Driving awareness for your small business can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. How do you find the time to work on growth when you have all the other aspects of the business to worry about?
The unfortunate thing is that you need to think about growth all the time. The fortunate thing, is that there’s plenty of ways to think about it, and plenty of tactics you can experiment with.
I’ve worked with hundreds of small businesses over the last 10 years, helping them execute everything from the most simple to the most detailed marketing strategies. Most recently I helped setup the SEO product at Australia’s largest marketing services provider for small business. So I understand some of the challenges that many of you have.
28 Great Small Business Growth Marketing Tips
In this guide I’m going to take you through 28 actionable small business growth strategies that you can learn from, and implement in your own business. Not everything here will work for everybody, the key point is that it helps you get into an experimental growth mindset.
1) Understand Your Metrics
Before we even get started you should have a good grasp on what metrics are important to your business. If you’ve read any of our previous posts you’ll know how we like to have one big metric to focus on (for us it’s Monthly Recurring Revenue).
Then we highlight which sub-activities have the biggest impact on growing our one metric, this includes areas like:
- Conversion rates
- Churn rate
- Onboarding success
- Organic traffic growth
- Paid traffic conversion rates (and volume)
The metrics that are important will vary from business to business, and with that in mind you need to consider what you need to report on to grow (which will also vary depending on where in your company lifecycle you are).
This video below is probably one of my favourites at explaining the thought process behind selecting the right metrics.
Then once you have your metrics the next step is to ensure they are being reported on. Our tool of choice for doing this is Google Analytics.
2) Have An Experimental Mindset
Once you know your metrics, you need to test as much as possible. There’s a few things that ring true when it comes to growth:
- Just because it worked for someone else does not mean it’ll work for you
- There’s no such thing as a silver bullet (but some things are close)
- Growth comes in bitesize increments, the more you can do the more overall impact you can see
- Everything can always be improved
A perfect example of this is something that we tested last year with our widget. In the footer of each widget we have some Powered By Gleam text (which most would consider to be the industry standard). With some simple testing we were able to increase the effectiveness of this text by 484%.
3. Brand Your Business
Branding can have such a large impact on how you business grows (or even how it can fail). In 1998 Kellogs rebranded their popular Coco Pops cereal to Choco Krispies but renamed it back almost a year later when sales plummeted and surveys showed that 92% of the UK population preferred the old name.
In a world where big brands rule, there is space in the market for your voice to be heard. It involves determination, creativity and consistency.
- Think of a creative and memorable name. Customers remember names.
- Have a tagline that conveys your core value proposition
- Good branding makes your company appear much larger than it actually is
- Good branding can allow you to be clever about your advertising
We played around with the branding on this blog, and eventually settled on Growth as an overarching message. This allows us to write more broad content and also appeal to a much wider audience.
Time is a precious and finite resource, so it’s important as a small business owner to apply focus to the areas that drive us the most growth.
For example, if you invest $45,000 per year on a contractor to spend all their time updating your social accounts, but you actually drive almost no revenue from social – then there may be better uses of that time and budget. You might also consider it a branding exercise, or something that needs to be done.
One flipside to this is content, especially when you’re just starting out. You may need to evaluate a longer time period before determining whether an activity is worth doing.
Below is an example of one of our typical blog posts over time. Even though the upfront work might not be ROI positive, over time as the blog post starts ranking in search engines you’ll see overall traffic continue to grow. When you compound this across multiple pieces of content you suddenly have a solid stream of leads that you can depend upon.
You never quite realise how powerful a good email database is until you have one at your disposal. As soon as this article is finished, I’ll have a copy of it sitting in 10k marketer’s inboxes within a few minutes. Imagine how much work I would need to do to promote to that same size of audience.
Building a good email database isn’t easy, but it’s an extremely rewarding activity:
- You get to speak to potential customers directly
- You can completely control your message or offer
- They are most likely on your list because they want to hear from you
- It allows you to provide instant product or service updates
- You can use emails to ask customers for reviews of your services
4) Build A Personal Relationship With People
There’s a reason why playing golf has a big impact on closing large deals. It’s because personal one-to-one relationships with other humans work. They convey trust and allow you to get to know the person you’re dealing with.
In todays hyper-connected world it can be easy to try and build a business sat behind your 28″ widescreen monitor, but if you want to grow, you need to be able to rely on partners, distributors, suppliers and others. The best way to foster and grow these relationships is through personal interaction.
- Jump on Skype and have calls with people, talk to potential customers – you will find out a lot more about them and their needs than via an email
- Go meet key influencers in person, this can often lead to other introductions
- Always try to give value to others so you are front of mind
The difficult part with relationships is that as you grow and get bigger, you will have more demand from others for personal time. Who you choose to devote this time to can also help (or hinder) your potential growth – so you will need to balance this demand carefully.
5) Network Like Crazy
Finding people to build relationships with can be hard at first. But after some solid networking you can start to increase your social (and business) circles quite considerably. You can also use these as platforms to let others know about your business.
- Attend local meetups to meet industry peers
- Attend meetups that might contain potential customers
- Respond to industry professionals on social networks like Twitter
- Join webinars and Google Hangouts with people in your industry
- Use your profile to get presentation slots at events (for example we might talk about how we’ve grown our own business at a local Growth Hacking event)
- Consider sponsoring events, but do it in a way that’s useful (for example sponsor the beer or pizza)
- Start tapping into other people’s networks by adding value (for example giveaway one of your products to their customers)
- Start to organise your own events and webinars (and make sure you make them awesome)
6) Get Basic SEO Right
You shouldn’t need to spend thousands of dollars just to get some basic SEO right on your website.
- Make sure each page has a title tag that describes what that page is about
Dentist Sydney West – Fillings and Cosmetic Specialist
- Make your description appealing with good copy.
5 Star Rated, Bulk billed Dentist in Sydney. Book Now on 1300 000 000.
- Use a clean URL structure
- Build high quality landing pages for adjacent terms
Emergency Dentist Sydney Cosmetic Dentist Sydney Cheap Dentist Sydney Bulk Billing Dentist Sydney
- Write high quality educational content on your blog (that people would want to read)
21 Dentist Share Opinons On How To Look After Your Teeth
Does Getting A Filling Really Hurt?
How To Properly Floss Your Teeth
7 Benefits Of Brushing Your Teeth After Every Meal
How Do You Choose The Right Dentist?
- Include a strong call to action on your landing page to drive sales/bookings
7) Build Relevant Partnerships
Building good partnerships with other companies has been a huge factor in our own success as a business.
Partnerships come in many different forms:
- Using a partner to distrubute your own products
- Partnering with a company to co-market to each others mailing lists
- Running a joint giveaway with another company
- Partnering with local businesses to offer a service to their customers
- Integrating your product with others so their customers can leverage your service
The fantastic thing with partnerships is that they can often put certain parts of your own business on auto-pilot. You might start getting a steady stream of leads to the point where you don’t need to spend time doing your own businesses development, or you might open up a sales channel that generates enough revenue for you to expand into other areas.
8) Experiment With Paid Channels
You should always be experimenting with paid channels to drive outcomes for your business. Don’t accept the norm that you should be doing xyz.
Don’t even consider throwing money at paid advertising until you have properly tagged up your conversion points. Otherwise you will have no quantifiable data other than clicks or impressions to drive your decisions.
For example Facebook Ads works terribly for us, but we still experiment on it. It may have just been bad targeting, not framing the ad correctly to drive the right emotions or simply that the campaign was just never going to work. The point is, don’t rule out certain channels, use them to test your ideas and keep things fresh.
During your testing you will find sustainable and profitable areas that you can continue to grow and pour more money into. We always keep budget aside for tactical campaigns:
- Target events on Twitter by advertising on their #hashtag
- Use retargeting to show special offers to your abandoned customers
- Use tools to find out what your competitors are spending money on
- Show opt-in popups when users are about to leave your paid landing pages
- Test different value propositions for your ads to see what converts better
People often spend money on areas when it’s working for them. There’s plenty of ways that you can keep an eye on your competitors to see what sort of activities they are investing their time in.
You might see competitors doing things like:
- Handing out flyers at the local train station
- Spending what seems like a fortune on Adwords keywords
- Building targeted landing pages for lots of SEO keywords
- Running webinars and advertising them on Facebook
- Running giveaways every week
- Advertising on radio and TV
- Running enhanced listings in local directories
- Sponsoring local sports teams
The reality is that all of these things are completely valid advertising strategies, you just need to translate them into your own business and test them out
9) Experiment With Discounts
Consumers love incentives and there’s so many different ways you can use them to drive certain behaviours.
- Drive more revenue by offering discounts during sales
- Get more people onto your mailing list by offering a discount coupon
- Get users to review your business by offering a discount off their next purchase
- Create a loyalty program to incentivize repeat business
- Boost Retention with post checkout coupons
- Give users discounts for locking in their plan for longer periods (i.e. yearly)
- Package products together at a discounted price
10) Create More Landing Pages
You absolutely should have high quality landing pages that are relevant for all the products and service that you offer.
- Have a unique selling proposition
- A good headline, supporting headline and value statement
- Highlight benefits
- Good vivid imagery (particularly of product usage)
- Use social proof or testimonials
- Have a clear concise call to action
11) Leverage Location-Based Intent
For physical businesses or businesses that service a particular location, you also have the ability to target location-based keywords.
Consider this search for plumbers across Australia. Over 50% of the most popular keywords include location based intent.
You should consider targeting locations in your:
- Landing pages, build pages for every location that you service
- Adwords campaigns, usually people searching targeted locations signals more intent to purchase
- Social campaigns, you can target specific areas with certain offers
12) Run A Contest
Contests are a fantastic way to engage customers at any stage in your business lifecycle.
- You can partner with other companies to giveaway larger prizes and get exposure to their audiences
- You can use a contest to drive initial awareness about your product
- You can use contests to giveaway free samples of your products
- You can run competitions to announce new products
- Align giveaways with key times of the year (i.e. Valentine’s Day)
- Send out coupon codes to each user to drive post-entry revenue
- Use contests to collect user generate content that you can use for social proof on your site
13) Collect Reviews From Customers
How often do you check the reviews of a website before you buy from it? Or even the reviews of a particular product when you’re researching it? If you’re like me then you’ll do this all the time.
That means if you’re not collecting reviews from customers you’re potentially losing out on sales to competitors that do.
There’s lots of sites around that allow you to leverage their platform for reviews. You could also build your own, or use an off the shelf solution.
14) Find Your Channel
Be careful not to suffer channel paralysis, in which you dilute your presence across too many channels without really doing one well.
If you are getting traction on certain social channels then make sure you leverage the audience. Build dedicated landing pages that try to either convert the users or incentivize them to join your mailing list.
Another good strategy is to create a redirect link that you can use in every social profile.
This link will consistently sends users to whichever landing page your are testing at the moment. It allows you to swap landing pages in and out and have them propogate to any existing links that have already been added on social networks.
The same goes for ads, make sure you use a strong call to action to get users to do what you want.
Sponsorships can be a really tricky one to get right. More often than not they don’t work out. But here’s some tips that we’ve found work well.
- Find sponsors that complement your business (for example if you wash cars you might partner with a company that produces car wax)
- Always plan with the sponsor on how you both will promote the campaign. This is generally one of the reasons sponsorships fail, people set them up and no-one bothers to do promotion
- Think about ways you to push volume into your sponsorships, for example can you get things rolled out to an entire chain of stores?
- Find sponsors that already have large audiences, for example if you run a subscription box company then getting a YouTube streamer with 500k subscribers to unbox it live on stream is a huge win!
15) Write Compelling Content
Writing good content is hard, and it takes time. It took me ~2 days to write and format this particular post. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Problem is, it’s very easy to write bad content which is usually glossed over by consumers (and search engines). The upside here is that with some effort and planning you can really stand out with top notch content and ideas.
Take the example above, it’s an online marketing review for The Iconic. There’s so many things I love about this content:
- It’s different, most agencies only write this sort of stuff for their clients
- It shows me how they work, I’m much more likely to think about using this agency now
- It’s actionable, I could implement some of this stuff myself if I wanted
- It’s sharable – I would quite happily share this with friends
- It’s great for ads, people always love seeing how bigger companies are executing their campaigns
16) Build Educational Courses
Sometimes the best way to grow is through education. You will always have a segment of your customerbase that just don’t get it. However with some training and education you can teach them why they need to use your product or services.
17) Run Awesome Webinars
Webinars are used by all the large businesses to scalably sell or to educate a large section of their customers at once. This is a tactic that helps you do more work with less time. It also helps you build personal relationships with customers and improves trust.
- Webinars are like contests, the more you do the easier they will be to promote
- Setup a weekly webinar to run through your product with potential prospects, this will add some scale to your sales process
- Make the topics engaging, and make the content actionable
- Make sure you send reminders, a lot of people will signup but then forget to attend
- Consider pre-recording the content so you can spend more time interacting with the audience
18) Take Beautiful Images
If you run an E-Commerce business or anything that sells a physical product there’s no excuses not to create beautiful imagery. Images help sell your product, they help show it in the wild with customers – which in turn drives sales.
19) Leverage The Power Of Video
Video is a hugely underrated tool for businesses, but most simply don’t have the time to make high quality videos or guides.
My wife dropped her iPhone 5 last week, so I bought a new screen on Ebay. Then I searched for a video on YouTube to help me repair it.
This particular video has almost 1M views. Considering it may have taken a day to create and edit – that is incredibly good ROI.
The videos don’t have to be as glamorous as iPhone repairs, there’s plenty of people searching even for basic DIY help.
20) Use Incentives
Users often need an extra incentive to sometimes perform actions that you want them to. For example if you want users to refer their friends, you’ll normally need to provide a monetary incentive (or a discount).
There’s plenty of creative ways you can use incentives:
- By running a giveaway you are incentivizing users to join your mailing list in return for the chance to win something
- You might offer users points for referring friends
- An affiliate program might pay users a percentage for referring customers that purchase
- Apps and games normally offer in-game currency for watching videos or viewing ads
We’re all busy people, focusing on our own businesses. But there’s also plenty of things we can be doing to benefit our communities. Whether it’s offering free services, allowing people to use your product or even just participating in events.
A popular event here in Australia is CEO sleepout, which allows CEO’s from any business to get a feel for what it would be like to be homeless for a night (whilst raising money for charity).
Another great thing you can do is to take a few days out each week to work in a local co-working space. Both John and myself do this every Monday and Friday.
21) Make It Exclusive
One quick tip is to make people feel like they are getting something exclusive. This is a great way to get users onto your mailing lists, or to drive hype around a product.
- Offer exclusive downloads or guides that are only available to subscribers
- Run insider sales that get sent out to members first
- Launch products to members first
- Have a waiting list that prioritises members
22) Ask Customers For Feedback
Getting feedback from your customers is such an important part of growing your business. We had a particular client in an agency I used to work with that wanted to understand more about why their customers weren’t purchasing.
We deployed a simple feedback script, and instantly we were seeing feedback from customers telling us that shipping was too expensive. The customer made some changes to offer free shipping over a $100 a threshold, and instantly their conversion rate shot up by 150%. They were getting so many orders that the fufillment center couldn’t actually sustain it.
You should always be thinking about how you can use positive feedback about your business to your advantage.
In this video Rand from Moz talks about how one particular hotel has a number of TripAdvisor awards, but never actually uses them to their advantage.
There’s lots of potential levers for using social proof:
- Show testimonals on your homepage
- Show off which companies you work with
- Focus on case studies that show how big corporations use your products
- Allow users to write reviews of individual products (can increase conversion rates by up to 12.5%)
- Record beautiful video testimonals with your customers
- Record a high quality promo video for your company
- Create a press page that shows off all the press your company has received
23) Use Live Chat
For complicated online businesses, Live Chat can be a fantastic way to address pre-sales questions from potential customers.
Even more valuable than that, you can also use it to onboard customers and reduce churn rates by providing instant hands on help just when they need it.
24) Hand Out Flyers
If you have a local business then getting out amongst the local community with flyers can be a rewarding form of promotion.
Try not to just be another bit of spam, make the incentive attractive to incentivize people to check you out! For example I get about 5 flyers from real estate agents every week, how could you stand out from the rest?
25) Throw Parties
Depending on your business, throwing a party can be a really great way to start building a community around your products or services. Avon do it extremely well, even Tinder used parties in the beginning to drive their initial adoption.
- Throw a party for users of your app or customers first
- Hold customer awards, my old company Hitwise used to do a great job of this
- Throw combined parties or events with similar companies (and share the cost)
26) Raise Your Prices
When you launch your product or service you’ll not always get the pricing nailed down right away. Don’t be afraid to experiment and raise your prices if you think users are getting great value.
Server Density, a server monitoring company were able to double their revenue by moving from a scaling model to a linear plan model. Essentially charging more upfront even if you were using less resources.
27) Offer Something For Free
People love freebies, and giving them out has been a big strategy for many of the FMCG brands around the world for many years.
You can do the same, just think about how you can give something away for free.
- Giveaway your products, or a toned down version of your product
- If you can’t afford to giveaway products then use your time, offer to give customers a free Skype call or Google Hangout to discuss strategy
- Give coupons or vouchers that provide a discount on your products or services
- Hand out free samples of your products at the local train stations
- Go to venues or events and give out free samples of your products
If you’re like me you might email anywhere up to 100 people per day. I see every interaction as a growth opporunity, so I try to get them to read my growth guide by including it in my email signature.
28) Work On Yourself Too
It’s very easy to focus on nothing but your business, but remember we’re all human. Make time for yourself to unwind and relax. Nothing hinders the growth of a company more than the main person behind it getting burnt out.
Look after yourself and most importantly, have fun