Eight Marketing on a Shoestring Strategies

Marketing on a Shoestring Windy Lawson

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As a microbusiness owner, you may think you need a big pile of cash to effectively promote your business. But that’s not the case. These are my eight favorite low or no-cost strategies to include in a marketing on a shoestring plan.

But, before we dig into that, I want to caution you. If you feel stuck in your business, your impulse may be to look through these different strategies and pick a few easy tactics to try, like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Please, for the love of glitter, don’t do that.

Start by establishing a quarterly goal for your marketing strategy. Define what it is that you want to accomplish within 90 days. Then choose one or two strategies that are most likely to achieve that goal.

Marketing on a shoestring Windy Lawson Email marketing provides a 4000% ROI

#1: Email Marketing 

As a microbusiness owner, your email inbox gets inundated, and so does your ICAs. But the reason it gets flooded is because we continue to give out our email addresses to people that we want to communicate with us.

With the rise of social media marketing opportunities over the years, you may think email is dead. But email marketing is stronger than ever. The latest research shows that email provides a 4000%- yes, 400%- return on investment. So for every dollar spent on email marketing, it’s bringing in about $42 in revenue. Email is not dead; it is alive and well. 

Email marketing is so effective for microbusiness owners because when someone signs up with your email list, they’re connecting with you. You’re not beholden to Facebook or Instagram or any other social media platform to communicate with them. They’re saying, Please, come into my inbox and share with me. 

Now, if you decide that email is included in your marketing on a shoestring plan is going to be part of your marketing strategy {and I hope you do}, you want to make sure that: 

  • you’ve communicated a compelling reason for someone to sign up,
  • you’ve made it simple for subscribers to opt-in, 
  • you are communicating with them regularly. The rule of thumb is you only want to have about two weeks between each time you pop into their inbox. So if you can schedule an email every other week, then that’s a strategy that can be beneficial for you. 

#2: Online Video Marketing

Marketing on a Shoestring Video Creates Connections with prospects Windy Lawson

No matter what problem your microbusiness solves, people are looking for the answers you can provide on YouTube. While YouTube is technically considered a social media platform, it is also the second-largest search engine in the world, right behind Google. And more than five hundred hours of video gets uploaded to YouTube every single minute or every single day.

Video is the ultimate low-cost opportunity to create a deep connection with prospects. Through video, potential customers can hear your voice, see your expressions, and feel your energy. Video allows your personality to shine, and it will enable people to see you for who you are. It’s a fantastic way to build relationships and reputation all over the world. You cannot create that connection through any other medium.

Online video marketing is not limited exclusively to YouTube. You can incorporate a video marketing strategy on multiple platforms: 

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • TikTok

But the beauty of developing an online video marketing strategy is how efficiently it provides content that you can repurpose across multiple channels. One video can be repurposed into: 

  • a blog post
  • a podcast episode
  • excerpts used to create bite-sized videos for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
  • quotes or other meaningful content used in graphics for social media
  • an infographic for Pinterest
  • a gif to include in an email

If you decide to utilize an online video in your marketing on a shoestring plan, you’ll need: 

  • a decent camera. If you have a newer smartphone, made in the last three years, that camera should work well for you. If you have an older phone, you may want to consider investing in a webcam. 
  • a decent microphone. 
  • a way to light yourself up. Natural light is best, but if that’s not an option, consider investing in a light source. 

#3: Content Marketing 

Marketing on a shoestring content marketing establishes authority and trust Windy Lawson

There’s an excellent reason content marketing has been on the rise for years: people don’t want to be sold to; they want to be helped! They want to be informed more than they want to be interrupted and given a sales pitch.

Content marketing involves creating content designed to inform and educate your audience and solve their problems. Your business exists to solve problems for your ICA and content marketing honors that.

Content marketing: 

  • helps build an audience, a loyal audience,
  • establishes authority and trust,
  • drives sales.

Content marketing is any digital content used for marketing. That includes:

  • a podcast, 
  • a blog, 
  • a microblog, where you are sharing your content on someone else’s platform. Google My Business is an amazing free-50-free resource, as is Facebook Notes and LinkedIn articles,
  • eBooks, or printables,
  • infographics.

Anywhere you provide content to help inform and educate your audience, that’s a content marketing strategy. 

The crucial thing to remember about content marketing is that you must enjoy creating the content, and your ICA must be interested in consuming it. If you wanted to create a blog to provide informative content for your ICA, but she prefers to watch videos, your strategy won’t be as effective as it could be. 

Hands down, content marketing is one of the most effective ways to create a solid marketing on a shoestring plan.

#4: Unpaid Social Media Marketing

Marketing on a shoestring unpaid social builds brand awareness Windy Lawson

When we think about marketing on a shoestring budget, posting on social media channels is typically the first thing most of think about. And with good reason- it’s free. Even though organic reach on social networks continues to decline, social media continues to be incredibly useful for:

  • building brand awareness, 
  • developing community, 
  • and getting your content and your products in front of new people. 

Unpaid social media is the perfect complement to a content marketing strategy. Your content marketing strategy looks at the content that will inform and educate your ICA, and your unpaid social media strategy outlines where you will share the content. While you can have a content marketing strategy without using social media, you shouldn’t consider a social media strategy without content marketing. 

The free opportunities in your social marketing strategy include: 

  • Facebook: Page and Community 
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest: although technically a search engine and not a social marketing platform
  • LinkedIn: Profile, Business Page, Community 
  • Twitter 
  • Snapchat
  • TikTok

There are positives and negatives for each opportunity. Regardless of which channel you utilize, it’s important to remember: 

  • You are the mercy of the channel creator to connect with your audience. You cannot rely solely on someone else’s website or app for your marketing. 
  • If your ICA isn’t hanging out on that channel, you cannot connect with her there, and putting your energy on that channel will be as effective as talking to your wall. 
  • No presence is better than a weak presence. If you cannot maintain the channel by consistently posting quality content, don’t create the channel. 

#5: Networking 

Marketing on a shoestring Windy Lawson

Brace yourselves, introverts, I’m talking about meeting new people, talking to them, and creating relationships. There are so many opportunities, even during a pandemic, to truly network with people. To be clear, I’m not talking about joining a Facebook group and then never showing up, never communicating, and never participating. And I don’t mean to find a local networking group, pay the annual dues, and then never go to any of the meetings. 

With networking, you only get out what you put in. You can’t meet new people by accident, and there are so many networking opportunities, both in-person and virtual. One of the best investments I’ve made in my business was joining Polka Dot Powerhouse, a networking group for female executives. When done properly, networking can provide an unbelievable ROI. 

To successfully include networking in your marketing on a shoestring plan, you must: 

  • have a clear goal for your networking,
  • connect with the right people,
  • make time every week to participate in networking.

I aim to have two appointments with members from my networking group each week. My goal is not to convert that connection into a sale, but to have them think of me when they talk to someone I could help, and connect with someone in the group they know I would be a good fit for. 

If joining a networking group isn’t your thing, consider going to events hosted by your local chamber of commerce, industry conferences, trade shows, and actively participating in Facebook or LinkedIn groups. 

#6: Partner Marketing 

Marketing on a shoestring Windy Lawson

A partner marketing strategy is a bit of a catch-all that includes all the ways to leverage other people’s audiences to market our microbusiness. Tactics in the this strategy could include: 

  • Affiliate Marketing: paying out a commission when someone refers a new customer to you. 
  • Referral Program: offering a non-cash incentive to someone who refers a new customer to you. 
  • Influence Marketing: offering your product to someone who has a following, in exchange for their testimonial/showcasing of your product. 
  • Business Collaborations: partnering with another microbusiness to co-promote each other.

While they tend to have the longest lead time, business collaborations can be one of the most effective ways to grow your customer base. In collaboration, both parties come together toward one common goal. A great way to find potential collaborators is through networking. 

A word of caution: A collaboration should be a Win-Win-Win situation. You win, your collaborator wins, and your ICA wins. Not all collaborations are equal, but this blog post can help.

#7: Public Relations 

Marketing on a shoestring Windy Lawson

Public relations is all about managing perceptions and relationships to ensure people think positively about your brand. In this day and age, where fewer traditional journalists are working, news outlets are more receptive to receiving PR pitches than ever. With blogs, YouTube, podcasts and Facebook Live shows, there are more media outlets than ever. 

You don’t need a high-priced publicist to utilize public relations in your marketing on a shoestring plan. You can:

  • send out press releases for product launches to your local news outlets,
  • cultivate relationships with the assignment editors for your local morning news show and establish yourself as an expert in your niche. This can be particularly effective for local morning news shows if you can teach viewers how to do something.
  • guest blogging on another blog,
  • be a guest on a podcast,
  • be a guest on a YouTube or Facebook Live,
  • apply for awards. Getting an award and then sharing it with your customers and prospects is a fantastic way to generate publicity.

A great resource to help with your public relations strategy is Help A Reporter Out {HARO}. In this free service, reporters post what kind of experts they are looking for, and you can reply directly to the reporter if it’s a good fit for you. 

8: Contesting or Sampling

Marketing on a shoestring Windy Lawson

Contesting and sampling are great ways to get your product in the hands of your ICA to get a taste of your awesomeness. With contesting, people have the opportunity to win something, and sampling is where people get to try a portion of your product for free.

If you run a contest, make sure you follow all local laws and aren’t actually holidng a lottery. Check out this attorney’s post on Dos and Don’ts for contesting.

Sampling isn’t confined to physical products. If you create digital products, you could offer a sample chapter or lesson to give someone a taste of the product.


These eight low or no-cost marketing strategies can be used to develop and implement a marketing on a shoestring plan. However, it is virtually impossible for one person to utilize all of them at the same time, and manage a microbusiness.

The beauty is they blend well together. For example, if you decided to start with my top three picks- email, online video, and content marketing- the content marketing would be delivered via video, with a call to action to sign up for emails to learn more. And the weekly email to your subscribers would include a link to the video.

Finally, no matter which strategies you focus on, always keep your ICA in mind as you choose tactics. No matter how amazing your marketing campaign is, it cannot be successful if it doesn’t connect with your ICA.

Which marketing on a shoestring strategy will you implement this quarter?

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