Growing a business always comes down to revenue minus spending. Using a chunk of a small business’ revenue to spend on an advertising budget might not always be an option early on. And then, “Is advertising worth it?”
But, before you spend any cash, you should ask yourself: can I get customers without paying? The answer is yes. But like most yesses in business, it's swiftly followed by a 'but'.
In most cases, you can get your first customers without any spending in advertising, as long as you are willing to spend time instead. Are you ready for the challenge?
Once you decide you’re prepared to plough in the time needed, there are a few options that can jump start your company’s growth without spending a single quid on advertising.
Use your personal network and social media
Your personal network is where you will achieve the first sales. You already know the people who will be your first customers. They are the ones that already worked with you and hold you in a high professional regard.
If you are selling a service, they are the ones already admiring your work. Start with them, let them know about your new venture.
Promoting yourself through your own personal social media and politely asking close friends and relatives to support you by sharing your business and products. Outside of family and friends, there are groups and communities to join. People like to engage in social media and there are many ways to market there.
You can build an email list with prospecting customers and keep them engaged and wanting more before selling to them. Ask your social circle to sign in to your new and exciting newsletter where you share tips and information or your latest blog post.
Those that respect your opinion and industry expertise will be the first to join!
Email marketing to engage and sell
Everyone has an email list of close and business contacts, and if you don’t have one, it’s easy to build an email list. Especially if you are producing regular content and have news or offers to share, an email list can become your best lead nurturing tool.
With four times the ROI of other channels and small to no initial cost, email can be a source of repetitive promotions to qualified leads with an enormous potential of revenue, especially for the e-learning and online courses market.
Look at your contacts, personal and professional network to build an email list. Find all those business cards thrown in your drawer and send them an email letting them know about your new ventures. MailChimp is my tool of choice (and free up to 2000 email addresses), but also GetResponse and Mailshake are great tools for email marketing and cold outreach respectively.
Producing content - blog posts, podcasts and YouTube
Content helps you position yourself as an industry expert. Blog posts, videos and podcasts are the perfect way to achieve that. A regularly updated blog can increase your website’s visibility and attract visitors from search engines (organic traffic). Content also provides the fuel for your newsletter and professional social media. So it’s not just for new followers, it keeps existent followers hooked as well.
It’s not for everyone, but video blogging is worth considering. YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world and just by having a video there is another source of exposure for your brand.
Your video can also be used to create a podcast by extracting the audio and vice versa. Podcasts have become a wildly popular form of entertainment. More and more people are listening to podcasts on the go from their smartphones.
You can always re-use content from one channel to the other, minimising the work to produce content while maximising exposure!
Guest blogging to success
Producing content for your own website and channels is the first step, guest blogging is the next. By writing for blogs and websites that your audience follows, you can establish credibility and also attract some visitors.
Good authority guest posts can also boost your SEO efforts, bring leads and also attract additional opportunities such as speaking at conferences. All essential ingredients to a successful business.
Answer questions on Quora or Reddit
When a potential customer Google’s a question, her query will often be met with replies in Quora, a social network built on answering questions. Answering questions relative to your industry in Quora can be viewed by hundreds or thousands of people per month and can have long and lasting effects, bringing traffic to your website.
The only, more fanatical, community you should be interacting with is Reddit. If you are looking for a niche community to get involved and not afraid of confronting the trolls, Reddit is the place to be.
Spend time on crafting a few quality answers to attract quality leads for your digital products.
Online courses to establish your expertise
Free online courses are another great, free way to grow your email list, collect leads and nurture them to clients. Having a branded online course to showcase your expertise will impress your visitors and let them engage with you, increasing the likelihood of them becoming paid customers.
Using a professional online course platform to sell your courses can also be a source of extra income. It is as easy as repurposing your company’s content in a branded online academy through your own website.
There are many course marketplaces with limited possibilities of self-promotion, or you can protect your premium brand by going for white-label course platform option.
Affiliate deals to sell more
Choosing one or many affiliate networks can increase your sales, but comes with the caveat that it will also take a big chunk of your earnings.
Customers value reviews and suggestions by influencers. What better than an army of affiliates doing your marketing for you? However, be careful, as affiliates can help or harm your brand. Handpick your first affiliates very carefully!
Your most valuable resource is time
Choose carefully how to promote your brand and note your successes as well as your failures, those will show you the way forward towards scaling your marketing efforts and high growth.
Finding which marketing channel fits your product might take time but is surely worth it. When you unlock the right strategy, you will see your sales skyrocket. Then, maybe it’s time to start spending on advertising.
Did I miss any tactics you use for your business? Would love to read about it in the comments!
About Nick Malekos
Nick Malekos is the head Growth Marketer of LearnWorlds, the top all-in-one platform for creating and selling online courses. He is a results based and well-rounded Digital Marketer with years of experience in the education industry that doubles as a youth trainer and volunteers’ coordinator in his free time.