By Jenna Cyprus

When you look at your company’s budget, are you encouraged or discouraged? Among many small business owners, anxiety and frustration are natural responses.

But don’t you need money to make money? And is it even possible to invest in marketing without a financial cushion?

Options for Obtaining Capital

If you have absolutely no money, it’s going to be a challenge to do much in terms of marketing. At the very least, it’s going to take a good while for you to gain any traction.

If you’re in this situation, the first thing you have to do is think about how to obtain some capital. You have a few options when it comes to financing, though.

The first thing to consider is a small business loan. You could stroll into your bank and ask about loans, of course, but this method is becoming increasingly antiquated.

Today, the much easier option is to talk with an online lender, such as Lendio, Kabbage, Fundbox, or one of the other big names. Each has different products from the others, so you’ll want to do some comparing and contrasting.

A second option is to try to attract an investor for your business. The downside here is that you’ll have to give up some equity in your company, but the upside is that you could attract large amounts of capital without having to worry about repayment terms and interest.

If you believe your business has a compelling story, crowdfunding may be a third option. This is probably the most difficult strategy — especially when you acknowledge that most people don’t readily desire to fund something as boring as a marketing campaign — but it can be highly beneficial when it’s properly executed. For example, there’s no repayment or loss of equity.

Free and Cost-Effective ideas

Perhaps you have a little money and aren’t crazy about the exertion of having to raise further capital. There are still plenty of options.

The key is to think outside the box and look for free and cost-effective opportunities to get your brand in front of as many relevant consumers as possible. Here are some suggestions:

  • Incentivize customers. Can you find a way to encourage customers to share your product on your behalf? This tactic worked for quite a few successful companies in the early days. Take Dropbox as an example. Since the start, they’ve offered existing users 500 MB of additional space for each new subscriber they refer. This incentive has played an unmistakably key role in the firm’s growth.
  • Guest blog. Do you have any connections with bloggers in your industry? Getting the opportunity to guest blog on another company’s website can help you put your brand in front of thousands of new people. And since you’re essentially producing free content for them, most bloggers are delighted to oblige.
  • Use Instagram. If you aren’t using Instagram, you’re missing out on an amazing opportunity to build your brand without having to spend a dime. Instagram is hip, visual, and highly engaging. Through the use of simple pictures, consistent filters, and strategic captions, you can steadily build your brand image and connect with customers through a highly personal format.

These are some of the common techniques that businesses have turned to when money is tight. As your budget expands, there are ways to scale these strategies to make the more effective. Can you come up with other ideas that are inexpensive and effective?

Be Willing to Get Creative

When you lack sufficient financial resources, the marketing your products or services can seem like a major challenge. In reality, a little creativity and a willingness to be proactive can work promotional wonders.

Whether you choose to raise capital or pursue cheap marketing options, there are almost always ways to make things happen. You just have to identify them!

Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer from Renton, WA who is particularly interested in travel, nature, and parenting. Follow her on Twitter.