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Low-Cost Strategies for Growing Your Small Business

March 27th 2024

Many small business owners are working to grow their companies, or to expand, or to “scale.” Making their business bigger is the natural next step for many entrepreneurs and founders once the venture is up and running.

But unless your business is generating wads of cash, scaling it can prove challenging. As we so often hear, “It takes money to make money.” With more customers comes a need for more products or services, more space to store raw materials or house employees, and systems to keep things running smoothly.

The first step, however, is building a solid and expanding customer base.

Fortunately, there are marketing strategies and tactics you can employ that will help raise awareness of your company and attract customers without having to invest in expensive advertising campaigns or offering deep discounts.

Here are a few ideas:

Excel at customer service

This probably seems obvious, but the best way to attract new business is to absolutely amaze your current customers. Don’t just satisfy them, or even delight them — brainstorm something you could do that would thrill them.

Excellent customer service doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Maybe you throw in a free sample of a product with a purchase, upgrade a shipment to overnight delivery, deliver a promised report in record time, or enter a recent project into an awards program at your expense. 

Under-promise and over-deliver to get your customers to notice how wonderful it is to do business with you. Then, when you know they’re more than happy, ask them to write or record a brief testimonial you can share on social media and feature on your website.

Treat employees well

The key to satisfied customers is satisfied employees, so what could you do that would endear your workers to you? What would they appreciate that would make their lives easier but not cost you tens of thousands of dollars? This needs to be more than ordering a pizza when they stay late at work. You need policies and benefits that they will be so excited to receive that they tell all their family and friends about them.

For example, could you arrange to have a catered lunch in the office once a week? Pay for everyone’s subway passes or parking? Shift to a four-day workweek or offer flextime? Set up an in-house childcare center? Provide a monthly stipend to buy and try company products? Give monthly performance bonuses?

You could start by asking employees what they would most appreciate, besides a raise. The odds are good that you can wow them without it costing lots of extra cash.

Tap into social media

One of the most powerful technologies to emerge in the last 15 years has been social media. Although the platforms ebb and flow with popularity, the big ones right now are Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Connecting with prospects and customers for free is possible. However, you have to share information and images that will interest them. 

We’ve become such a visual society that photos and videos are critical for attracting attention. Fortunately, you don’t need an expensive video crew to capture images — your cell phone is good enough.

Think about what you could show your target audience that would interest them and potentially improve their opinion of your company. For example, if you’re a beauty retailer, you could demonstrate how to use your favorite products or show videos of before-and-after transformations. If you’re a restaurant or café, you could show images of the day’s specials and snippets of comments from diners about how tasty the food is. If you’re an artist, you could record your creative process and share photos of the finished piece. If you’re a graphic designer, how about showing images of recent client projects?

Although social media is free, your audience demands consistency, so try to share something daily to keep them watching your account.

Build a community

Another benefit of social media is the ability to attract like-minded consumers and bring them together inside an online group or community. Facebook is best known for this because it is quick and easy to set up an online group on the platform.

Once your customers, prospects, and fans are members of your group, you can regularly communicate with them, share news and information, offer helpful tips, get product feedback, share incentives and discounts, as well as hear what they are most interested in. You can have two-way conversations inside Facebook groups that would be difficult to have anywhere else.

At the same time, you can join other groups where your prospects and customers may hang out, to learn what else they might need from you and to share information about your business there. Be careful not to be too self-promotional, however; not all groups allow it.

Leverage groups you belong to 

In addition to joining and forming online groups, make sure members of other in-person groups you belong to also know about your business. These groups could include: 

  • alumni associations for your high school, college/university, or sorority
  • civic organizations, such as Kiwanis and Rotary
  • hobby-related clubs, such as fitness, arts, or culinary
  • professional societies, such as trade organizations, associations, and cooperatives.
  • religious congregations and spiritual groups
  • volunteer causes or boards

Any group that has a directory, newsletter, or events should be a good starting point for you to share information about your company and what you offer. Don’t be too pushy, but do be sure everyone in your circle of friends knows what your company sells, so they can help spread the word.


Another option to hold onto cash and still conduct business development and outreach activities is to propose a barter arrangement. There are barter networks that facilitate the trade of goods and services among members, such as IMSBarter, but there is a charge for that service. You could also approach companies you would like to work with and inquire if a barter arrangement might be of interest.

The advantage of bartering is that while you provide goods or services at your standard rate, the cost to you is lower because it’s based on your cost of goods sold. You’re effectively getting what you need at a discounted rate.

For example, you might offer to barter Facebook advertising services from a firm you respect in exchange for an equal amount of products from your company. Or you could barter for event space and hold a demonstration or a class for your top prospects. Or barter for office furniture for all the new employees you plan to hire next quarter.

What is it that your business needs in order to continue to grow, what companies sell those products and services, and are they potential barter partners? Make a list and propose bartering to companies that could be a fit.

Make sure to keep careful track of your expenses and the value of what you receive for taxes. Although cash may not change hands, you still need to record the exchange; check with your accountant about how, exactly, to report it to the IRS.

Give away samples

A very effective tactic for expanding your customer base, as well as increasing the frequency with which your current customers buy, is to offer samples of what you sell. This can work with products or services by considering how to give prospects a taste of what it would be like to work with you.

A nail salon might give away mini samples of its hand cream to every customer as a way to introduce the new line of private-label hand and nail products. A financial planner might offer a free 30-minute discussion about budgeting or paying off a home faster. And an interior designer might offer a free mock-up of a single room in a home or office or a free in-home design consultation.

When prospects don’t yet know or trust you, giving them a free taste of what it would be like to work together or to buy from you increases the chance that they will when they’re ready.

Increasing a company’s sales can happen one or more ways: 1) by increasing the number of customers who buy, 2) by increasing the amount customers spend or 3) by increasing the frequency with which they buy.

However, scaling a company requires that you confirm there is a market for your products or services, as evidenced by rising sales, and that you have the capability and capacity to serve a larger and larger audience. 

These tactics can help increase awareness of your business, which will attract more prospects and customers, to help you create a system that generates a steady stream of interested buyers.

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