Promotion on a Shoestring Budget – Part I

Promotion on a Shoestring Budget – Part I

Promoting a product or brand requires a massive amount of resources, and launching a communications campaign is only within the reach of large companies and global non-profits, right? WRONG!

If you’re wondering if you’ll be able to promote your company, market your product or launch that campaign, the answer is yes, you can. Maybe you’re thinking, “we just don’t have the resources!” By the time you’re done reading, hopefully, you’ll realize that launching a campaign on a shoestring budget – whether your brand’s budget is $500, $2,500 or $10,000 – is more feasible than you think.

Perhaps you’ve reached the feasibility stage, but now you’re dizzy from the myriad of options and intimidated by the prospect of actually trying to execute – don’t panic, just keep reading. We’ll teach you how to identify your priorities, plan your strategy, and choose the most efficient tactics to help achieve your business goals.

In “Part 1” of this series we’ll focus on digital tactics, which can often be the most cost-efficient strategy for most folks. With more people staying home and connecting with the world through online services and social media than ever, leaning on digital tactics may be and especially effective way to stretch your marketing budget.

Where to Start

Goals & Objectives Start by stating your business goals and identifying the objectives that will help you reach those goals. Don’t skip this step, even if it seems obvious – this helps you make the most cost-efficient choices in the following steps.

  • Goals are the ultimate business outcomes you want to achieve through your efforts.
  • Objectives are the targets you set to help chart your path toward your ultimate business goals. They should be specific, measurable and achievable within your campaign timeframe. See example below:
Goals Objectives
Increase sales Increase traffic to the website by 50%
Increase brand awareness Garner 100,000 impressions from target audience
Grow email list Acquire 300 new email signups

Audience Once you’ve nailed down your goals and objectives, you’ll want to identify your target audience so that you’re spending your limited resources wisely. If you’re having trouble figuring out who your audience is, see if you can apply any of the categories, below (also, see this impressive infographic by WordStream of all Facebook’s targeting parameters). Doing this exercise helps you home in on key parameters needed when setting up your ads.

Demographics Interests Behavior Connections
Location Products Digital activities People who like/follow you
Age Politics Shopping habits Attendees of your events
Education Hobbies Remarketing People who use your app
Employer Entertainment    

Tactics, Assets & Budget

You might also be limited by the kinds of creative assets you have. Do you have any graphics or videos that can be used in ads? If not, create something simple for free using your existing software or free online services like Canva or Soapbox. If this is too big of a leap, don’t worry. There are other ways to run a campaign, even if you have no creative assets at all.

Digital Tactics

Once you’ve established your goals, objectives and who you’re planning to target, now for the fun – deciding what channels and tactics to use to reach your audience. If you’re operating on a shoestring budget, you’ll want to choose carefully so you get the most bang for your buck.

Social Media Ads

With incredibly user-friendly ad management platforms, social media companies have done their best to enable anyone to run their own ads, or at least provide a turn-key solution to advertising professionals. The platforms covered below were chosen by their ease of use, potential reach and their cost-efficiency.


Did you know you that you can run Facebook and Instagram ads simultaneously within the same ad campaign? As one of the most cost-efficient advertising options, with the biggest combined audience on social media, this should be your first consideration when working with limited resources. With several ways to customize your ads, including dynamic ads that use artificial intelligence to serve up the most engaging content, you can tailor your approach to perfectly suit your audience. See Facebook’s Ad Manager Basics guide for step-by-step instructions.


If you’re looking to insert your message into the public discourse of a particular subject, industry or event, Twitter may be the perfect channel for your campaign. Since you’re paying for visibility within specific conversations, this channel may prove slightly more costly than Facebook/Instagram, but depending on where your audience is active, this may be the most effective channel for achieving your objectives. See the creative ways you can reach your objectives on Twitter.


If your target audience is extremely narrow, you may be better off picking a platform with a narrower focus. LinkedIn directly targets ads at specific companies, down to the level of seniority or even job title, in addition to all the standard demographic, geographic and interest targeting options. This makes LinkedIn a pinpoint accurate ad channel for those aiming to have their ads reach very specific targets. While it’s the more expensive platform among the three, no other social media channel can match its precision. Get more information on LinkedIn’s unique ad targeting parameters.

Google Ads

Directly target your audience when they’re searching for the keywords or topics related to your subject. Only pay for clicks to your website (or whatever metric you prioritized in your objectives). Google has combined their display networks with their search ad platform, allowing advertisers to access both networks in any campaign run through the Google Ads platform.

With several auto-optimization options for bidding and Google’s powerful AI constantly improving your campaign’s efficiency, Google Ads can be a very efficient, albeit, somewhat more complicated, ad platform. Below are the two networks through which Google runs your ads.

Search Network

Search ads provide a cost-efficient medium for getting visibility and high-quality website traffic from those who are actively searching for related topics. Tools like Google Trends, as well as the built-in keyword planner, help you identify which search terms are trending and where, as well as what they’ll cost to bid against. This provides invaluable insight into optimizing campaign search terms to capture your target audience.

Display Network

Through Google’s Display network your ads will display to your target audience across more than two million websites, videos and apps, based on keywords searched, as well as topics and browsing habits. You can also specify individual sites for ad placements.

Part II – Stay Tuned

Hopefully, this primer gives you a renewed sense of confidence in your ability to launch your own campaign. You can always consult with professionals like Stratacomm to do the nitty-gritty strategy and execution, but recognizing that you’ve got the potential to get in the game on a shoestring budget is key!

In part two of this series we’ll cover low-cost grassroots advocacy tactics, email marketing on the cheap and strategies that can help you garner some free, earned media. Stay tuned!

Kenny Gayles is an account supervisor in Stratacomm’s D.C. office. He works on a variety of transportation and infrastructure clients, heavily focusing on digital ad strategies, social media management, analytics and reporting. Looking to brush up on the latest social media trends? Check out Kenny’s recent blog post on what to keep an eye out for in 2020.

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