Running a business is tough – make it easier by bringing customers to you instead of the other
way around.

The old adage is that small businesses are the cornerstone of America. With over 55% of the jobs in the U.S. and 54% of the jobs in Louisiana being supplied by small businesses, it’s no wonder why. But running a small business is far from easy. You’ve got to hire people, promote your offerings, not to mention run your business! While there’s often more than one constraint, having the financial resources to fuel your ambitions is usually a big one. So how do you build and promote your small business when you can’t find the money to do it?

Here’s 4 ways you can grow your small business without spending a dime:

Business development

Chances are if you run a small business, there are plenty of other small businesses nearby. And more often than not, the same types of neighborhood customers that frequent those businesses also come to yours. Getting in there and knowing each of those business owners is a good way to develop your network, share customers, and generating new sales.

Quick tip: Carve out some time each week (start with 1-2 days) to business develop. Get a map and map out all the small businesses that are within a 5 mile radius of your business. Create a plan to walk into those businesses and sit down with the other owners. See what you can offer them. For example, let’s say you own a bar. You could offer them ad space somewhere on your bar counter (like a wine tent).

Exchange that advertising for a sign with your logo and happy hour specials at their store’s checkout counter. Now, without spending any money, you’ve just traded point-of- sale advertising! Building up these types of relationships are sure to benefit not only you and the other small business owners, but also the community as a whole. If nothing else, a quick introduction will go a long way.

Build your online presence, starting with social media

Some people will still balk at social media even after they see the user numbers – Facebook has over 2 billion users per month, YouTube has 1 billion users per month, Instagram has over 600 million users per month, Twitter has 328 million users per month … just to name a few. Whether you like social media or not is irrelevant. It absolutely has to be part of your 2017 marketing plan – especially if you’re a small business looking to grow. Number of monthly users aside – social media has other benefits. For instance, it will increase the relevance and awareness of your brand/website and help you rise closer to the top of search engine results.

Where do you start? Well, it depends on what you’re good at. Are you a good writer? You may want to start a weekly blog. Comfortable and confident in front of a camera? A weekly vlog on YouTube may be for you. Don’t like being on video but you’re comfortable over the phone? Try starting a podcast! The opportunities are endless but the data is clear – you need to be doing something online as another way to engage customers. And you need to commit to a set cadence.

Quick tip: Start with 1-2 social networks and try to build a following first before stretching yourself too thin across multiple channels. The more accounts you open, the more difficult and time consuming it becomes to manage – especially as you’re also building the business.

Make sure you’re also sticking within your niche and speaking from your area of expertise. For example, if own a plumbing business, it might be a good idea to start a weekly vlog on YouTube with DIY plumbing tips. This is a great arena for short, how-to videos that answer common questions, or that provide helpful information for people to get the most mileage out of their plumbing. Over time, something like this will help mark you as an expert and your audience will be more likely to call you over your competitor next time they have an issue.

Start an email newsletter

A great way to engage customers is to hit them right in their inbox. An email newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with people and keep your brand top-of- mind for your customers. With a tool like MailChimp, you get more than enough firepower straight out-of- the-box to start your newsletter. They offer user-friendly templates with modern design, i.e., they look good and you don’t need to know how to code to use them. You’ll also get built-in metrics so you can analyze the results of your emails.

Quick tip: Newsletters are a great way not only to let people know what’s been going on with your business, but also about upcoming sales or other specials. You can also offer people a coupon for signing up to your newsletter, or offer exclusive coupons only available to people who are signed up for your newsletter. This will help build your following and communicate directly to your core group of customers.

Negotiate with suppliers

Whether you’re a restaurant that receives fresh seafood daily or a tshirt shop that prints on demand tees, somewhere along the line, you’re getting raw materials from a supplier. And the chances are, they’re not the only supplier in town. Competition keeps businesses honest. That’s why you need to negotiate the best prices for your business. Some suppliers will give discounts for long term customers, some will only give discounts when you threaten to leave (like wireless providers or cable companies), but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Quick tip: When negotiating with your suppliers, don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want. Getting it out on the table is the quickest way to reach a resolution. Before the negotiation, make a list of your ‘must-haves’ vs. your ‘wants.’ This will help separate your non-negotiables from your negotiables. Most importantly – do your homework! Think about what the other side wants out of this and what their non-negotiables and negotiables might be. Ultimately, it’s better to not have a deal than to be stuck in a bad one.

About Paul Larrieu, II

Paul Larrieu, II (@heylarrieu) manages demand generation and builds brand for global organizations by developing and executing meaningful marketing campaigns that grow businesses by attaining and retaining customers and increase revenues. Paul has a diverse background in marketing and strategic planning across the Media, Oil & Gas, and SaaS verticals within the corporate setting. Paul received his M.B.A. from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX and his B.S. in Marketing from the University of Holy Cross in New Orleans, LA. He is certified in Scrum, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and HubSpot Inbound methodologies, and is a member of the Austin chapter of the American Marketing Association. Find Paul on LinkedIn, and at his portfolio site, paullarrieuii.com.