6 low-cost marketing ideas for startup social enterprises

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a significant amount of cash behind you or gain early investment, marketing a social enterprise during the startup phase is incredibly challenging.

People will tell you that, without sufficient funds, you just can’t make a dent in your sector.

Well, you know what? They’re wrong. You can – and you don’t need much cash at all.

Chances are, you probably don’t have enough cash in the bank to hire an experienced external consultant or marketing agency just yet, but that can come later – if you need it at all.

Instead, there are some relatively simple things you can do to make a noise that’s just loud enough to be heard and which should start the ball rolling nicely for your social enterprise.

1. Determine a budget

Although it’s possible to market with no budget, it’s sensible to have some money set aside for promotional work if you have access to funds.

Before you do any form of marketing, however, you’ll need to determine a budget. Without one, you’ll almost certainly end up overspending and have a tough time assessing your return on investment (ROI).

There’s no magic number or formula here – just work out what you’re comfortable with and write that figure down; it’ll give you something to aim towards.

2. Develop some audience personas

Understanding who you’re selling to will help you identify the best routes to market.

To do this, you’ll need to create what are known as ‘personas’. These are fictional characters who sit within your target audience. You can give them names, backgrounds, occupations and write brief descriptions about their likes and dislikes.

It’s a fun exercise, and one which will result in a clear picture of exactly who you’re targeting and where they’re likely to reside within the marketing options you have available.

3. Start with social

If you haven’t already, get accounts set up on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for your social enterprise, and start following potential customers, partners and industry influencers.

Get involved in discussions, start your own and provide a running commentary on the sector. It takes time, but the more vocal you are on social media, the more likely you are to get noticed, and for no expense other than your time.

4. Get inspiration from competitors

You can learn an awful lot from your competition’s marketing efforts.

Don’t assume they’re spending a fortune on campaigns, either – even if they’re more established. You’ll soon spot the marketing that is smart enough not to demand huge budgets; it’s the stuff that will catch your eye on social media, or within a particular blog on their website.

Take a look at who they’re working with, too; partnerships are so important when it comes to low-budget marketing.

5. Partner up

As noted above, a solid partnership strategy will help you make noise about your social enterprise without spending a fortune.

There will be natural fits for your enterprise when it comes to partners; the business which offers something you can’t but which compliments your product is a classic example.

Start speaking to potential partners now – it’ll cost nothing more than your time and you’ll almost certainly find organisations that are in a similar position, budget-wise. Together, you could take on the world!

6. Present a consistent brand image

In order for your audience to begin recognising you and warming to your enterprise, you need to present a consistent brand image across all marketing channels.

That means every blog, tweet and Facebook status update needs to be written in the persona of the social enterprise.

How do you want it to sound? What type of person would it be if you met it in the street? Stick to that brand image, be true to it at all times, and it’ll start to become highly recognisable in your sector.

Wrapping up

You’ll note that the ideas above aren’t specific campaigns – they’re the glue and inspiration that forms campaign ideas.

What’s more, they’re fun, engaging and highly addictive once you get going. Marketing without a big budget takes time, but the rewards in terms of ROI and market penetration are handsome if you keep at it.