John Belchamber
John Belchamber Owner & Senior Consultant at Invoke Results

Asked this question on 9/8/13 -Digital Marketing

How do you spend a $500 marketing budget for a new website?

Marketing Challenge: You've got $500 to promote a new specialised marketplace & community website. How would you use this limited budget and your time to attract sellers to sell products in your marketplace and buyers to participate in the community social site and buy from the marketplace?

Top voted answer
James Norquay

James Norquay Consulting Director at

Top 10% Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Marketplace sites are one of the hardest types of sites to promote to be honest.

With $500, I would do a give away to get members to sign up that way. Example sign up to our site and have a chance at winning $500 or an iPad or something similar to that, some times people just like the money.

But then again you need to promote the give away, you can do that on forums, ozbargin style sites. 

Or you could even pay people to sign up at a $1 CPA (500 sign ups) but how engaged are they, I saw some trying to do that recently as well. 

Or you could do something creative with the competition where people upload a video online for example..

John Belchamber

Great thoughts thank you James.
So you think one would use the $500 as an incentive rather than for advertising purposes?

James Norquay

But the thing is with 500 you need to be smart if thats all you have, if you advertise what are you going to do? Adwords at $1 a click? 500 clicks? 10% conversion rate on sign up you get 50 sign ups or less. Newspaper you might get 50 visits or less as offline is expensive. Facebook ads who do you target people who like eBay in Australia? Throw $500 on SEO might get you 5-10 hours with a consultant who will try and get some traction. Sorry I think in maximum benefit ideas.

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Brian Jo

Brian Jo General Manager at Stools & Chairs

I find giveaways, especially when you are starting out, of very little use. You get a very low quality type of consumer/customer and you only get their email/like/visit as they want your giveaway. They either sign up with a fake email, fake fb account, and /or unlike you afterwards - i've had experience with this.


If I were to startup a website, i would throw the $500 into adwords. From my website, i was chugging along at a low number of uniqes a day - once i started a small adwords campaign ($200 - $100 of my own money and 100 of the promo credit adwords give), not only did i get more visits, but i had more visits even after my credit ran out. I think it gives google a better chance to crawl your site and gives you a little more authority.

John Belchamber

Thanks Brian, one does get teh feeling that so much revolves around what you do with google's various tools these days.

Joanne Law

With Google you don't need to limit your budget to $500. Use the $500 to work out what response rate you get. I.e how many of your click through people buy? Then work out what % of sales you want to spend on future sales and run it. We've got a reasonably high priced product aprox $1,000 with potential follow Legal representation. It generates about 2 - 3 jobs a week on a cost of about $300 a month. You don't have to limit your thinking to $500 if your customers pay you money you use to get more customers

Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Top 10% Social Media

This is a pretty fun question to answer, but it will all depend on what business you are running :) I would most likely take my $500 and use it to advertise my product on a targeted email list (one that has my exact target market) to test my product. If I can't purchase access to the whole list I will most likely ask for a segment. Enough to test conversion rates and lead costs/cost per acquisition.

This effort can hopefully make me enough money to try this same strategy again on another targeted email list :), and it goes on :)

John Belchamber

Thanks Wendy, it's been excellent to get such qualitty responses from the SAVVYsme Community.
I've asked the same question across several social media forums and the response ehre has been amongst teh best.

Bridget Holland

Bridget Holland Director at

Top 10% Offline and Direct Marketing

My gut feel is Adwords may work better for Brian than Jo.  There is a market of people out there who are actively researching or looking to buy stools and chairs, and there are some fairly obvious keywords (especially if you add locations).  A new community or marketplace on the other hand is not something people are actively seeking out, and dependent on the niche it may be tough to get the right keywords.

I like the idea of an incentive but agree it needs promoting.

Dependent on the niche, possibly use $300 on to get some web research done finding contact details of buyers / sellers / community members.  (One of my clients just got 700 companies researched for around this amount, including contact names, which you may or may not need depending on market niche).  Then send targeted emails to these companies with all of the offers relevant to each company:

* tell sellers they can list for free.  The only cost to them is time to list and they might get business, so this should get a good response.

* if you have forums run a competition / incentive for the best community contributor before a specific deadline (6-8 weeks from email date).  This helps you get content on the site, which helps SEO in the longer run.  You could ask for contributions on specific topics to try and get specific keywords into the content submitted.  If you make it 'best contributor' it also encourages people to submit / post more than once.  (Hint - make sure you encourage anyone who does contribute by sending thanks and posting responses and so on!)

* give buyers an incentive to register.  Chance to win a gift pack of champagne and chocs, which you can easily do with the remaining $200.  Or a $200 voucher to RedBalloonDays, or something else which suits your target audience.  Extra entry into draw if you refer a seller who also signs up.

If your business model permits you could also incentivise with a discount off first purchase (x% up to a maximum amount per order) for a limited time.  If you can swallow this in reduced margin rather than have to take it out of your $500 budget,  you get more money for your online lead research.


If your buyers are consumers rather than businesses, you can't research them this way, but it still works for sellers.  One option for this is to find some sites with a demographic which overlaps your target market and offer a reward (CPA, commission on first sales etc) to promote you.  Also make it easy for any buyers who do sign up to refer you.  Social media sharing, as part of signup ask them to let others know about the site etc.


John Belchamber

Thank you for this excellent response. There is certainly a lot of great ideas and food for thought here!

I like the way you've used teh budget across research adn ddelivery... and extended through promotions. Thank you :)

Bridget Holland

John you are welcome. It's always hard when there isn't a lot of cash, and unfortunately it normally needs replacing with sheer hard legwork as well as smarts. Be interested to see what you opt to do and how it works out.

Brian Jo

Brian Jo General Manager at Stools & Chairs

I found tracking converting visitors quite tough. Often one might find my site through a CPC, and then go away to think about it, come back on another ip with a direct search of my website or bookmark and convert and it doesnt show as a CPC conversion. All i know is, when i throw money into adwords, my revenue does increase for the product keywords im targeting. At this stage of my business im happy to go along with this however i know i need to refine this strategy.


Ivana Katz

Ivana Katz Owner at

Top 10% Web Development

Great question John.  This is a problem that most small business owners face.

Sadly, $500 doesn't get you very far these days.  Sure one can spend money on PPC, but when that runs out, where do you go from there?  I would say majority of small business owners do not understand how to choose the best keywords for their campaigns and even if they do, oftentimes their websites are not set up to convert visitors to paying customers.

So I would recommend investing in education and learning about online marketing.  There are plenty of great websites, which offer training courses - and are two I've come across.  Once you understand what options you have, you can make a wiser decision where to invest your marketing dollars.

John Belchamber

Thanks Ivana, a good suggestion...teach yourself how to fish with the money you might have bought a fish with!