9 Unusual Low Cost Marketing Ideas with Extraordinary Results

Whether you’re a startup or you’ve been in business a while, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on marketing to get extraordinary results. Here are some usual marketing ideas that reaped extraordinary results from nine business owners across the US. Use their ideas to come up with your own unusual low cost marketing ideas.

1.         Gone Flyer Crazy!

A friend and I started a free textbook price comparison website during college. This website allows students to search for their class textbooks and find out which online bookstore has the best price on new, used and rental textbooks. Early on, we were limited with how much we could spend on advertising, so we made up 2000 simple flyers. Our target market was college students of course, so we proceeded to plaster the flyers around college campuses in our city anywhere we could. This included bulletin boards, dorms, classrooms, bathroom stall doors, etc. It was working well so we then expanded our efforts and started plastering cars all around campus with flyers under their wipers. We hit each street for blocks surrounding the colleges as well as any parking lots in those areas.

Finally, the thing that really got us a ton of exposure was we took flyers and taped one on the front of every newspaper in every newspaper stand we could find. This worked especially well on campuses as the student newspapers were free which resulted in a huge readership rate. After a few days of posting thousands of flyers on the top of each newspaper in the stand, we did get a complaint from the newspaper and stopped with that particular method. It didn’t matter though, by that time we had increased exposure to our website tremendously and we continued to gain momentum the rest of the year.

Nathan Letourneau, https://www.campusbooks4less.com/

2.        Leverage Yourself by Speaking

I learned early on that getting in front of one client at a time would not build the business fast enough. It was imperative that I get in front of a lot of people quickly, but had little money to spend on marketing. I needed to “think outside the box” and find low cost ways to get the public to know who I am and what I can do for them.

I looked in the yellow pages of area telephone books and went to libraries in the area. I then contacted local clubs and professional organizations that were listed and offered to be a speaker for their meetings. I provided a list of topics I was qualified to speak on as well as a copy of my bio.

I also got very good at media relations, making sure that all local newspapers knew when I would be speaking and whenever possible printed it in. After about six months I found myself speaking on average, once a month to groups from 10 to 100. This enabled me to get in front of a lot of potential clients quickly and build my business at minimal cost to me.

I built my business from scratch to approx. $200 million in assets under management and about 1,200 clients.

Nancy D. Butler, CFPR, CDFA, CLTC
Butler Communications,  www.aboveallelse.org/blog

3.        Interns Make Dollars and Sense!

We hired several interns to handle different aspects of our business. Specifically we hired a PR and social media intern to handle those areas of our marketing. They helped us with everything from writing press releases to contacting the media .  Our social media interns have helped us gain Twitter followers, interacted with Twitter followers, gain more “Likes” on Facebook, interacted with our Facebook followers and even started discussions on LinkedIn where we were able to be “authorities” in the internship field.

The results were spectacular. We’ve landed numerous interviews with the media and bloggers- our biggest interview was with Fortune.com. We’ve gained over 3700 Twitter followers and regularly see Facebook as our top “referring” site in our Google Analytics. We’ve begun to be an “authority” on LinkedIn discussions on all things interns. And we’ve also found partners, affiliates and customers through all of these channels.

Justin and Dreama Lee, Intern Profits


Also on StartupNation.com: Creating Marketing Demand for your Startup

4.        Little Red Lunch Bags

My best marketing approach came about when I in the mortgage business and trying to figure out how I could possibly afford to take everyone I wanted to speak with to lunch. The answer was that I couldn’t — but I could still buy a lot of people lunch and make my point with a little creativity.

I bought small bright red gift bags from Wal-Mart (.49 each) that happened to match the red of my company logo. I filled them with bottled water, granola bar, string cheese, candy, crackers, and a small apple, stapled my business card to them, and included a note: “If you’re busy enough to work through lunch, you need this. If you want a mortgage lender who works as hard as you do, you need me.” I delivered them to new companies and they worked like a charm. I was even invited by a few HR departments to do a presentation on home-buying in the community. I brought a couple of trusted Realtors in and cemented my relationships with them too. Each lunch cost me under $3.

Gina Pogol,  https://www.hsh.com/press-room/editorial

5.        Press Releases Built The Company

Bottom line we live and die with our press releases and PR has totally built this company. We sent some out in the launch of our line and it ended up producing almost everything you see on our website. Just a few magazines, newspapers, and national TV stations picking up your story can change your company overnight as it did ours.


6.        Facebook Story Ads

We used our Facebook page to grow our newsletter list. Our newsletter list is our number one sales funnel so it’s important that we are constantly growing it. We’ve grow it completely organically, with no buying  of lists whatsoever.

How we did it:  We set up what Facebook calls “page like story” ads. These aren’t normal Facebook ads – they actually have no headline and no copy. They just show a user when their friend likes our page, The Dash. You can set a daily allowance so you don’t have to spend oodles and oodles to use this method. We set a low daily limit. We also have our welcome page on Facebook set so that people first sign up for our newsletter and are then taken back to Facebook to “like” us.

Our goals were to further build our brand awareness and “like” count on Facebook but ultimately get those people on our newsletter list.

As a result we went from a few thousand “likers” on Facebook to over 10,000 in a few months. We also added thousands of new names to our email newsletter list (our main funnel for sales).

Laura Roeder,  https://lauraroeder.com/

7.         Facebook Friends and Fundraising

I started my business just over a year ago as a senior in college (I am 23). Since that time, my company has now become the largest aggregator of student course and textbook information in the country, and we are beginning to grow rapidly across the nation. The press has also been very interested in our work, and we have been featured in the NY Times as well as local CBS and Fox News channels.

We’ve spent minimal dollars marketing the website, and a high portion of our traffic actually comes from Facebook, but not from Facebook ads. We offer fundraisers for student clubs and organizations whereby we pay them small amounts to post status updates or invite their friends to a Facebook event.
Since our website is very unique when it comes to purchasing textbooks, we have found that these methods help word travel virally within a school. For example, at the Claremont Colleges in Southern California, we had about 25% of the student body visit the site in 4 days because it spread virally through Facebook. At UPenn alone, we’ve had almost 500 unique hits as a
result of 2 days using this method.

Jonathan Simkin, SwoopThat.com

8.        Scrappy App Marketing

I have a startup called Swayable and an iphone app too.  I have a pretty tight budget so have had to be VERY creative with marketing ideas. I wanted to share what I call “scrappy app marketing” Since I have an iPhone application, I figured the best way to get downloads and users to my app was to cross promote in other applications. Well that can be pretty expensive and click through and download rates from my testing were so low that I just wasn’t worth the costs.

So I decided to use appmakr.com and create my own applications that target my audiences. I have a large teen following so I created celebrity news applications ala Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga. And in that application I run inexpensive contest to win swag for that celebrity by using and engaging with Swayable.com I also have the ads within them only cross promote my own products.

Every time I do a push notification to any one of these applications Appmakr does charge a fee, but that’s my only cost and I get much targeted direct access to my potential customers in an application that they love, because I’m presenting them content about a topic they are passionate about.

My goals with this were to simply get more users and more downloads of the Swayable application. In the first 3 months of doing this my traffic tripled each month and continues to grow at increasing rates. I can tell it’s in large part to these efforts based on tracking.

I am now thinking of other audiences I can reach and working on creating apps for this as well.

Lindsey Harper, Founder & CEO Swayable.com
9.        Leveraging LinkedIn

We leveraged a LinkedIn Group conversation that lent itself to our expertise.

How you did it: Someone in the group asked everyone to list their website. We were able to look at each person’s website from our mobile phones to find out it if it was mobile or not. If it wasn’t, we had a reason to connect with them – an “easy in”.

What your goals were in doing this marketing and what were the results.: At first we thought it was a kind of a one-off idea that may and may not work. But for us, we were happy to get be able to create one mobile website – that was good enough profit for us! We ended up signing one person up for a mobile website but received inquiries from approximately 14 people who were
interested in going mobile, 30 or so who were interested but didn’t have the budget and the remainder simply didn’t respond. All-in-all, it was a success for us – just for branding alone. I think we emailed around 600 people.

Because I think people forget about LinkedIn, this story reminds people to pay attention to conversations going on there that your company can chime in on.

Sierra McMillan [email protected]

What other ideas do you have?  Share your ideas for low cost marketing startegies here!  Would love to hear from you!

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