Marketing Your Business with Zero Budget

Having launched and operated a few start-ups since 1999 and now Awesome DC, here are a few tips I’d like to share with you on how to promote your business with ZERO budget.

1. Love the Web and make sure she loves you back

Make sure you business is listed on the Free listing sites on the Web – awesomize.meGoogle, Yelp, MerchantCircle, Google Local Business Center, Angie’s List, Yahoo! Local,, SearchLocalSuperPages, etc. These sites  are the first thing your potential customer will check out the moment they hear about you. Before they contact you, they want to know more about you. They are all FREE  🙂

Make sure to include as much detail as possible about your business. i.e. phone number, URL, general contact info, etc.

Most of these sites have Feedback reviews. So, do your best to encourage your customers to give you their two cents on these sites.

2. Vlog and Blog Baby Blog

By blogging, tweeting, sharing, and updating about things relevant to your industry, you can build credibility in your field.

– Create educational videos about your products in action and put it on Youtube, metacafe, dailymotion, liveleak, Facebook, and other online video sites.

Don’t have large budget to pay the big advertising/marketing  firms for creating your videos? not a problem, check out my previous post on Tips for marketing your business via online video –  particularly, check out the Bethesda based internet company GeniusRocket.

The company is the destination for all your creative marketing needs because it uses crowd sourcing – tapping the wisdom of the masses for ideas and solutions, rather than paying high-priced agencies to do that work. It’s like “American Idol.” If the talent is out there, a wide casting call gives it the chance to rise to the top.  Here is a sample video they created for my last company:

– Post pictures and tweet out commentary from an industry trade show.

Every piece of content you post online — whether it’s on your blog, your Facebook page Page, or on third-party sites — has the potential to boost your brand and drive search results and traffic at very little or no cost.

3. Get on Social media Channels

Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all free. Create a page for your business on these sites and take your time to present your company there appropriately. Your page on these channels should not be just about promoting your business. Be interactive with your users.
I highly encourage you to also create your personal page as well as one for your company, products, and services on that aggregates all of your other social media channels. The site is an open platform. So, much more friendlier to get indexed by Google and other search engines. This means, having a page on  increases your chance of getting found on the search engines.

I found that by blogging and combining that with a strong social media strategy to drive potential customers back to your blog or website works very well. But you cannot do this without becoming an authority in your niche. So publishing articles and videos is a must to position yourself in the market as an expert and authority.

It doesn’t cost you money to have these channels, but the time, energy and perseverance required to make it happen is huge. Hard work in a smart fashion  always pays off. No shortcuts.

I would also recommend adding Foursquare which is an especially great (and free) marketing tool for retail shops and restaurants. Build out your “venue” page with special offers and include call to action language like “check in on Foursquare and receive xxx” in your existing online and traditional marketing efforts. It’s trackable, actionable, and repeatable marketing.

4. Share your expertise with others

Identify sites related to your service offering  – like related groups and Q&A on and LinkedIn to post your solutions to other people’s problems, answer their questions and on the support forums.  Even take your time and post articles there – both technical and non-technical. You will gain a reputation by both your technical articles and  personality.

Being an expert is vital. I think something that is just as important as expertly answering questions is expertly asking them as well. Asking questions, especially on your Facebook page, is a great way to get conversations going and spark interest in your readers. By looking at who participates you can identify super users and start to build relationships with them

5. Donate Button on your site

Depending on your business, put a donate button up on your site or blog, and let people pay you to put a small link on your site. You can also meet knowledgeable people on those exchange site who can teach you the “Social Niche & Etiquette” so you can succeed in life.

6. Offer Ad-Funded Payment Options

For companies selling relatively low-cost or web-accessible products, a highly targeted “reverse advertising” strategy could be a smart move.

Feel free to connect with me via

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About Elias Shams
I have been a serial entrepreneur in telecom and social media space for past 12 years or so. I hold a M.S. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the George Washington University and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. I’ve lived and worked in many countries and cities including London England, Tehran Iran, Bonn Germany, Paris France, Alicante Spain, Delhi India, and my favorite of all Washington, DC of great US of A. Two of the greatest Washington, DC based companies I worked for and very proud of are Yurie Systems which was sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1.23 B and that I founded in 1999. I am currently the founder and awesomizer @

8 Responses to Marketing Your Business with Zero Budget

  1. adv180 says:


    This is a helpful post! We are trying to educate our clients and other small businesses about the world of advertising and marketing as well. We offer tips and tricks of the industry via our videos on our website, Advertising180. Please check us out and let us know what you think!

  2. What a really helpful (and readable!) post. Thanks — I’m off to reTweet it!


  3. Elias Shams says:

    Glad you found it helpful. They are from 10 years of experience. Crap! I feel old 😦

  4. Bob Maguire says:

    If you have time to wait, zero funding can ensure that you keep 100% of your business. Obviously, if you get investors, you can grow more rapidly, but you will give up equity in your firm. So it goes to the old question….is 51% of much more better than 100% of much less or nothing.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience

  6. A lot of great tips there in this post, never before has there been so many opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs to start a business and reach so many customers without an up front investment. The only investment for a lot of these tips is your time and if you don’t have the time then find someone who does and get them to help you out in your business. You can’t do it alone or at least it’s much easier if you don’t 🙂

    I would say Social Media and Internet Marketing are the two things that can even the odds for many small and medium sized businesses but it’s strange many of them are still stuck in the traditional forms of marketing their business. I can’t tell you how many times I walk into a business and they are just sitting there waiting for the customers to walk in the door instead of going out there and searching for them! Many of these same businesses don’t even have an Internet presence.

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