Author: Allie Decker / Source: Entrepreneur When I was a senior in college, I pitched my undergraduate capstone project as such: I was go
When I was a senior in college, I pitched my undergraduate capstone project as such: I was going to start a business . . . on paper. As a marketing major stuck in an artsy honors program, my capstone project options were limited to literature seminars or the like. So, I tracked down my favorite marketing professor and begged her to customize a syllabus for me.
About a month into my project, I had another ridiculous epiphany. Hey, I thought, let’s do this for real. I had a mentor, I was already starting this business on paper, and I’d grown up around the concept. Why not turn this into a real party?
So, my business gained a name, a face and a website. And I gained a title of ownership and a responsibility to deliver. Well, turns out I didn’t have all the resources I needed: My budget was zilch. I may have been working a part-time paid internship, but I was still in school and didn’t live with my parents. (Go me!)
Many small businesses with tight budgets believe that marketing spend should be the first to go. I was no different. But, I refused to limit myself to through-the-roof traditional advertising expenses. So, I got creative.
Here’s how I grew my business from paper (literally) to profitable with little to no marketing spend.
1. Network like crazy.
I worked my network. At 21, my measly network consisted of my mom and dad, my hair stylist, my college professors (that actually liked me) and my friends’ parents. But, you’d be surprised at how many people will help out a young entrepreneur. Once I built up the courage to cold call and email strangers I found online or through friends, many were willing to hear my story, give me advice and even leverage their networks on my behalf. (I even got a little mention in our local paper.)
Tip: If you plan to start networking as a marketing tactic, be sure to have your elevator pitch prepared. The average attention span of an adult (regardless of how helpful he or she is feeling) is…