When you’re building a business from your parent’s garage and eating ramen noodles every night, the prospect of spending big bucks on marketing can make launching a successful startup feel completely out of reach.
Growth hacking tends to work best for startups who have plenty of creative talent, but lack the financial resources for a traditional marketing and advertising campaign. And because growth hacking primarily takes advantage of digital marketing resources, it’s a best fit for companies whose products and audiences will primarily connect online.
Here are three different growth hacks with a track record of strong results regardless of a company’s particular product or niche:
1. The Free Starter
You’ve seen this first hack so many times, you’ll be shocked you didn’t think of it yourself. From Netflix and Hulu to Dropbox, Freshbooks, and more—many companies have successfully gained new customers by giving away their product for free and letting it sell itself.
This model succeeds on the premise that once a customer tries your product, they won’t be able to live without it. Entertainment companies like Netflix use a “first month free model” to draw users in, getting them addicted to a service they’ll later be willing to pay for.
For B2B companies, offering a limited version of the service (such as Dropbox’s free 2GB basic plan) lets users try your product before buying. Once the product becomes an integrated part of a company’s business operations, it will seem more worthwhile to spend the cash on expanding the service.
2. The Exclusive Invite
This hack taps into the basic premise of supply and demand—limiting the available supply of a product makes the demand for that product go up. But since most online startups don’t involve the supply limitations of a physical product, supply limits have to be established artificially.
Companies like Pinterest have created this supply-limit perception through an invite-only program. In its early days, Pinterest was usable by invitation only. Users could request an invite and then be put on a “waitlist” to receive entry. This created the perception that “being on Pinterest” was an honor bestowed on a select few—surging demand for the relatively unknown social platform.
3. The Two-Sided Referral
We all know that word of mouth is the best form of advertising there is. It’s cheap, and it not only increases brand awareness, but comes with an understood recommendation. That’s why startups like Uber have been hugely successful with implementing a two-sided referral program.
In this set-up, when a new user tries a product on recommendation from an established customer, both parties receive a credit toward future purchases. The credit both incentivizes word of mouth referrals and encourages the existing customer to come back for more.
Whether you’re a brand-new startup, or an established small business needing a jolt to your customer base, growth hacking is a great way to make the most of your marketing dollars.
Why not try a free starter model, an invite-only beta testing period, or an incentivized referral program to boost your company’s growth? With relatively low implementation costs and huge potential rewards, there’s no reason not to growth hack your business’s future. What do you have to lose?
This article first appeared on Forbes.com