How to Grow Your Business Online and On the Budget
Not so long ago it was almost impossible to even think about starting a business without huge financial investments. Luckily, the Internet era has changed the rules of the business game and nowadays you can start and grow your business online successfully without devastating consequences on your budget. A brilliant business idea, persistence, and willingness to learn can take you far for real. If the question of how to grow your business makes you anxious and you are worried that you couldn’t keep up the pace with your competitors just by using free tools and tactics, bear in mind that you need to outsmart not outspend the big guys.
But, even if your budget doesn’t pose any limits on you, it is always a good idea to explore all the possibilities for growing your business online for free, instead of immediately spending money on proven digital marketing strategies. Apart from helping you grow your business, these free tools and tactics will also help you determine more easily and precisely how to use your budget for business in the future, when you have more funds to invest.
To help you create a smart strategy to grow your business online and on the budget, we collected some of the best approaches in one place, but first, we’ll explore the directions in which you can grow your business:
There are generally four types of growth strategies that can help you identify what is the next step you should take for your business to grow. They are based on the so-called ANSOFF model that considers growth in two ways – through products and through market. These strategies imply developing your business in different directions and can give you an idea of how your business can change over time.
This strategy includes various actions that have the same goal – to increase sales of existing products or services in existing markets. This way your market share increases and your business grows accordingly. The most often used tactics for this strategy to succeed are delicate product refinements, subtle price decreases, acquisition of a competitor in the same market, and all kinds of promotional activities that get you a wider reach.
This strategy implies exploring new markets for selling your products/services. You need to analyze how you can sell the company’s offer in new markets. If, for example, you are selling notebooks mostly for the school population, maybe you can make some kind of deal with schools and similar institutions and arrange a wholesale deal with them. You may also want to consider entering the market in another country or region.
One of the riskiest strategies, diversification, refers to launching new products and/or services in new markets. This can hardly be done with a limited budget but we’re mentioning it just to give you food for thought.
There are three types of diversification – vertical, horizontal, and conglomerate. Vertical diversification is when a company aims to take share in the supply chain, either by taking over a supplier or the customers. The horizontal is when it starts offering complementary products – a shoe company starts selling shoelaces for example. And conglomerate refers to developing entirely new products or services that are in no way similar, technologically or commercially with current products, but which may be attractive to new target groups.
Now that you understand the four directions in which your business can develop and grow, let’s go through the most effective growth tactics and strategies that require not much more than your willingness and time.
There’s hardly a tool, tactic, or strategy that can replace the absence of quality content. Quality content attracts and keeps your target audience interested, allowing you to grow your business naturally. Investing in a business blog will surely bring you both short and long-term benefits. It gives you a chance to tell more about your products and services, to tell your story, and share opinions on different subjects related to your business. Make sure you choose topics that are relevant to your target audience and explore them thoroughly. This way you will eventually establish yourself as an authority in the area and that means you will have constant and stable growth of your reach.
By investing in your blog you are also increasing your chances of showing up in search results. Creating content that is worth linking and sharing signals value to search engines, helping your site rank better.
A high-quality content strategy also includes other elements apart from blog posts and text – all the visual elements that are a part of your website play a significant role in how your content will be perceived by site visitors.
Setting up social media profiles is completely free and can be done in literally a couple of minutes. If you already have a well-devised content strategy in place, it will be even easier for you to establish a meaningful social media presence. You can start by sharing the content from your website, and when you get to feel the pulse of your audience it will be easy for you to understand what kind of content drives the attention of your target group. By staying active on relevant social networks you will organically build and raise brand awareness. You will also engage and establish a relationship with your audience which are all great things for growing your business and generating sales and leads. Plus, this doesn’t have to cost you any money at all.
If you find social media works great for your business, you can also boost results by investing in social media advertising. The great thing about social media advertising is that it will never cost you more than how much you wanted to spend on it.
Last but not least, let’s not forget how creative you can allow yourself to be on social media – however formal or business tone of communication you have to nurture on your website, social media allows you to loosen up a bit.
Although it may take a little time to get familiar with SEO practices, running any website without them in mind may as well be futile. The search engine is where a huge majority of online experiences begin so it is essentially important to employ all the best SEO practices right from the very start. There are many excellent SEO tools, both free and premium, that will help you both learn and implement SEO on your website. While the results that you get from quality SEO are pretty permanent, it still doesn’t mean you will achieve them quickly. SEO is a long-term game and you have to be ready to wait until you reap the first results. But, once you manage to establish a good ranking, it will take much less effort and time on a daily level to preserve it. The competition is so harsh that even the most amazing content will not do as well as you would expect unless you created it with SEO practices in mind.
Email marketing is a very powerful way for building strong customer relationships. It allows you to communicate with potential customers in a more personalized manner which, according to many stats, is a very important factor for increasing sales. The first thing you need to do to get started is to have a reliable email marketing tool (Mailchimp, MailerLite, and similar) in place. Email is your chance to offer added value to your subscribers, make sure you share relevant and interesting information in it and don’t just push sales. Educate and amuse your subscribers, nurture your relationship with them and eventually, it will feel natural for them to convert.
There’s often a misconception about influencer marketing – many believe it is an expensive marketing strategy. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be. The most famous influencers, those big names of the online world, are indeed often very expensive in terms of cooperation for marketing purposes. But, the thing is, people are more likely to believe micro-influencers who are often willing to cooperate for a way more affordable cost, and still get you great results. It is only important to find and recognize those small, local influencer celebrities who speak to your target audiences and come up with an attractive idea for cooperation. Sometimes, you will not even have to offer a fee, they will be happy to get to try your products/services for free. Even the big brands are often more interested in cooperating with a large number of micro-influencers than in investing huge funds in just one because they know the audience is much more likely to believe the message that micro-influencers send out.
Website design provides structure to your content and greatly influences user experience. Apart from choosing a WordPress theme that is aesthetically appealing and in line with your business needs, the right website template can significantly streamline your business processes. Niche-specific WordPress templates typically come with all the functionalities your type of business needs so you don’t have to invest extra effort in securing safe payments, online reservations, appointment bookings, creating contact forms, and similar services for your clients. A functional, well-designed website provides a safe space for your visitors to get in touch with you, explore your products/services and eventually make purchases. Don’t get fooled into thinking that a theme that ticks all the boxes must be pricey – there are beautiful, high quality WordPress templates, like Qi theme, that are made by professionals and have all that you need to create a perfectly functional and visually stunning website.
Google Analytics is a treasure of valuable information about your target groups and your website performance and considering the fact its basic version is free, it would be insane not to use it for your business. Though it is a bit robust and might take some time to get to know how to use it, it surely is a great tool that can bring you many benefits. With Google Analytics, you can easily learn about the number of visitors that come to your site, their behavior on your pages as well as where they are coming from. To avoid feeling overwhelmed with all the Google Analytics features and possibilities, if you are a new user it is a good idea to explore a comprehensive guide to using it.
Trust is an engine that drives sales. Getting your customers to trust you requires long-term effort, but there are a few hacks that can boost your credibility. Social proof is one of those easy, yet amazingly efficient tactics used both by big brands and small businesses. It is based on a psychological assumption that people tend to conform to the actions of other people as they believe those actions reflect the desired, correct behavior. Social proof is abundantly used in marketing and you can employ it quite easily and without spending a dime. You can do well just by sharing customer testimonials, subscriber counts, and other relevant stats that may impress your target audience.
Showing up in Google Maps results is a great way to advertise your business locally. Google is getting better and better at customizing its results to the location of the searcher so why not use this free listing to your advantage. For this to work, you need to verify ownership of your listing via your free Google My Business account. Then, you can even optimize your listing to rank better in search results and to show up in more relevant searches. This way, you are actually promoting your business 24/7, and entirely for free, in front of your local audience at a time when they already have high intent.
Finding non-competitive small businesses that have a similar target group and forming partnerships with them can easily turn into a very creative endeavor that brings many benefits. Once you manage to connect and establish cooperation you can cross-promote each other’s products and services, offer discounts and coupons for every customer that uses the services/products of your partner, and design similar lucrative offers that are great for both of you. You can connect with your business partner on social media too and establish all kinds of online cross-promotions.
Your website may easily become a kind of a learning platform, a go-to resource for any topic that’s relevant to your business. Especially so if you already have a strong content strategy in place. You will easily map the topics that raise the most interest and then you can create online events like free webinars and workshops where you can communicate directly with your target audience and get recognized as an expert in the field, apart from subtly advertising your services and/or products. This way you will also get to know more about your target audience which will help you devise more efficient marketing strategies in the future too.
Who doesn’t love a freebie! Use your social media accounts across different networks to amuse, attract and engage with your audience by hosting contests, quizzes, giveaways, and similar events that result in giving away your products/services for free to the chosen ones. Keep your audience constantly anticipating new surprises by making these kinds of events a part of your regular social media routine. With the help of the right giveaway plugin or gamification tool, you can do it both easily and elegantly.
However effective all these tactics are, growing a business is a long-term process that you should think about right from the very start. You need to decide how and in which direction you want to grow to be able to choose the best growth strategies for you. And although this goes without mentioning, knowing your target audience is essential for any kind of business growth. If you don’t know who your loyal consumers are, what they like about you, and how you won them over you’ll hardly be able to acquire new consumers too, and it will surely affect your business growth in every sense possible.