shoestring 300x251 Startup Lessons Learned: Marketing on a Shoestring BudgetEditors Note: This is another guest post from Danny Wong, co-founder and Marketing Manager of Blank Label, a custom dress shirts startup that has built a lot of traffic through Search Engine Optimization and Media Relations. We’re delighted to have him share his thoughts and experience on marketing startups here.

Startups don’t have money. At least, most startups are incredibly frugal. It’s reasonable though. Many praise the lean startup philosophy. Few believe in fat startups, although Ben Horowitz makes an incredibly compelling case.

How can a startup obtain customers or users on a shoestring budget and how can you manage your budget wisely?

Become Search Engine Optimized – learn some basic SEO so people can find you easier on search engines. Do some link building through PR, blogging and internal linking. Make sure your pages are keyword optimized too. You can find a ton of resources for developing your SEO game online. Ranking well for relevant keywords can bring in very qualified and very free visitors. The next trick is learning how to convert them.

Optimize your website for usability and higher conversions – as I have said before, it is not all about traffic. What is important is knowing your KPIs. Check your Analytics for leaks in the conversion funnel and test some ways to shrink the leaks. The smallest changes here and there can make an incredible impact on your conversion rate. Plus you get the most out of your marketing dollar when your conversion rate is optimized.

Create an amazing product– this is probably the most cliché thing you will hear, but seriously. Make something so amazing that it’sorganically buzzworthy. Spend some more money on product development, not marketing. The long-run results will cover your costs several-fold. Who better to market your product (for free) than the customers or users that truly love it?

Leverage the social graph – how the heck did Farmville become so popular and how did Zynga start owning people’s lives? They used Facebook to spread the word about their games and got friends to connect with friends to build special communities and create some stupid farms and they got their friends to help develop your farms while you helped develop their farms and I’m running out of breath with all these “and’s” because Zynga did a lot of right things in leveraging Facebook to allow their users to market their games for them.

Social Media isn’t the end all for marketing– depending on what your business is all about, you do not always have to be on Twitter and Facebook. While this is contradictory to the last recommendation to leverage the social graph, some of these tips aren’t for everyone. You know your business best, and you will make the right choices about where to allocate your efforts. But the biggest recommendation would be to try out a little of a lot of things (not everything – no one has time for everything). When you do trial campaigns or test periods, you get a decent sample of information on how worthwhile some campaign is. While the numbers are small, they usually are fairly indicative of the average performance of the same, but scaled campaign, over a year.

Try a viral video – those usually happen on shoestring budgets, and trust me, they will be worth the investment because top videos (after they have peaked and have had millions of hits) will grow at tens of thousands of hits every day. Imagine that? You get viral, get millions of hits within weeks (maybe even days), but once that tapers off, you are still getting tens of thousands of visitors each and every day. Not too shabby huh?

img src = EdgeWaterTech