Apr 13, 2011 –
Homepreneurs by nature are small businesses, often with a single employee/owner or small staff depending on business needs. Some are content to remain small, avoiding direct conflict with major competitors. Other Homepreneurs have goals that are somewhat loftier: to grow and become major players in a given market niche.
Growth, larger, and bigger tends to connote money, and many times lots of it, doesn’t it? Not necessarily, writes Steve Strauss. Several key decisions including joint ventures, big clientele, and shoestring marketing don’t necessarily cost much, but may provide big returns. Of course, extra time, effort, and a little risk is required, but running a business – regardless of size – requires time, effort and risk. Why not incorporate some of Strauss’ suggestions and potentially grow quite a bit for little money. Your efforts may not succeed of course, but valuable lessons are learned during the process.
But what about the opposite? Consider that your efforts might succeed and bring your business to a higher level. Wouldn’t that be a nice bonus to your self-esteem and pocketbook?
By Steve Strauss
If there is anything that small business people want more than growth, it’s growth without spending much money—although, while we are at it, a little more time in the day wouldn’t be so bad either, right?
Large companies want this too, of course, but it’s less of a concern; big budgets and all.
The good news is that you need not spend a fortune to grow your business. There are plenty of ways to do it. The trick is to take the time, try a few of these out, see what works, and then double down on those.
Here are six ways to grow on the cheap to get you started:
1. Use shoestring marketing
I do a lot of public speaking, and “Shoestring Marketing” is by far my most popular topic. In this talk, I share about 20 different ways to inexpensively market your business. Here are a few:
- Overnight radio: Especially if yours is a B to B business, radio should be part of your marketing mix. But it sure can be expensive—upwards of $500 a minute during drive time. The solution is overnight radio. That same ad might cost $25 at night, and the reach on a major station is not dissimilar to what you would get on a regular station during the day.
- Co-op ads: My dad used to have a billboard on the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles that read, “Carpet World—Elegance Underfoot. Featuring Ban-Lon Carpets.” Ban-Lon paid for most of that ad. That’s co-op advertising. Check with your wholesaler or distributor to see if they have a co-op program. I bet they do.
- Pay-per-click: Why pay for a bunch of eyeballs to see your ad when most will never buy from you? The beauty of pay-per-click is that only very targeted, highly likely to buy people will click on your link. You don’t pay for looky-loos, and that saves you money.
2. Get bigger clients
Want more money? Then do the same work for bigger clients with bigger needs and bigger budgets who pay bigger money.
Example: I have a pal who sells real estate. When the downturn in the market came, after initially panicking, he decided that if he was going to be working less because there were fewer deals to be had, then he needed bigger clients to make up the difference. So instead of houses, he switched to investment properties and slowly but surely started to list and sell four-plexes, mini malls and the like. He actually ended up making more money than before.
3. Joint ventures
Sure, you can keep doing the same ‘ol thing. And you will get the same ‘ol results. But consider: What if you reached out to some businesses similar to yours and decided to do a project or joint marketing effort? Here’s what might happen:
- You will double the exposure of your business to the other company’s customer base; customers you would not otherwise reach.
- You will cut your budget in half as you will be jointly sharing the cost
4. Get some no-cost, up front help
You are probably overworked, most small business people are. But even so, the common lament is that we cannot afford the help we need. Hooey! Here’s how to remedy that one, and grow in the process:
Hire a commissioned salesperson: You don’t pay them until they get results and make you some money.
Bring in interns: I have a pal who used to run his whole business using nothing but interns.
Get a board of advisors: I was recently asked to be a board member for a friend’s business. Twice a year we will meet (by phone) and give her some free help. In return, I will get her help with my business.
Hire an independent contractor: You don’t have to pay for benefits, and you only pay for the time actually worked.
5. Get free publicity
Getting a story out there about your business—be it on TV, radio or online—pays multiple rewards, for years. You can post it on your website and use it in your marketing. Whenever I write about a business for my USA TODAY column, I make sure that the person knows he or she can and should use it in their marketing. How valuable is that? “As seen in USA TODAY!”
6. Create new recipes
You have a recipe for success; all small business people do. It might be an ad that always pulls or a social media strategy. But the problem for most small business people is that they come up with one or two recipes…and then stop. That’s the mistake.
Does Amazon just sell books these days? Of course not. That recipe worked so well that Amazon duplicated it in many other ideas. That’s the ticket.
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior USATODAY.com small business columnist and author of 15 books, his latest is the best-selling Small Business Bible. Steve is also a lawyer and public speaker and speaks around the world about entrepreneurship, including a recent visit to the United Nations. He has been on CNN, CNBC, The O’Reilly Factor, and is a regular guest on MSNBC’s Your Business. You can visit him online at www.MrAllBiz.com or follow him at www.Twitter.com/SteveStrauss.