You can promote and advertise your startup on a shoestring budget. Hi, my name is Thea Perez and I’m the founder and creative director of Polychrome, an online marketplace for print, pattern, artwork, and trend information for the fashion industry.

Let’s say you hit your first milestones, the prototype is tested, the website is up and running, and you’ve reached out to your network and gotten initial feedback. So now you’re onto the daunting task of marketing your business. Here are some things I’ve learned about the pre-launch on the big day.

Identify Your Brand Identity

If you haven’t done this already, you need to take a good look at your branding. You can’t launch a successful campaign without having a carefully crafted brand. It’s a good idea to come up with a brand identity in which you clearly identify what your brand stands for, what your goals are, what it looks like, what it sounds like, who you’re targeting, how well you’re going to service them, and what you’re going to do for your customers. You can find free templates for brand identity online and you can also find free tutorials online about branding, explaining why it’s so important and how to craft a clear brand identity.

Related: Create Your Unique Selling Proposition

Lynda.com is a great resource for tutorials of all kinds. Although there is a small membership fee, some videos are free and also some library networks offer free access to their patrons, so check it out. YouTube is another popular place to go for free tutorials. Make sure that any of your other staff members are clear on brand and objectives.

Consistency Is Key for Your Brand

Consistency should be a primary objective for your entire staff. Anyone looking at any of your brand material, whether it’s online, or printed materials, or even in a brick-and-mortar shop, should have no doubt that it is the same brand. To do this, you want to keep all the colors and fonts the same. You want to make sure that the logos are the same. Any online banners, such as Facebook banners and Instagram banners, should be customized versions to fit that platform’s specific requirements. Also, keep your mood and tone consistent.

Related: Jeffery Hayzlett: Branding Isn’t Just For Cattle

Work Your Social Media Accounts

This is time-consuming, but it’s worth it. You should have been working on these well before your launch. If it’s too daunting to tackle all these platforms that you’ve registered for, figure out which receive the most traffic from your target customers and work those two or three.

Related: Use Social Media to Get Customer Feedback

Checklist for Weeks Leading Up to the Launch

Write some articles on LinkedIn and/or Facebook groups. Use this opportunity to position yourself as someone with something to offer in this arena. Make sure to participate in other conversations as well. Create a countdown to launch a week or so out to start building buzz on all your platforms. When you do launch, consider boosting it on Facebook or some other paid campaign. Many of these really are very inexpensive. If it’s too overwhelming for you to do this alone, see if now is a good time to employ a marketing intern if you can, or see if someone else in your network will be willing to help you out with this.

Related: Write a LinkedIn Profile that Lands Clients & Sales

Create an Inaugural Blog for Your Business. Blogging is going to be an important part of your business. Write a great inaugural post to introduce yourself and your brand. Make sure the personality of your brand shines through and you’re clear about what you’re hoping to do for your audience. Promote blog posts as appropriate on other social media platforms and create a campaign that goes direct to email. WIX, for instance, offers a platform for this called Shout Out, and so does Constant Contact, although there’s a small fee for this service. Make sure your blog has links to the most important pages on your website so you’re showing your customers around. Think of it as giving them the grand tour. Don’t forget to have an easy and very visible way for them to opt into your subscriber list so they can receive future posts and special offers. You need to start building that vital mailing list right now.

Related: How to Write Content for Your Brand: A Sample Company Blog

Be Genuine. Your blog is an extension of your business, but it can be a more personal forum to engage viewers and potential customers. Invite feedback from them and give them a reason to engage. Feedback can also provide fodder for future blog posts, so it’s a win-win. And remember always to say thank you.

Take Advantage of Podcasts and Webcasts. They can be a very helpful marketing tool if you’ve got something you can offer in a video, such as a how-to or a demo of your product or something of that nature. Most people go to YouTube to look up this kind of information, and it’s never been easier to do this for free. Naturally, fancy equipment can make it look a lot more professional, but you can easily start with a smartphone or using a laptop.

Again there’s a plethora of information online about making your first webcast or podcast. Even if you decide to produce a podcast or webcast that shows a related but different interest or expertise, that can be great advertising through exposure. Just make sure that somehow it links back to your primary business.

Keep up the Networking to Spread the Word. Maybe go to a MeetUp with like-minded people, or you can create your own MeetUp group. Network to get advice and spread news about your business. Host an event to celebrate your big launch. Network at professional lectures and seminars and let them know you have newly launched your business. You can volunteer to speak at some of these at an event or at a roundtable to position yourself as an expert.

Related: Networking: A Shortcut to Success

Cast a Wide Net Initially with Your Marketing Efforts. Spread the word on social media through friends and family—just anyone who listen and help you spread it around. Create an email list from all your contacts and promote the launch with a splashy email campaign. Encourage recipients to forward on to anyone they think might be interested or it might help. Promote signing up for your newsletters with giveaways or other promotions.

Related: What Is Effective Email Marketing?

Takeaways

Some things to keep in mind are that a lot of the social media that you’ll be using is free and has a wide audience. Take advantage of your community and your network to support you as you launch. Finally, it’s very important to be consistent with your brand and clearly let your audience know what you intend to do for them.