So you’ve finally realised your dream of starting your own business.

You’ve invested your life savings, or received funding from family or friends, and now that the business is up and running, you’re finding that there’s very little or no budget for marketing your business.

Sound familiar?

Fortunately, we’re living in the digital era and with the number of South African consumers accessing the internet increasing daily, online marketing is probably the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tool an entrepreneur possesses in their arsenal.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide business owners with a cost-effective way to expose their businesses or products to the market.

READ MORE: Strategies to attract your first clients

But it’s not enough to just have a website. In order to optimise your marketing potential, executive coach Pat Roberts says you need to have a clear understanding of your target audience and their online activity patterns, so that you’re able to design a strategy that will help you connect with new potential customers and build relationships with the existing ones.

A good way to do this is by setting up a Google My Business page where you can list the name of your business, physical address, contact details and operating hours.

This will enable your business to be found on Google search, maps and Google+.

Another effective way of marketing your business without breaking the bank is by creating viral-potential multimedia content on YouTube channels.

Viral videos are publicity gold opportunities, so whether it’s humorous, heart-warming or completely bizarre, if you can get a video to go viral, your business is in for a whole lot of free publicity which you can leverage off.

Instead of printing costly business cards, why not consider going paperless with electronic business cards?

People will be able to save your contact details with the click of a button – eliminating the hassle of manually imputing the information – and you can attach your eBusiness card to emails, send it via WhatsApp and upload it onto your website.

READ MORE: How to brand your small business

The reality is that marketing is a critical component to the success of any business –particularly for start-ups still trying to establish themselves in the market – and there are certain things you shouldn’t skimp on.

Small business expert and Raizcorp CEO Allon Raiz says if there are two marketing tools every start-up should invest in, it’s a leave-behind brochure and a proposal template.

“Keep it simple, but focus on highlighting your company’s unique selling proposition. It should leave a lasting impression with the reader about what your company does and the services it offers,” he advises.

Invest in a well-designed, customisable proposal template – from the start – that you can use to quickly pull together detailed proposals for specific clients.