marketing hacks

20 Marketing Hacks to Build a Startup Brand with No Money

Every business owner wishes to create a business that immediately hits the ground running! Wouldn’t it be amazing for your new startup to immediately get new buyers and subscribers with minimal to zero cost? Though it’s easier said than done, some marketing hacks can turn this into a reality. I should know. As CEO of Hardbacon, I managed to build a brand recognized all over Canada for its credit cards discovery tool with very limited resources.

Let’s explore some of these simple growth marketing hacks that you can use to convert your new business into a successful venture. These creative marketing techniques can put your start-up brand ahead of the pack. Let’s find out more about them.

Use Referral Marketing Hacks

A referral program is one of the most effective ways of promoting your startup. It is a credible way to market because people tend to believe the recommendations of previous customers then the ‘words’ of your brand. Getting your customers excited about your product will compel them to share information about your products with their family and friends. You can also give an incentive like, “Get a 15% discount on their next purchase if they refer two friends.”

Use Beta Testing

Many people are always looking around to find the newest and best products that will serve their needs. If you have an exciting product, the chances are that you will have willing beta testers. Therefore, a startup brand can use beta testing to connect with its target market and create a buzz around its products. The feedback from testing helps improve the quality of the product and helps customize marketing campaigns to the needs and benefits of the product.

Feature In a Popular Publication.

Publications are a fantastic way to help with marketing a startup brand. They help startups get exposure and publicity – as well as an increase in traffic to their website.

Publications will often offer exclusive content or interviews in exchange for you to mention their publication on your website or to link back to them from your social media profiles. Choose relevant industry publications that your target market reads.

Run A Contest

Contests are essentially a customer magnet. A start-up brand can organize engaging contests to get more likes on their social media pages and reach a bigger audience. Facebook is one excellent platform to host a contest. For example, Diamond Candles ran a “Refer a friend contest for a free candle,” which resulted in more than 30,000 new likes on Facebook. It also boosted the rate of the brand’s engagement with its customers because of the user-generated content shared across social media platforms.

Target Unsatisfied Customers

This is your startup brand ‘taking a bite’ of your competition’s customer base. You can conduct a market analysis and identify disgruntled and unsatisfied customers in the industry. These are potential business clients that you can try to ‘lure’ to try your products and services. Start by offering to address the challenges that were not being met and give incentives to give your business a try.

Collaborate With Another Brand (Cross-Promotion/Buddy Marketing)

When you have a limited budget, cross-promotion can work like a charm for any startup brand! The choice partnership is key as they should provide complementary products to the same target audience. It works by both brands promoting each other’s products on their social media platforms. This technique can cut advertising costs, boost your brand recognition and grow your sales.

Create A Blog

A blog is a cost-effective method of attracting more clients. When people find valuable and engaging content on your website, your perceived value soars. The key to this success is to post relevant, high-quality blogs regularly. You can also promote your products and services in the “Call to Action” ending of your blogs.

List Your Business in Free Internet Directories

Free internet directory listings will put your startup directly in front of potential customers and potential suppliers and partners. This creates more brand awareness for your startup and increases brand visibility. These listings also improve your SEO and improve rankings on Google search results. One credible platform to get on is

Submit A Press Release

You can submit a press release regarding your startup at little to no cost. These are published on different sites and can be linked back to your site. They increase both the traffic to your website and social media following. Most importantly, it will help you establish credibility with potential customers who have not heard of your brand.

Try Guest Blogging 

This happens when you write a blog for another similar website. It’s an excellent way for start-ups to increase brand awareness and generate new leads by attracting traffic back to their website. It also promotes your brand as a thought leader in their industry and provides both parties with a win-win situation.

Create An Email List

You can create an email list by collecting your prospects’ valid email addresses. This can be done by using a lead magnet where you offer a free downloadable PDF or report in exchange for an email. You can also get email subscribers to your newsletter for future communication. Those who sign up are highly ‘prequalified’ leads who can be prompted to buy with emails of new offerings and special deals.

Offer Free Items!

People naturally like freebies. Offering giveaways, discounts, or coupons is a sure way of inspiring sales. For example, you can offer a free coupon code to give the first 100 people a big discount or gift with a purchase. If it is well-publicized, free offers can increase traffic and sales.

Use The Power of Influencers

Using an influencer is a cost-effective way of exposing your products to your potential market. Influencers already have an audience they can influence with their opinions because the followers respond well to their suggestions. Choose an influencer that speaks to your target market, and when they post and talk about your products, be ready to receive and convert inquiries from potential buyers.

Conduct Live Chat Sessions and High-Profile Interviews

This tactic can make your perceived credibility hit the roof. For example, you can conduct an interview with an industry leader or host a live chat session with industry experts. These sessions should be shared on your blog and social media for your followers to see. This not only increases traffic but builds trust in your brand.

Attend Free Networking Events

This ‘direct’ technique is one of the best offline strategies you can use to promote your startup. At networking events, you can create beneficial connections and meaningful relationships for your startup. These events can also provide access to potential customers, partners, and even potential investors.

Ride The Wave of Trending Hashtags

As a start-up brand, use trending hashtags within your industry in your posts. If you have a local business, opt for more location-based hashtags too. Hashtags are one of the best tools to use to reach a bigger audience, so combine trending and industry-related hashtags to increase your followers.

Create Product Tutorials

Creating simple product tutorials and posting them on your website’s product pages is effective marketing hacks. It helps customers understand your products better and learn how to use them. It also serves as a convenient way to solve common problems while building credibility and trust with your target audience.

Create a ‘Google My Business Account’

This is a free listing that features your startup on Google Maps. Once you verify ownership of your startup’s profile, it will appear on Google search results and Google Maps. It dramatically boosts the visibility of your startup brand and can increase your customers.

Participate In Public Forums and Groups

Sharing relevant content from your website on online forums like Quora or Reddit can improve your startup’s brand awareness. On Quora, you can answer industry-related questions while referring people to your website for more information. Joining and interacting in Facebook and LinkedIn groups with your target market also helps create awareness. When they see you as knowledgeable with valuable content, they will trust you and check out what you offer. This is one of the best marketing hacks to showcase yourself as a professional in your field.

Capitalize On the Power of User-Generated Content

Sharing user-generated content your prospects can relate to shows them that you value them. For example, your prospects tend to trust photos taken and comments posted by their fellow customers more. Starbucks ran a successful Twitter user contest in 2014 called the #WhiteCupContest. It required users to draw an artistic doodle on their Starbucks white cups and share them. The winning drawing was used as a limited-edition template for its cup design. This created a frenzy, with thousands of drawings being submitted and increasing brand awareness. 


The business of growing and marketing a start-up at the same time is challenging. Our marketing hacks list above offers you some creative tips to grow your business with little to no money. Choose those that best fit your business and apply them consistently for your start-up. With time, it will take off and grow beyond your imagination! 

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