacy

You’ve already got a free resource right in your own office. Employees can be the best brand advocates, in the office and out.  True employee ambassadors are created when they feel that they have a stake in the product.  Make time for your team to provide input, and respond to what you hear. When employees share a sense of ownership in the company, they’re more likely to play an active role in promoting it authentically, which can be more valuable than a 30 second primetime TV spot.

4. Forge Smart Partnerships

Partnering with like-minded companies has benefits far beyond access to new customers. Working closely with other businesses provides insight into new customer acquisition channels, marketing ideas, and execution strategies. Learn what you can and repeat it with your own marketing programs.  Partnerships can also connect you with other valuable contacts. You may work with your partner’s PR agency on an amplification strategy or legal firm on contest rules. These are opportunities to save money, learn, and build your influencer community.

5. Do what you do flawlessly   

Cutting corners can be tempting. We occasionally hear ‘it’s just not a priority,’ as an excuse for poor execution.  If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing well.  First impressions happen early, and you only get one. Focus on the foundations and get the basics right. Your website should be seamless, customer-facing copy should be free of typos, and above all, execution should be bulletproof. Whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re doing it the best you can. Shortcuts and lazy mistakes aren’t worth the price you’ll pay in how customers evaluate your brand.