Neil Patel

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How to Start an Online Marketing Campaign for Under $100

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In 2019, an average company is expected to dedicate 50% of its overall marketing budget to digital marketing.

The influx of tools and free digital marketing platforms has made it incredibly easy to create and distribute content, reach out to your target audience, and build your business, even without in-person small business networking.

Even an average guy like you or me can make an impact with digital marketing. But, wait a second…

Look around.

What do you see?

Huge brands with millions of marketing dollars are investing more and more in the digital space. They’re publishing content and using social media and other marketing channels to amplify their brand’s reach.

So does a startup, small business, or individual like you even have a chance to compete?

Fortunately, monetary constraints need not stop your internet marketing campaign. You don’t need expensive email marketing software or to purchase the most expensive keyword phrases.

There are numerous solopreneurs, like Brian Dean, for example, who have built their own businesses from scratch.

You’ll just need to put extra reps in to drive traffic (both social media and search engine) for free.

Once you gather some revenue, you can re-invest the money to gain speed with your digital marketing efforts.

To give you a head start, I’ve put together 5 frugal marketing techniques that you can implement right away (along with free tools).

Let’s begin with #1. 

1. Perform market research to find your ideal customer

To use your limited resources efficiently, you need to pursue media marketing strategically.

You cannot afford to invest your time on all of the new and shiny marketing platforms or launch a marketing campaign without aligning it with your company goals.

You need to start your marketing by understanding your current (or prospective) customers. Here are some questions that you can address.

  • To what age group does your target audience belong?
  • What are their major pain points?
  • What are their occupations and yearly income?
  • What are the websites that they browse?

As you start collecting answers to these questions, you’ll find that your buyers are highly diverse.

They have their own unique preferences and are motivated to purchase by different needs. So, you can’t take a one-size-fits-all marketing approach, because it’ll hamper your sales.

That’s where the next step is helpful…

Creating an audience persona that you will use for your digital marketing efforts and social media traffic.

HubSpot has created 3 personas that they use to craft thousands of articles and whitepapers that appeal to different sections of their audience.

Besides helping you create more relevant and engaging content that a search engine rewards, can such personas (with detailed audience definition) have a direct impact on your bottom line?


Blank Label redesigned its website, incorporating the needs of their core customers. These needs included close-up photos and a better user interface.


The result?

They saw an increase in sales from the website by 30%.

If you want a cool visualization for your ideal customer in a word document, then head over to Hubspot’s amazing tool, Make My Persona.

It’s a free tool that you can use to define your different types of buyers with laser-like precision.

You just need to answer a bunch of questions about your customers to create a fictional representation of them. 


Within 15 minutes, you’ll get an email with a persona, like the one below.


Once you’ve created a persona, you can even map their buyer’s journey to understand them better at each stage of your business lifecycle from social media marketing to email marketing campaigns.


Keyword research is also an essential part of marketing research, especially in using search engine ranking to drive traffic.

If you want to excel in your content campaigns, you can find hidden search engine ranking opportunities using the strategies I mention in this article.

2. Apply the 80/20 principle to your content creation

Content has now become the lifeline of online marketing.

HubSpot found that companies that publish 16+ blog posts/month generate 3.5x more traffic than companies that publish 3-4 posts/month.


But, if you’re starting out, publishing a post every other day can become a huge challenge. You might also not have the resources to outsource content creation.

I’ve got a solution for you…

Create 10x content and publish only once in a while.

Brian Dean is the biggest advocate of this strategy. He only publishes one incredibly in-depth content piece every month – spending 20+ hours in writing it.


He then promotes the heck out of it, by sending 100+ outreach emails for every post he publishes. That’s about 80% of his time, spent in promoting his posts.


And, rather than publishing new posts, he spends 50% of his time updating his older posts and keeping them more relevant.


That’s how Brian has managed to get to 100k monthly visitors by only publishing 32 blog posts.


Even Ahrefs recently adopted this higher-quality, lower volume content creation strategy.

Reducing their publishing frequency has freed their time for internet marketing promotions and contributed to increasing their blog’s search traffic by 89% in 3 months.


Besides investing 80% of your time in the promotion of your content, the 80/20 principle also encourages spending your time on creating the right kind of content.

This might mean not creating text posts, but rather video and interactive content (like quizzes and surveys), based on your industry and your audience’s media marketing preferences.

Visual content has been found to get widely viewed and shared. So, you should spend more time crafting original graphics for every piece of content that you create.


If you want help in choosing a content type, you can develop your list from the 17 I’ve listed in this post at Quick Sprout.

3. Strike partnerships with influencers

While SEO is time intensive, it doesn’t always have to involve money.

But, if your target audience hangs out primarily on social media, then you’re going to have a tough time. Organic reach on Facebook and Twitter is diminishing for brands.

The bottom line is:

You’ll need to pay to play for social media marketing if you’re starting from scratch.

Don’t worry.

I want to introduce you to an even more effective and personal marketing strategy than paid marketing…

Influencer Marketing.

It has seen tremendous adoption by brands in recent years. Look at the huge spike in its interest (as per Google Trends). It just keeps going up and to the right!

The reason is that businesses have been able to acquire high-quality customers through influencers.


As per a poll by Tomoson, businesses, on average, are able to generate $6.5 in revenue for every $1 spent.


Besides being cost-effective, influencer marketing is also the fastest growing customer acquisition channel (surpassing email and organic search).

Still don’t believe that non-competing leaders in your industry can spread your value-offerings?

Then let me share an example of how French fashion house Chloé leveraged it a few years back.

Chloé launched its new fragrance, Love Story, and wanted to drive awareness and audience engagement for it. So, it turned to top fashion bloggers and requested sponsored placement on their blogs.

The bloggers created exclusive branded content (with the theme of “Love Story”) for Chloé.

It resulted in terrific audience engagement in internet marketing efforts, such as 100+ comments and over two thousand social media shares on the post below.


Look at the massive social media audience reach of the top fashion bloggers that Chloé relied on for running the campaign.


While fashion and lifestyle products might be more fertile for influencer marketing, companies in other niches need not feel left out.

Let me share an influencer’s example in another niche.

Pat Flynn is a prolific internet marketing and make-money-online blogger. He has 135,000+ email subscribers and earns six figures per month.

So, he must have created his own products to earn such massive numbers, right?


He mostly relies on affiliate marketing. Look at the affiliate income he generated from recommending courses and tools from the likes of Ramit Sethi and Derek Halpern.


Just think of the money that Ramit and Derek would have made from selling their courses through Pat.

Similarly, Square also partnered with Apple to drive credibility and fuel its growth.

As a beginner, it might feel daunting to get influencers to promote your product. So, you can begin by requesting a link from them, using the 6 ways in this article.

4. If you can invest money in just one marketing channel, then it should be this one…

Regardless of your industry or company’s size and whether you’re starting out your business or are at an advanced stage, you need to get your hands dirty with…

Email marketing.

Many established bloggers regret not building their own list and collecting the emails of their website visitors from the first day they started their blog. You don’t even need sophisticated email marketing software to accomplish this task.

John Chow listed it as his biggest blogging mistake. 


Are you wondering why there is so much love for email?

Well, as per Campaign Monitor, marketers received an average return of $44.25 for every $1 they spent on email marketing.

It yields such a great ROI because email visitors are most engaged and build a strong relationship with you.

Email can be said to be the most mature marketing channel and that it acts as a foundation for all other platforms.

To get started with email marketing, choose a service provider from Infusionsoft, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, Get Response, or Aweber.

Almost all of these products offer a one month free trial. 

These are easy to use and effective email marketing software options.

Next, you’ll want to place opt-ins at strategic locations on your website, like the right sidebar.

Or, above the fold.


The most relevant strategy for collecting emails without causing any interruption for your users is by offering content upgrades.

Brian Dean increased his conversions by 785% in a day by offering them.


For more tips on getting your first few email subscribers, read the two articles below.

  1. 15 Quick Tips to Convert Visitors Into Email subscribers  
  2. How To Get Your First 100 Email Subscribers

5. Add value to your community by engaging in more one-on-one conversations

While browsing through so many data points and metrics about your target audience, you may forget that marketing is about building relationships with real people.

One-On-One human interaction with your customer will help in deepening your bond and taking your marketing to the next level.


Because it’s the best way to understand your customers.

Pinterest’s user experience researcher, Gabriel Trionfi, regularly conducts house calls with the platform’s team of designers.

These visits help the Pinterest design team in understanding how pinners actually use their platform on social media.


I, myself, try to answer every single question asked by you. Sometimes, it’s a blog post question:

Or, a social media update.


Don’t undermine unscalable value addition to your community, it can tremendously fuel your growth.

Another brilliant marketer who relies on one-on-one conversations is Gary Vaynerchuk.

In fact, he has built his brand around them. He receives 109,000+ messages on Twitter alone. For instance, look at the conversation Daniel had with Gary below.


An hour later, Daniel received 20 dozen eggs at his apartment.  


Daniel wrote a story about this experience, on Medium leading to great exposure for Gary’s brand. And, people sent all kinds of requests to Gary, which he responded with generosity.

You might say that this one-on-one connecting technique will require a lot of tedious work and time.

But, you can execute it without spending any money and attain loyal customers for life (who will also rave about you to their friends on social media and in life).

So, get out of your comfort zone and talk to your target audience on forums, Facebook groups or niche communities. Read point #1 in this article for help with finding them.


Laurel, from Elevate My Brand, recommends that under five-year-old companies should spend 12-20% of their projected yearly revenue on marketing. That gives you a good estimate to spend your money wisely.

Even if you’re short of capital, you can rely on the 5 online marketing techniques I shared in this article. The tools and case studies I shared with every strategy will help you save money on implementation.

Even if you’ve got a good revenue stream, rely on efficient action over burning cash. It’ll help you in building a sustainable, long-term business.

If you’ve any questions about any of the 5 techniques or you would like to share your business results from using them, then please don’t hesitate to use the comments box below.

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