Low or zero cost marketing ideas for social enterprise startups

You’ve got a brilliant business idea that will deliver social impact, the market is crying out for it and you know that if you can just make yourself heard, you’ll have a very sustainable enterprise on your hands.

There’s just one problem; you’ve got next to no budget for marketing purposes.

This isn’t uncommon. The startup phase of any business is challenging, and it’s all-too-easy to inadvertently divert funds inefficiently. You might have overspent on product development, research, or the cost of traveling the county pitching your idea.

Thankfully, there are some brilliant, tried-and-tested methods for promoting your social enterprise, and it’ll cost you very little (or nothing at all!).

Here’s our three faves:

1. Content marketing

The word ‘content’ is used an awful lot these days, and for good reason. Great content is capable of pulling in large, tightly-defined audiences and gradually turning them from strangers into brand advocates.

It does so without requiring any budget for traditional marketing, but it’s a slow burn. You can start your own content marketing effort now by planning one blog post every week that’s aimed at your target market. Offer free help, advice and use the blog as a platform to demonstrate how knowledgeable you are.

By including a newsletter sign-up as the call-to-action at the end of each post, you’ll gradually build a very useful database of potential customers who will begin to trust you more with each blog post they read.

Content marketing is also a great way to make the best use of your social media channels; fresh, relevant and unique content of your own can be shared as often as you like, and repurposed for platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Google loves fresh content – feed it with blogs that position your social enterprise as a thought leader in the sector.

2. Networking

Traditional, face-to-face networking might seem like an odd thing to do as a social entrepreneur, but it’s more relevant than ever – even in the world of LinkedIn and remote meetings.

Chances are, there’ll be a significant number of local networking events taking place in your area, so why not dip your toes in and try a few out? Treat them as exploratory missions, and dispense with any form of hard sell to make the most of these days. You’ll almost definitely meet people who can help grow your social enterprise.

3. PR

If you’ve got any budget at all, one of the best things you can do with it as a social enterprise is to invest in public relations.

The nature of social enterprises means they’re inherently newsworthy – providing the idea is genuinely unique and capable of improving the lives of people in society.

Engage with a PR agency and tell them your story. The best will be able to put together press releases that gain national coverage and get you behind the mic on local radio. Some might even manage to grab you a slot on TV if your social enterprise’s central idea happens to chime with a recent news event.

Wrapping up

Of the three options listed above, the third is likely to offer the more immediate impact, but it does require some spend which you might not have at the moment.

Don’t borrow or dip into the company credit card; invest your time and any remaining funds in marketing wisely at this early stage, and make sure you’re consistent with the approach. You’re unlikely to achieve overnight success, but you will start the ball rolling, and the eventual payback will certainly be worth it.