When you are starting a web-based company, there is no greater sign of accomplishment than watching your page counter start cranking. But how do you get it cranking when on a start-up's budget?
The secret is to market in stages.
If you can't afford a mass marketing campaign to get those hits rolling in, then there are a few tricks and secrets to getting enough traffic to get ball rolling. First thing is to exhaust all free advertising avenues. Why pay for something you can get for free, right? Well, as with all things, you typically get what you pay for, so don't think that you can run your site on freebies alone.
Exchange links. Target websites in same market, but are not in direct competition. Prepare banners of several sizes and background colors to accommodate your proposed web partners. You'll have more luck with exchange if website already contains banners or a links page. Don't expect a website to change their format just to accept your link. Focus on sites with moderate traffic that appear to have a bit of advertising on them. They'll be more likely to cooperate with an exchange.
Search engines. This is #1 way that public will find your site. Don't neglect importance of search results. Be aware of methods used by search engines. Something that may be helpful in your listing on one search engine may work against you on another. There are also several websites (such as www.addme.com) that will add your site to multiple search engines simultaneously for free. Don't be impatient, though. Many search engines are over run with submissions, so getting a listing in 3 or 4 weeks is not uncommon.
Newsgroups. Find related newsgroups and get your name known. You can either do a post describing your sale items or services, or you can just be a newsgroup regular and become resident expert.
Now that you are up and running, you should have enough traffic to financially support your next marketing wave.
Advertise on key websites. These are high traffic webpages that were out of reach for link exchanges; ones marketed towards same consumers without being your competition.