What You Can Do With a $500 Online Advertising Budget

  •    Entrepreneur and inventor of The Original Whiskey Ball.

$500 may seem light for an online advertising budget, but in my experience a little digital spend goes a long way if you know where to look.

Many people immediately start burning online advertising dollars on pay per click search ads or display networks, but the knowledge required for proper optimization and bidding on these platforms makes it a difficult solution on a tight budget. Plus, once your money runs out, the advertisements disappear. If I had $500 to spend on advertising my product I would focus instead on the following three strategies.

High-Quality Photos

Hire a photographer to take some great product and lifestyle photos. High-quality photos are not just a vital asset for your website design, they play a key part in any future digital collateral you create to promote your brand.

This doesn't have to be Ansel Adams, just someone good enough to make your product look attractive. Remember, an iPhone photo just won't cut it. You could find a friend who's really good with a camera or look for hobbyists and freelancers on places like TaskRabbit or Craigslist for $100 to $300.

Infiltrate a Relevant Marketplace

Find a marketplace that fits your product and create a listing. Look for both large and small opportunities. Start with the Amazons and Etsys and work your way down to niche online marketplaces like Fancy or Touch of Modern. These companies invest heavily in the things you can’t afford with a $500 online advertising budget, so you can leverage their big budgets to generate awareness of your products to a new audience.

Essentially, this is all free advertising. The cost here is usually around 20% to 60% of your gross revenue, but only after someone purchases your product in the marketplace. Any sales represent business you wouldn’t have found without the marketplace, and once someone has purchased your product you have a great opportunity to build a relationship and future purchases.

Influencer Giveaways

Allocate freebies to relevant bloggers and tastemakers with decent followings in order to gain low-cost buzz around your offerings. It’s important to find influencers related to your niche, so you don’t necessarily want to give a tech blogger some free artisan candles (unless that’s something they love and write about). You may already have some tastemakers in mind, but if not, start googling topics related to your product and see who ranks. Check their Facebook and Twitter pages to gauge the value of an endorsement. The larger the following, the bigger the network effect (their followers sharing the original endorsement) which can push your message to an even larger audience.

The total cost of this strategy is up to you and dependent on your own production expenses and the number of freebies you send out. Regardless of the budget slice this consumes, it’s a cost-effective way for a captive audience to discover your product.