What does it take to grow a successful online business? And how much does it cost?
If you have a million-dollar idea but only a couple of hundred in your pocket, that might be more than enough.
Of course, you’ll need to compensate for the lack of cash with wits and hacks.
The good news is that we are here to help. This article will discuss eight proven methods for growing an online business without spending any additional money. But first, let us take a look at what business growth actually is.
How can we define business growth?
Growth is the ultimate goal of any business, but did you know that there are different types of business growth and various strategies that drive it? In the beginning, most businesses grow organically – if they are good at what they do. That’s what we call beginner’s luck or momentum. At this phase, a company’s customer base grows, and so does its revenue.
After this initial success, most businesses start focusing on long-term growth. They develop and put into action different strategies depending on what they want to achieve. For example, a company can try to penetrate the market deeper, expand market share, or diversify its offer.
But what’s the common theme across all these efforts? What is business growth, exactly? Can we even define it?
There are numerous indicators of business growth, which we equate to success. Popularity and renown are definitely among them, but the key success indicators are 1) a growing number of customers and 2) increased revenue. Business growth is when you expand your customer base and increase your revenue. So the question is – can you drive online business growth with no money down?
8 ways to grow an online business with no money down
If you have a good business idea and a knack for entrepreneurship, growing an online business on a shoestring budget is possible. According to Nexcess research, setting up an online venture is pretty cheap – $1000 will suffice. The internet is a free business-building tool, but you need to know how to use it to your advantage. Here are a couple of tactics that you should try.
1. Improve the SEO of your website
Without any search engine optimization (SEO), Google won’t show your website in its search engine result pages (SERPs). So you need good SEO practices to satisfy Google’s ranking algorithm and climb as high on SERPs as possible. That way, when a potential customer googles the products or services your offer, they’ll be able to see your brand new website on the first pages of Google.
However, SEO is about more than just ranking. It also improves user experience, which might be even more critical. The following elements are crucial for improving your website SEO:
- Content that’s not only keyword-rich but also engaging and useful.
- Easy navigation that makes your website user-friendly.
- Lots of videos and images that boost user engagement.
- Technical SEO, including fast-loading pages and structured data.
The main reason to use SEO as a business promotion tactic is to grow organic traffic, a.k.a. visitors who are already highly qualified leads. The key benefits of improving SEO are improved website conversion rate, visibility, and access to your target audience.
2. Leverage social media
Like it or not, you can’t escape social media if you want to grow your business online. It’s not only that skipping popular networks would mean missing out on a gigantic lead pool. Businesses that don’t have social media presence simply don’t exist in the eyes of modern customers.
A successful social media strategy involves multiple networks and elements like sharable content, audience targeting, social listening, and community building. Though it is free for the most part, social media marketing can be complicated to manage and time-consuming. Many small businesses use automation tools for this, which are a good investment even when the money is tight.
Around 77% of social media marketers say it has been effective for their company. The main benefits of using social media for business growth are the audience, competition, trend analysis, brand building, reputation management, and driving organic traffic to your website.
3. Get others to promote your brand
Online business growth can be hard work, but you don’t have to do everything yourself. Getting brand recognition through someone else is a popular way to extend your reach and get more visitors and clicks. Two methods are especially effective – affiliate marketing and influencer marketing.
- Affiliate marketing involves placing your ad or link on somebody’s website, blog, or social media. The affiliate gets a commission whenever someone comes to your website following this route and makes a direct purchase. It’s a simple and clean transaction that pays for results.
- Influencer marketing is when a social media influencer recommends your product, service, or brand to their followers. Because they are recognized as authorities in their niche, influencers have a tremendous effect on purchasing decisions and a well-defined target audience.
While affiliate marketing success leads exclusively to increased website traffic and improved conversion rates, influencer marketing can also help with brand awareness. With the right person and a creative campaign, you can make up to $5.2 ROI for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.
4. Create your own interesting videos
When in doubt about how to attract new customers, start with your own online habits. Chances are, you spend most of your time online watching YouTube or videos on social media. You’re not alone. In 2022, an incredible 82% of all consumer internet traffic was spent watching videos.
Could you even imagine what this means in terms of marketing and business growth? If you want to be noticed and stay competitive, you must start creating your own exciting videos. It’s what online consumers prefer these days, so it’s crucial to engage the right kind of audience.
According to industry reports, online consumers spend nearly twice as much time on websites with a video, but that’s not all. A whopping 84% of buyers report making a purchase after seeing the brand’s video. In addition to that, a video on your landing page can boost conversions by 80%.
5. Build an email list and use it
Even though 80% of email users check their inboxes daily, many emails still end up in spam folders or go straight to the trash. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A solid email marketing strategy can help you excel in customer relations throughout the sales pipeline, but you must do it right.
First, you need to build your email list organically; buying will only cost you more because you’ll end up with useless leads that are irrelevant to your offer. Next, devote some time to customer segmentation. It will help you hit the right targets. And lastly, personalize your emails and have a real person write them whenever possible. Around 71% of consumers expect personalized marketing.
Email is unique because it provides an all-in-one solution for different marketing and sales needs. It helps with lead nurturing by gradually building brand awareness and relationships with potential customers. It boosts conversion rates, too, but also turns casual buyers into repeat customers.
6. Outreach and partnerships
There’s one more thing that email can help you do – reach out to other businesses for collaboration and partnership. While there are many different outreach strategies (some don’t involve other businesses at all), collaboration is a frequent goal of online businesses and an effective growth hack.
Proposing a collaboration or a link-building campaign with another brand is similar to sending emails to potential customers. You need to target the right person, personalize your offer, and follow up to nurture the connection. The more brands on your list, the better. If you’ve never written an outreach proposal, proposal writing software can provide the best templates and automate the process.
The best outreach campaigns combine the results of affiliate and influencer marketing (not to mention outreach proposals are one of the best ways to grow an affiliate network). In addition to getting access to a broader audience and increasing your website traffic, blogger outreach can also help you improve your content marketing strategy and establish your brand as an authority in the field.
7. Optimize your customer service platform
The impact of customer service on business growth is tremendous. However, there’s a lot you can do to improve your customer service. For a start, you need to be available 24/7 on all networks and devices. That will require a multi-channel approach to customer service, including website live chat and social media on top of email and phone, but that’s not enough. You must also have all the answers, so start building a comprehensive knowledge base.
Similarly to email, customer service can guide potential customers down the sales pipeline and ensure they have an enjoyable journey every step of the way. By providing pre-purchase help, buying guidance, and post-purchase assistance, customer service covers everything from lead nurturing to customer retention. As a result, it plays a crucial role in customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
8. Encourage user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is any type of content that is related to your brand but created by your customers. Customer review platforms and consumer forums are the most prominent examples of this, but USG is born and bred for social media. It’s where customers can write their opinions about brands, share blogs detailing their experiences, make videos, and participate in brand contests.
It’s also easy to encourage UGC on social media. We’ve just mentioned contests It’s also easy to encourage UGC video content on social media. We’ve just mentioned contests– for example, you can use Instagram Stories to invite your customers to take selfies with your product and reward the most liked one – but you can also reshare existing fan photos and host online events.
Aside from free promotion, the most significant benefit of UGC is social proof. User-generated content is more authentic than branded advertisements, so consumers naturally trust it more.
Our final advice for propelling online business growth? Patience and perseverance. Consider this as another entry on our list – the ninth most effective way to become successful in an online sphere without breaking the bank. Online businesses are mushrooming across industries and sectors. Competitors are all around. But stay determined, and these growth hacks will help you outgrow them.
Oliver Stasinszky is an outreach team lead at LiveAgent, with an e-commerce and customer service background. Passionate about writing, reading, and learning how to play any musical instrument he comes across.