The Internet has made it easier than ever to start a business. A simple idea can spur disruptive empires seemingly overnight. Even the oddest ideas have merit as you’re bound to find an audience somewhere out there on the Web.
The ease of starting a business is equally shared with your competition. It often turns out that your ideas aren’t as unique as you thought. Even now, you may be finding new competitors racing to your market that wasn’t there yesterday.
You also have global brands pumping millions into their ads & marketing campaigns. It seems like building a successful business is a long-shot, doesn’t it? In some ways, it can be, unless you know how to grow your local business.
The faster you grow and reach the market, the better chances you’ll have competing against these startups and global brands.
Don’t know how to start learning and apply growth strategies? Follow along as we get into a collection of our best ideas and strategies.
Creating a Lean, Mean, Growth Machine
You’re in a fantastic position as a small, local business:
- Smaller operational costs
- Fewer management headaches
- Hyped workforce and outlook
You’re lean. You’re agile. You’re a go-getter.
You don’t have bureaucracy sabotaging your efforts. You control the direction and keep each marketing attempt succinct and affordable.
Here is the point saying all of this:
- Don’t feel obligated continuing a technique if it isn’t working out
- Fail fast and learn from the mistakes, then move onto the next
Now, consider each of the following items below for your growth efforts. Keep these items in mind moving forward with your campaigns and business goals.
How to Grow Your Local Business the Smart, Affordable Way
Every growth strategy involves some investment. Since many small businesses don’t have big budgets, they’ll make it affordable by DIY learning and doing.
Most of the following growth strategies you can start today. Or, at the very least, you can lay the foundation to let someone else later take over.
Try at least every item mentioned below.
1. Tell People About Your Business
Don’t feel shy about promoting your business. You’re not “slimy” when pitching people you know. Tell everyone you can about the business if they show any semblance of interest.
Try sharing the business pitch via:
- Meetups and Events
- Phone Calls and Emails
- Social Media and Messaging
Use all those platforms you use day-to-day, too. If it gives you a voice then use it to get your business and brand out there!
2. Get Fans/Customers Telling People About It
Get your fans and customers talking about the business. Encourage them to refer people to your business. Or, incentivize it with discounts or revenue share.
Here is a 4-step process of the revenue share method:
- Set up a referral code system on your site or in a spreadsheet
- Pick and contact your best followers/customers, seeing if they’ll take part
- Give each person a unique referral code or phrase they can share
- Offer referral bonuses and incentives for converted leads/sales
Set up a referral system and you’ll have turned fans into a sales force. A lot of people will do it free without the incentive, too, simply because they love your business. It’s like your own promo efforts — have a platform and you’ll notice your message gets spread!
3. Have People Leave Online Business Reviews
90%+ of American adults find businesses through an online search. Google does a great job matching local businesses with local queries. As expected, people looking for your business weigh its reviews found in search.
How can you earn more online reviews? Try these:
- Encouraging it during or after checkout
- Sending a follow-up email or postcard reminder
- Taking to your FB business page, asking for reviews
These take near zero effort but has a lasting impact on growth potential.
Regular, high-rated reviews convince and convert new prospects. Additionally, getting online reviews build trust and even improves search ranking performance. The review also creates a touchpoint you could use in user-generated growth efforts.
This brings us to…
4. Tap Into Your Community for Content Creation
Who knows the intricacies of your products and services more than its users? They’re first to pick apart what you offer, taking to the Web to share opinions. They’re passionate, getting to know the ins and outs of what you sell.
What are customers creating and sharing?
- Online reviews
- Tutorials and guides
Their efforts appear in search engines and garner views. Imagine if those views were on your website where you could include a sales pitch! That’s the power of user-generated content, and it’s possible when you’re open to it.
You can bring on user-generated content (UGC) doing these actions:
- Running contests where users share their reviews and thoughts
- Having followers take and share photos or videos of them and the item
- Allowing content submitted to the business blog as they would their own
Interviews, too, are a fantastic way to begin exploring UGC. Find and connect with a fan, seeing if they’d share their brand experience. Package the work and get it published on your channels, sharing it on social, too.
Before long you’ll notice people coming to you. Have your channels open to it, and you’ll get free, promotional content for your brand.
5. Create Great Content (You’re Proud Of)
Creating killer content is what you really want to do for growth efforts.
Why create content? Well, the benefits are amazing:
- Content can improve your search rankings and website traffic
- It helps establish you as an expert in your industry and niche
- It will connect and build stronger communities (online and offline)
Creating great content comes down to three important elements:
- Settling on an interesting topic to talk about
- Having a stance and tone that makes you unique
- Getting it to the people wanting to hear the message
Now, here’s what you can do:
Create blog posts for the business blog covering product tips. Or, record videos showing how to use your items. Share your expertise so people get informed and feel entertained, and they’ll want to connect with your brand.
A few ideas to get the content started include trying one of these:
- Round-up the top 5 “influencers” in your niche and industry
- Take note of the content they’re creating and their angle
- Find what you could talk about and what makes it different
- Put in the time crafting the piece and exhaust your knowledge into it
- Share it across social media and promotional channels
Yes, it’s that easy when you look at it from a top-level perspective. The nuances change as you get into it — but you’ll get the hang of it!
6. Apply On-Page Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization makes content and web pages shine. It improves search rankings through best practices. Higher organic traffic is the result of a well-maintained SEO campaign.
Here is a simplified on-page SEO process you could replicate:
- Load up a keyword tool like Google Keyword Planner or SEMRush
- Input your niche and industry keywords, identifying what holds interest
- Apply the one primary keyword/phrase to each page’s metadata
- Fill in the page with optimized content using secondary keywords
- Build quality links from relevant sources back to the optimized pages
SEO works best when you’re committed as it can take months to show real results. You can get a win/win by DIYing the content. Then, exploring the advance tactics through expert SEO services (hint, hint).
7. Ask for Insights from Other Professionals
It’s time to make good use of those professional connections. You should network with everyone from supplier to the person delivering your packages.
- Open your contact list and start dialing
- Take to LinkedIn and drop a few messages
- Send out an email to a business group
What’s the point of these contacts? Well, to discover ways you can reduce costs by streamlining operations. They have likely been where you’ve been, and probably have a lot of great information they could impart on you.
8. Start Promoting the Business on Social Media
Do you notice a pattern with the items we’ve already covered? They’re very much aligned with what you’ll do on social media:
- Connecting with followers and customers to build a community
- Tapping your professional network to build strong branding and sales
This just goes to show that social media isn’t a difficult concept. You have the skills to connect and create sales. You just need to learn the platforms.
Your business should be on:
These are great starting points.
You should then do these on each of the social channels:
- Sharing your best content from the business blog
- Starting conversations and discussions about your products
- Interviewing interesting people or being part of an interview
- Posting neat or informative media like photos or videos
- Running promotional or ad campaigns using their built-in ad tools
If you don’t feel comfortable using social media beyond the basics then leverage social media marketing services to make it more professional. Let SMM pros handle the campaigns while you and team do the interactions.
9. Use Print like in the Old Days
Print materials remain an effective way to get your brand known.
You should invest in:
- Business cards
Get these around town by passing them out or leaving them in busy areas.
You can keep a print campaign super cheap by doing the following:
- Go to a design marketplace
- Buy or get free design templates
- Learn basics from design tutorials
- Create business print materials
- Get items printed at a local printer
You can get inexpensive graphic design services through freelance boards. Or, let the in-house team make an attempt at them. You may have someone in your professional network who could do it, too.
10. Start an Online Advertising Campaign
You have a few, cheap ways to explore beginner-friendly advertising:
- Google Ads
- Facebook Ads
- Banner Ads
Start with something super simple like a banner ad on an industry site. You can create these banners using templates or design DIY. Pay the placement fee and you’ll get your brand image on sites people like going to (and sharing).
Feeling up for something more advanced? Try Google Ads.
Here is a basic, 5-step process for starting a Google Ads campaign:
- Set up a Google Ads account
- Find good keywords using the keyword planner
- Create your ad copy (headline, body, link)
- Set the budget and campaign length
- Launch and run the campaign
Keep an eye on the campaign since it can become a wild success or burn your money fast. If you’re hesitant about putting big money on the line, hand it off to a team that does PPC management to optimize campaigns and keep them effective and affordable.
You could try Facebook as a Google Ads alternative — which is a great idea because it gives you a few extra features you may like:
- Fun use of media and graphics
- Robust demographics and targeting
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the banner from the prior campaign with the copy used in the Google Ad. Then, tweak it so it’s applicable on the FB ad platform.
11. Run an Email Marketing Campaign
Set up an email marketing account through services like:
These provide tools to set up autoresponder emails and lists. You’ll also get embed code for opt-in forms you can place on your site.
Create and use a simple email funnel by doing the following:
- Provide an incentive for an email sign up (e.g. ebook or course)
- Deliver the incentive and give people an intro of what to expect
- Drip emails providing content and helpful tips and tricks
- Send out the occasional promotional email for your sales events
- Repeat, using what works and ditch what doesn’t
Treat email the same as you would your business blog. Fill it with great content people want to read and share. And, leverage it to build stronger connections with your audience. This builds awareness and makes selling way easier.
12. Run Contests and Giveaways
Contests and giveaways are great ways to build general brand awareness. Don’t expect great conversion rates in the follow-up pitch. But, do expect a bigger community given you tailor the experience.
Here is a sample contest you could attempt:
- Decide what you’ll offer like your product or service
- Set the rules and outline the entry guidelines
- Design a landing page to collect entries
- Start and begin sharing the contest on social channels
- Keep the excitement going with regular updates
- Conclude the contest, pick, and announce the winner
The goal is to collect contact info so you can do follow-ups. In the follow-ups, you could include coupons or promotional offers. Or, don’t promote and use the opportunity to get people involved in your community.
Keeping Momentum and Realizing Your Success
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far! Your journey is not over, though. In fact, it’s just beginning. You’ll soon realize growth hacking is boundless and that’s a tricky thing because you’ll want to try all the tactics you come across!
We’ve got a few extra growth strategies you’ll want to try. But, do these after you’ve done the previous ones since these are tough.
Combine tactics with business professionals in your niche and work with those in relevant, related industries. See their owners as peers instead of competitors.
Work together exploring similar ideas in these areas:
- Developing a product together
- Exchanging referrals and leads
- Combine resources to grow faster
Draft a joint venture agreement and explore the risks and rewards. As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one!”.
Suggestion: Attend more industry events and build a network.
Let numbers drive decisions by using performance data and analytics.
Your data reveals a trove of valuable insights:
- Market and industry trends
- VIP prospects and customers
- Faults and low-performers
- Exemplary campaigns and tactics
Insights reaffirm “what’s working” so you can do more of it and see more success. It also reveals what’s not working so you can “trim the fat”. This creates an efficient workflow, improving all aspects of your growth efforts.
Suggestion: Explore lean and agile business tactics.
Outsourcing lets someone who knows what they’re doing work on your projects when you’re stumped. This also lets you focus on what you enjoy doing.
There are many areas of your local business you could outsource:
- Administrative duties
- Inbound and outbound marketing
- Fulfillment and logistics
Outsourcing includes a dozen other areas that take up you and your talent’s time. Whole parts of the strategies detailed in this post can get included in outsourcing, too. Combining growth with outsourcing is a smart way to scale.
This brings us to our closing suggestion…
Do you need help growing your business or ready to take it to the next level? You can always work with marketing professionals.
A business has limited runway often dictated by its budget. The breadth of knowledge is another factor in whether it will reach fruition.
Learning how to grow your local business kickstarts your success. It gives you the knowledge to reach business goals while keeping it affordable.
You will find a point where spending your time doesn’t have the same return on investment. You’ll find yourself using up valuable time doing more learning than doing. This means it time to reach out to professionals to fill the skill gap when you hit this point.