Zero Budget Marketing: Growth Hacking, Guerrilla Marketing, and More Buzzy Marketing Tactics (FS126)

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Episode 126: Zero Budget Marketing: Growth Hacking, Guerrilla Marketing, and More Buzzy Marketing Tactics (FS126)

In this episode, we take a question from a listener, mold it a bit to fit our broader audience, and then dive deep on how to grow a company (and when you know it’s time to focus on growth).

If you prefer reading over listening (or just want to refer back to the concepts), read on to learn more about zero-budget marketing.

Tim from GetUpShop.com asks:

If you were running this business in Asia and only had $1000 a month to spend on marketing, what would you do to drive traffic and grow the business?

I’ve been considering:

  • Facebook Ads and/or Google Adwords targeting specific artists and countries, then sending them to an artist specific landing page.

  • Marketplaces: using apps to sell on places like Ebay, Amazon, Wanelo, Rakuten. Hoping fans will already be searching for their favourite bands there.

This is my side project, so it’s majorly bootstrapped… [ ] Thanks again for your time.

We took this and spun it: if we wanted to grow from making our first $1 online to making a full time income without a marketing budget… how would we do it?

Before we dive into the growth process we talked about in this episode, let’s cover two approaches to zero-budget marketing: growth hacking and guerrilla marketing.

What is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is a term coined by Sean Ellis, founder of GrowthHackers.com, in this article from back in 2010. It came from his frustration in trying to find someone to help him in “finding scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to grow the business.”

As Sean put it, “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.” A growth hacker might have a variety of skillsets, but, “The common characteristic seems to be an ability to take responsibility for growth and an entrepreneurial drive (it’s risky taking that responsibility).”

So growth hacking is about finding effective ways of growing your company – it puts aside traditional, dogmatic marketing in favor of finding the fastest ways to grow a company.

Growth hacking necessarily comes after finding product-market fit in your company. Or, in other words, proving that your target market actually wants or better yet, needs, what you’re selling. Only once you’ve proven that your product(s) are a great fit for your market can you reallly take advantage of growth hacking principles.

A few other things to know about growth hacking:

  • It’s an approach to growing a company that takes advantage of a low or zero-dollar marketing budget.
  • It’s data-driven; rather than driven by intuition, growth hackers focus on metrics to know what works best.
  • It’s experimental; growth hackers focus on generating hypotheses about how to grow the company and then test those hypotheses with experiments.
  • It’s cyclical; growth hackers find what works, use that strategy to grow as much as possible and then start over with new experiments.
  • It’s open-minded; growth hackers are constantly looking for the next frontier of new growth opportunities.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla marketing as a concept predates growth hacking by 25+ years. Jay Conrad Levinson popularized the term with the original book, Guerrilla Marketing, first published in 1984.

As Levinson puts it in the book, “Traditional marketing has always maintained that to market properly, you must invest money. Guerrilla marketing maintains that if you want to invest money, you can — but you don’t have to if you are willing to invest time, energy, imagination, and information.”

Not only that, but Levinson says it’s also about the tools: “Traditional marketing identifies the heavy weapons of marketing: radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, and the Internet. Guerrilla marketing identifies two hundred weapons of marketing, and many of them are free.”

So in other words, “Guerilla Marketing” and “Growth Hacking” aren’t all that different. They’re just two terms used to talk about an unconventional approach to marketing and growth that doesn’t require you to spend thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars per month.

The key to both concepts is this: the best growth process is one that embraces constraints and uses creativity, time, and new ideas to generate growth for your company.

On that note, let’s talk growth process…

How to Create a Growth Process

If you’re going to embrace the best of both growth hacking and guerilla marketing, then you’ll need a process to be most effective. In this episode we outline the process we use (and that we’ve seen work for many other companies):

  1. Set a growth milestone – Every cycle of growth needs a north star. This could be a revenue target, a new customer number, or another metrics that matters. The point: you need a way to know when you’ve reached your target and it’s time to set the next.

  2. Decide whether to build new products – Once you have a growth milestone defined, you have to make a decision: can you reach your milestone with the products you’ve already built? If not, you may have to build a new product to complement the others. If so, keep going.

  3. Decide what growth channels to use – Which of the 19 growth channels will you use to reach your milestone? Will you continue using channels you’ve already been using? Or will you try one or more new channels?

  4. Brainstorm growth experiments – For each channel you’re considering to reach your next milestone, you need to brainstorm potential experiments. This starts by determining which sub-channels you’ll use (if social media is your channel, Twitter would be a sub-channel). Then, you’ll want to form a hypothesis around each potential experiment: “If I do this…. then this will happen.”

  5. Choose five experiments and execute – Rate each of your brainstormed ideas based on Feasability, Impact and Time. Then rank them by aggregate score. Choose the top five potential experiments based on your rankings and move forward with those.

  6. Decide which channels to use to reach your growth milestone – As you run experiments, you’ll gather data on what’s working (and how well it’s working). Once you complete the five experiments, decide which (if any) would be able to fuel your growth to the next milestone. Then focus on those.

  7. Rinse and repeat – Each time you reach a new milestone, it’s time to start back at the beginning of the growth process.

This should give you a simple seven-step process for growing your independent business. And it all comes from a zero-budgeting marketing approach, pulling tactics from both growth hacking and guerrilla marketing.


To learn more about growth hacking and guerrilla marketing, check out some of the following resources:

Growth Hacking:

Guerrilla Marketing:


What has been your marketing or growth process in the past? What questions do you have about growth hacking, guerrilla marketing, or zero-budget marketing tactics? Let us know in the comments!

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Claire Pelletreau
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