It’s no secret that most small and start-up businesses have tight budgets. The challenge of growing a small business on a shoestring budget has only grown as advertising costs continue to rise.
Is it possible to grow a retail business using unpaid methods exclusively? How do you grow a small business with no money for marketing?
Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your small business grow
Search engine optimization (SEO), or making your website visible to potential customers through online search engines, is vital for small businesses that want to take advantage of the fact that 68% of all online experiences start with search engines.
Rebecca Gibbions, owner of Last night I dreameda UK-based contemporary jewelery boutique, has a new approach to putting searchable content on their website.
“We try to make nice collections and look at trends that are going on around us. For example, everyone was talking about Wednesdaythe Netflix
“I’ve also got a Emily in Paris edit jewelry. When people are busy with something like Emily in Paris, and they want to know how Emily wears her jewelry, we’d be in that quest. It’s nice, not dry.”
For Rebecca, it’s all about “understanding your customer” and not letting your website get “old”.
“It is very important that your website is your main focus because if you just
Growing Your Small Business Using Public Relations (PR)
Steph Douglas, CEO and founder of the thoughtful gift brand Don’t buy her flowersbelieves that public relations (PR) has played an important role in the company’s growth.
“The main thing we use PR for is to create a brand and a story,” she explains.
“It comes down to your brand pillars. For us, we have four brand pillars, including motherhood and thoughtfulness. I’ll see what stories I have to tell around those four, which will help tell the Don’t Buy Her Flowers story.”
If PR sounds like an expensive strategy for a small business, Steph is quick to point out that it doesn’t have to be.
“We didn’t pay anyone to do our PR for a few years,” she clarifies. “For example, I am part of a Facebook group called Light bulb PRwhich is a very cheap way to access journalists.
The thing with PR is that opportunities can be anywhere. It’s just a matter of getting your story ready and getting in touch when you see that opening. What’s really great is that as the company has grown, now when I contact a journalist, they’ve heard of us many times over.
Laura Schofield, founder of Otto and Ivya specialist footwear brand for tall women with shoe sizes 8 and up in the UK, is also a convert to the power of PR and seizing opportunities when they arise.
One of the pivotal moments for her brand was when she was speeding across the country when the opportunity arose to have media personality Caitlin Jenner try on her shoes.
Caitlin said, “Oh my God, I feel like Cinderella,” she describes. “Everyone in the room was crying.” When Laura posted the video of their meeting online, she was approached by a friend who was a writer for a national newspaper He covered the story and the shoe brand the next day.
Coverage on this scale is almost unthinkable for small brands starting out, except through the power of PR and capitalizing on opportunities as they arise.
Social media and email marketing are essential for organic growth
Laura also harnessed the power of organic growth on social media to connect with women who loved her shoes.
“Until I hit the three-year mark, I never spent a dime on marketing of any kind,” she explains. “I did it all through organic social media. I used Facebook and Instagram to grow my email list and my business.”
This combination of organic social media engagement with email marketing is powerful.
“As social costs paid rise, we continue to see a major shift from people placing even greater emphasis on in-house marketing, including email. The great thing about email is that it doesn’t take much time to set up and you start seeing results right away,” said Ed Hallen, co-founder and chief product officer of marketing automation company Klaviyo.
“The most important thing for me, and the reason I grew so fast in the beginning, is that I was social on social media. That’s one of the biggest tips I can give to anyone who wants to do the same thing,” advises Jayne Lasley, founder and creative director of Fairly benta fashion brand that offers clothes that enhance the breasts and curves.
“When I first started doing the research for the company, I moved on to other accounts that served the wider community. I would see what the customers were saying, what they were asking for, what sizes they were looking at. I would respond to comments as I was looking for the same things. Then that person would check my page and see my fashion brand looked interesting and follow me. So simple.”
Community is key to growing sales on a budget
One thing all four founders agree on is the importance of community and a deep understanding of your ideal customer.
Laura describes how she “dipped prosecco for two hours” with a group of women with feet the same size as her prior to the launch and learned exactly what they wanted from a shoe brand.
This dedication to understanding exactly what they wanted led to the creation of a group of dedicated clients who knew Laura was listening.
“It’s also about improving that relationship with your customer. Because my client knows I am open to feedback, they feel like they are shaping the future of the brand and feel a big part of it.”
Jayne has an equally dedicated client base who talk to each other in a private Facebook group that is a “safe space” for them to connect and learn from each other.
She likes to spoil her customers and does so regularly. “For Valentine’s Day, I randomly selected 20 of my top clients and sent them a gift with a note wishing them a fantastic day. I love being able to express my appreciation.”
“Connection is key,” Rebecca agrees. “The question we always ask ourselves is how we can best serve this amazing community that shops with us online or in our boutique.”
As the cost of paid acquisition continues to rise and consumers are more eager than ever to buy from companies that share their values, this is the question all small businesses looking to grow organically should ask themselves over and over again.