Guest Column: How to acquire customers with zero marketing budget?

Given the easy access to your audience and availability of various tools and techniques, it is easier than ever to engage with your target segment and market, test your product or services and acquire customers with limited or zero marketing budget, writes TGC Prasad, Founder and CEO of

e4m by TGC Prasad
Updated: Nov 3, 2017 8:30 AM

Spending big money on marketing isn’t the best choice when you are a start-up or testing a new product in the market. Even if you have money at your disposal, starting slow with the budget in check ensures longevity and mitigates the risk of falling short of your long-term goals.

Given the easy access to your audience and availability of various tools and techniques, it is easier than ever to engage with your target segment and market, test your product or services and acquire customers with limited or zero marketing budget. But zero budget marketing doesn’t mean you can sell for free. The investment here is your efforts, creativity, innovation, commitment and empathy that you put in to engage your audience. There are various methods you as a marketer can use to ensure your value proposition reaches the desired audience and makes them decide.

Out of the numerous such ways, here’s a list to start with:

Go where your Audience is

In the present world, there are very few products which can’t find their takers online. Your customers may range from cybernauts to the ones who seldom browse, but one way or the other, they access the web. With your audience on the internet, you have to be there. Below are the ways to reach out to them.

Be Search Engine Ready – Across the globe, whenever a person wants to buy, search, look for, learn about or explore a product and service, the first thing they do is Google it. So be there when they search for anything related to your product. With good understanding of your audience along with little research on how search engines work, it would help you go a long way. Be relevant and useful to your visitors and eventually search engines will reward you with top rankings.

Leverage Online Communities – Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide great opportunities to interact with prospects with shared interests, hobbies and socio-economic background and convey your value to them. Also, forums like Craigslist, Quora and Reddit help you get in touch with like-minded segments.

Existing Traffic – Never let go of a customer who has entered your store. The visitor has made an effort on their part, now it’s on you to keep them engaged and help them find what they have been looking for. The website architecture, its UX and conversion path should be clear and compelling for your visitors to take action. Use web analytics tools like Google Analytics (Free) to understand the behavior your website visitors and make changes to improve website stickiness.

Happy Customers will get you more Customers

Word Of Mouth – No matter whether you have delighted your customer or have failed to deliver their expectations, they will talk about you. Either way, it’s important what your customers say about your products or services. Always engage in conversations with them, whether online or offline. Always try to deliver what you promise and in case you fail, accept it and do everything possible to get your customer out of their agony. A little empathy goes a long way. And if possible, incentivize your customers to talk about the good experiences they had with you on social platforms.

Loyalty Programs – Customer acquisition cost is always more than retention. So instead of focusing only on new customers, look after the ones who are already buying from you. These customers have already bought in your idea and products. So if served well, they would most likely stick to you as long as they see value in your products. Loyalty programs are like a retention fee you pay to your customers for their continuous support. So, have a well thought out program in place so that they don’t sway towards your competitors. This may not be necessarily free but you need not put money from your pocket. The cashbacks or discounts can be adjusted against the margins the customer gives you through incremental business.

Be Heard

Publishing your ideas and thoughts and getting an audience is totally free in this ever connected internet age. Start with studying your target segment, researching available content related to your products or services and find out your niche to start creating content.

Content Marketing

Experiment with different types of content viz. text, infographics, podcasts or videos. With freely available tools online, none of these should require a lot of budget. You just need to be creative and resourceful. Find your ideal platform to start with based on the type of audience you are targeting. Different social media, blogging and micro-blogging platforms cater to different audience sets based on their age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, interests and more. You can further drill down to reach out to your niche segment thanks to richness of data with these platforms. Actively take part in the conversations in the groups related to your products/services to get acquainted with your audience as well as to understand your industry better.

Thought Leadership

Periodically, publish whitepapers and reports covering your industry to establish yourself as a leader in the market. These need not be research papers involving years of efforts. A well outlined study of the markets, aggregation of stories from different sources to establish a trend or fact and simple forecasts and trivia could be enough to gain attention and trust from your customers and prospects. This will improve their engagement with you and hence boost overall business.


In the present business world, sailing alone can be risky for start-ups and big businesses alike. Concepts of shared spaces and shared resources are accepted well in the market. You can either take years and spend big bucks to create a holistic product or tag along with someone whose products or services complement yours and start selling a complete solution to your audience. This will make you market ready with limited resources and budget.

More often than not, marketing is supposed to be budget heavy and a cost function to any organization. Instead, marketing should be focused on improving the brand image, increasing sales and taking the organization closer to the customers. These objectives can be achieved with limited or no budget if you have a good product or service, a market for the same and are ready to put in little effort in creativity and innovation.

TGC Prasad is the Founder and CEO of, a B2B commerce company for construction, industrial, interiors, finishes and decor related products and materials.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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