Starting a business can to be very expensive when you spend money on the wrong things.

An advertising budget is assumed to be an essential factor in your startup costs.

But when you’re bootstrapping your business from scratch with your own money, an advertising budget can be a waste of your startup funds.

Small experiments can be effective and FUN if you have extra money to burn.

But if you don’t…

Take it from me: I have wasted $$$s on Facebook advertising and hiring supposed experts to do it for me.

Instead of investing money in a paid advertising budget early on, I should have invested more time and energy in experimenting with organic growth strategies like the 10 companies below.

Take Airbnb for example.

Within 8 years of starting up, Airbnb had hosted 35 million guests in over 35 thousand cities around the world.

Without any paid advertising budget at all.

In fact, they launched their first paid advertising campaign in 2016.

Valued at nearly $13bn, they reached their current scope and scale without the multi-million dollar advertising budget that other companies invested to achieve the same results.


Their strategy?

An incredible experience cultivated through a high-trust community coupled with incredible customer service.

So if a company like Airbnb that began as a one-page website can grow into a much-loved global brand without a paid advertising budget, can any business accomplish the same?

The answer is ‘no’.

Airbnb is good business. ‘Good’ being the philosophy, strategy and mechanism behind unprecedented organic growth.

{Although there is growing unrest about the collaborative economy and the companies driving it, airbnb have fuelled a location-independent lifestyle for me since 2009, and most recently refunded me immediately after I arrived at a domestic war zone masquerading as a ‘sanctuary for solo travelers’. For me they define ‘good business’.}

Here are the 10 Reasons Good Business Doesn’t Need An Advertising Budget to Grow Their Empire

#1. Their company DNA is passion and purpose.

They make and create with integrity and produce incredible products that wow their customers and create loyal followings.

HuyFong’s Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce was created in a tiny office in downtown LA in 1979. The passion? Tasty sauceThey sold 20 millions bottles in 2012 without paid advertising or even a facebook or twitter page. It has been sent into orbit with astronauts for over a decade.

#2. They hire people whose passion, purpose and vision aligns with their own.

Hiring like-minded individuals who can authentically echo their philosophy and who themselves believe in the value & meaning of what they’re trying to create is like having living, breathing billboards for their vision, products + services.

#3. They create solutions for pain or desire.

Because they solve problems and fulfil fantasies better than anyone else, they eliminate the competition. When they solve fulfil those that their customers didn’t even know they had, they create new markets. When their offers genuinely make their customers happier, healthier, or wealthier, they have a powerful, organic, non-stop marketing machine.

The hand-beaded sandals and accessories by Sseko Designs combine the desire beautiful things with the desire to give back: sales support the college education of women in East Africa. The founder began sales & marketing from her car.

#4. They integrate customer feedback into their products.

You want it in blue? You got it.

Good companies integrate suggestions, comments & complaints into their design & development for continuous updates in aesthetics, functionality and performance. In the process of honouring their users, they inadvertently build a tribe of brand ambassadors.

Oki Doki, a web application that helps create & market online courses, ask for customer feedback while their product + service is still being crafted.

#5. They’re in it for the long haul.

Not out to make a quick buck, they have a longer-term vision that they rely on as they co-create with the market and their customer awareness & sophistication along the way.

This strategy enables them to create cutting-edge or superior products and services that actually shape the way we live, communicate, do business, and entertain ourselves. They embrace an evolving, experimental landscape to iterate, lead & respond.

Escape the City’s vision is to help talented professionals escape the corporate grind. Launching initially with a blog, a job board and a in-person meetups in London, they have since launched a successful crowd-funding campaign and now run an annual festival, intensive learning programmes and a global community.

#6. They tweak, modify and evolve as the world, technology and their customers do.

Never standing still, they’re constantly on the look out for inspiration for the next iteration, because their vision is three to five years ahead of their competition.

They create & launch new products and services long before their competition has realised that the world, its technology, and its people have evolved. They are constantly ahead of the curve, and their customers love how this keep them ahead, too.

The creators of PopUpAlly Pro, an opt-in box plugin for WordPress, continually iterate ahead of market, debug, and add videos to their customer support as they go.

#7. They find and fill the gaps in the system.

They sneak into the glaring spaces between established brands; while everyone else is trying to one-up their competition, good companies create new markets. By creating a feature or benefit that’s so unique and such a glaring unmet desire, they annihilate the competition and leave dents & detours in a landscape littered with sameys.

Uber annihilates dodgy mini cabs and the exorbitant costs of registered taxis.

#8. Their customer service is second to none.

Because they’re in business to make a difference, they want their customers to be happy and will stop at nothing to ensure it. They thrive on human connection and solving people’s problems. They make it easy & risk-free to buy, and their exchange, returns and refund policies all reflect their desire to transform customer experiences. Even PITA {pain in the a**} customers will leave smiling and tell their friends all about it.

Ramit Sethi’s Zero to Launch, an online business course, offers a 30-day no-questions money-back guarantee, literally giving you the chance to try before you buy. Completely risk free.

#9. They exchange real value before the sale and long after the purchase.

They build and maintain relationships through regular communications characterised by great content.

Whether they deliver it via blogs, newsletters, webinars, videos or podcasts, they’re constantly creating value that creates an experience before and beyond the sale. Business is more about relationships than ever before, and sales are directly proportionate to the quality of the relationships built.

Trust is currency. Marie Forleo, creator of her own online business course, releases free video training that inspires & instructs with actionable insights whether you enrol on the paid course or not. It’s very, very good.

#10. They are honest about their mistakes.

They don’t try to hide behind expensive cover ups or government bail outs. F*** ups are frequent and expected in the startup world and good companies wear it as a badge of their humanity. They say sorry, they make amends or improvements, and they move on. Customers love their honesty and their commitment to their why & their who. If anything, this only improves customer relationships and builds greater trust over the long term.

Good business doesn’t need paid advertising.

Whether a small operation or empire, the rules are the same. Founder of the Spanx empire Sarah Blakely couldn’t afford advertising when she first started in her 20s, building the business word of mouth and woman-to-woman advice, a strategy she prefers to this day, despite being valued around the $1 billion mark.

Their model rests simply on creating incredible products & services, and flawless customer service. So don’t let no advertising budget — or no budget at all — stop you from starting a business.

Instead ask yourself: What does ‘good business’ mean to you and how can you integrate these 10 factors into your startup strategy?

Did this article allay your fears & concerns about not having an advertising budget for your business? Drop me an email!


Image: Hipster Mum via Unsplash

Stephanie Holland
Stephanie Holland

I'm a strategist & traveler obsessed with thriving on all levels and helping fellow entrepreneurs launch their ideas with more ease, vision and likelihood of success.