small business

By Mike Kappel

As a small business owner, you have the difficult task of deciding how to spend your money. The way you spend money can directly impact how quickly you are able to grow your business. You can’t afford to spend hard-earned cash on expensive growth strategies. So, how can you grow your business on a budget?

Stay active on social media

Creating a presence on social media allows you to cut down on costs while also promoting your business. Generally, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are free and offer low-cost advertising options.

When generating posts, think outside the box. What types of posts draw people in? Will followers engage with the post? Use graphics, eye-catching colors, and fun phrases to grab potential customers’ attention. Incorporate your business’s logo, colors, and products or services in your social posts and visuals.

Stay active on social media to keep up with comments, articles, and business-related news. The more present your business is on social media, the better. The last thing you want to do is create an account and never use it. At my company, Patriot Software, I like to post on each platform at least once per day.

Listen to your customers

An essential aspect of growing your small business is listening to what your customers want. And, listening to your customers’ needs can be completely free.

When customers come to your business, communicate with them. Let them know you are interested in hearing about their opinions and experience. For example, if you own a restaurant, check in with customers to see how their meals taste.

Getting feedback from customers allows you to ask follow-up questions and hear about their experiences. Fixing problems based on customers’ feedback may prevent unpleasant experiences for other customers in the future. And, taking customers’ feedback into consideration shows them you care about their concerns and want to make problems right.

According to one source, 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews. Be sure to read and respond to both positive and negative reviews on social media, your business website, and review forums (e.g., Yelp).

When customers leave positive reviews, respond by thanking them for their feedback and business. If a customer leaves a negative review, you can apologize, ask the customer for their contact information so you can discuss the issue, and offer a way to fix the situation (e.g., discount or refund).  

Create a customer loyalty program

A great way to retain customers and thank them for their business is to start a customer loyalty program. Launching a rewards or loyalty program may initially cost some money, but it might be worth it to grow your business.  

According to one source, 77% of consumers say loyalty programs make them more likely to stay with brands. Create a loyalty program that is simple, easy-to-use, and geared toward what customers want. For example, a coffee shop owner may give customers loyalty “punch” cards to earn a free coffee after they receive a certain number of purchases (e.g., five punches).

You can also create a rewards program where you offer discounts to customers for their birthdays or anniversaries.

Offer outstanding customer service

Many businesses say they provide exceptional customer service, but does that ring true for you?

Going the extra mile for your customers makes you stand out as a small business, especially if you offer personalized service. Customers remember great service and are more likely to refer other people to your business when they have positive experiences.

Build a team of workers who are friendly, patient, and can effectively communicate with customers. Even though hiring additional employees is not the cheapest option, adding a few additional employees to your payroll can pay off in the long-run. It paid off for me. And, I am confident in my team’s ability to provide the best customer service possible for our customers each and every day.

Attend networking and community events

A big way to grow your small business is to network with other small business owners and people in your community.

Attending events around your community exposes you to many potential customers. Build up brand awareness in your community by showcasing your product or service.

Consider attending events like trade shows, community showcases, and conferences to raise your business profile. During events, provide information about your product or service, including business cards and brochures. Providing information to others at events can serve as a reminder about your business.

Mike Kappel is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Patriot Software Company, and its subsidiaries. Patriot Software, LLC is a developer of online payroll and accounting software for U.S. small-business owners. Connect on Twitter: @PatriotSoftware.

Growing a business stock photo by Stokkete/Shutterstock