7 Ways to Grow Your Business Without Spending Any Money

I recently overheard a business owner lamenting that he was spending over $1,400 a month on Yellow Pages advertising with little to show for it. I don’t know what his definition of ‘little to show for it’ was and I don’t think he did either. But, in his next breath, I heard him say that he’s ‘got to do it’ to stay in front of his prospects.

You definitely want to stay in front of your prospects. But, the sad and scary truth is that in today’s economy you can’t afford guesswork. Instead, you must think of every dollar you spend in your business as an investment. As such, you should demand the highest return on your investment possible.

Here’s 7 ways to get just that without spending any money:

1) Measure Everything
Don’t operate on generalities. You’re not a big company that can afford to drop two million dollars on a Super Bowl ad just to make people laugh but doesn’t generate any measurable business.
Know, down to the percentage point, how each marketing activity performs. Doing anything else is like throwing darts in a pitch black room. Sure, you might hit a bulls-eye, but you’ll never know it.
Example: Yellow Pages ads can be measured with a phone number and extension. When that extension rings you know it’s coming from your Yellow Pages ad. On your website install Google Analytics (it’s free) to monitor where your visitors are coming from, which pages they visit, for how long, etc. On newspaper or trade magazine advertisements direct the prospect to a free report on your website. There are all sorts of ways to measure how an ad is performing. The simpler the better.

2) Maximize
Measuring may be boring, but it lays the groundwork for the next, profitable step: maximizing.
Example: One client had a newsletter on their website. First, they started measuring how many visitors were coming to their website (which they weren’t doing to start with). Then, they maximized.
They tested a one word change on the opt-in page for the newsletter. It increased subscriptions over 20%. This one word change resulted in a five figure revenue increase that year.

The great part is, this is just one area. Imagine what is possible when you start getting 10% to 20% improvements in dozens of areas of your business? You don’t need breakthroughs; you just need incremental improvements in numerous areas. It’s this kind of thinking that allows you to double in a year or two when your competition is still trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

3) Joint Ventures
Where do your potential customers and prospects congregate, what hobbies do they have, etc?
Example: Disney knew their customers (kids and parents) ate fast food. They went to McDonalds and made a no risk deal that benefited both parties: let’s put a toy in the Happy Meal. Now, if a kid gets a Happy Meal but hasn’t seen the movie the toy might prompt the child to ask Mommy to go see the movie, then buy the DVD. Or, vice-versa, child has seen movie but knows he can get the action figure only by getting a Happy Meal.

As a small business, these deals are just as profitable and even easier to put together.

4) Proactive Referral Program
You’re probably rolling your eyes right now. After all, nothing new about asking for referrals, right? Except, one problem. Most small businesses think they ask for referrals but they do it very reactively – not proactively. Getting your current, satisfied customers to act as your motivated sales force may be the most profitable thing you can do for your business. And it costs nothing other than asking.
Example: I have seen companies grow tremendously by offering financial incentives for referrals. It can be very effective but, back to rule number one, you must measure and know your numbers before you implement this plan. If this is out of your comfort zone, simply make it a policy to ask every current satisfied customer for two referrals. Experiment and measure with how you ask and the results you get.

5) Handle Prospects More Effectively
Does this ring a bell? You’re browsing through racks of clothes and a store clerk rep comes up to you and asks you if you need help. You probably reply, “No, thanks.  I’m just looking.” And the clerk responds, “Well, if you need anything, I’ll be right over there.”

Example: The clerk should have said, “I understand. I would like to let you know though, that we offer once a week preferred customer sales where the store is opened to our preferred customers one day early to offer significant sales before we advertise to the general public.  We also put preferred customers names in a weekly giveaway drawing. What email address could I send that too?”
It took me 39 seconds to come up with an improved script. Not perfect, but it costs nothing to test and you’ll undoubtedly get better results and build your customer/prospect base.

6) Pay for Results – Not Advertising
Example:  a client was having trouble getting word out about his business. So he decided to advertise on his local grocery stores bags.

I instead advised him to go to the grocery store owner and give him 100% of his first sale. Crazy? Only if you don’t know your numbers. Now, the client had a very strong back end so he would make his money down the road and he only paid for results. The grocery store owner would make a lot more than what he was being paid for the bag advertisements. A win, win for both parties.

7) Think Outside the Box
The reason 80% of businesses fail in five years is because they’re blindly following what those 80% of businesses are doing. If you want different (better) results – you have to do things differently.
Examples: Fast food restaurants revolutionized their business when they looked at banks and discovered the drive-thru. Netflix revolutionized movies and put Blockbuster and the like out of businesses by looking at the Post Office and Fed-Ex – permitting front door delivery of movies. Then, they looked at iTunes and saw that streaming movies online were the next thing.

Remember, if you operate by industry ‘norms’ you get, by definition, normal results.

Curtis M. Alexander is a Business Growth Strategist and helps small and medium-sized Montana businesses uncover under-appreciated business assets to immediately increase revenues, cut marketing costs and formulate and implement strategic plans for business growth.  For more how to information go to his website www.curtismalexander.com