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By Roy Rasmussen Updated on December 7, 2021

How to Grow a Small Business Without Money: 10 Affordable Tactics

Wondering how to grow a small business without money? Here are 10 effective (and affordable) methods you can use. 

We’ll cover a range of strategies encompassing everything from financial planning tips to high-leverage marketing and sales tactics. Use these ideas to help you grow your business without spending a fortune.

1. Track Your KPIs

When you’re considering how to grow a small business, a simple place to start that doesn’t cost you anything is improving your financial planning, starting by tracking your financial key performance indicators (KPIs). 

If you aren’t tracking your growth, it’s difficult to determine how successfully your growth strategy is working. One of the most fundamental yet inexpensive ways to grow your business is to make sure you’re tracking your most essential financial KPIs

These include gauges such as:

  • Sales growth: how much your revenue is growing over a set period of time
  • Net profit margin: how much revenue you have left after covering expenses
  • Operating cash flow: how much cash you have available to run your operations

You can find much of the raw data you need to track these KPIs in your financial statements, such as your profit-and-loss statement, balance sheet and cash-flow statement. You may choose to track KPIs from additional data sources, such as your marketing and sales data.

Tracking your KPIs allows you to evaluate your current performance, set measurable goals for improvement and make adjustments. Make tracking your KPIs easy by using a business intelligence analytics program with a customizable dashboard and reporting features such as Microsoft Power BI or Google Looker.

A businessperson with a magnifying glass inspects the ground for tracks. One print is marked with “KPI.”

2. Cut Unnecessary Expenses

Avoiding unnecessary expenses is one of the keys to building a business with no money. Monitoring your financial KPIs helps you identify that business expenses are cutting into your profit margin. A simple way to grow your profits is to implement strategies for reducing your biggest expenses. 

There are a few fundamental strategies for growing a small business by cutting costs:

  • Identify and eliminate any unnecessary expenses, such as paying for products that aren’t selling or tasks that are duplicated by multiple personnel
  • Automate tasks that are repetitive and routine
  • Outsource items that could be done more cheaply by external providers

For most companies, labor is one of the biggest expenses, making this a good place to start trimming costs by applying the above methods. Other major expense categories typically include rent, utilities and equipment.

Improving your tax strategy can be another place to cut costs. Make sure you’re claiming all the deductions you’re entitled to.

3. Eliminate Unprofitable Marketing Campaigns

Another expense category that may be cutting into your profits is marketing. While it’s necessary to spend money on marketing to grow your business, wasting money on marketing campaigns that aren’t performing won’t help you grow. 

Track KPIs for your individual marketing campaigns and your overall marketing efforts, such as:

  • Average revenue per conversion
  • Leads generated
  • Average customer lifetime value
  • Lead conversion rates
  • Average customer acquisition cost

Notice which marketing campaigns are performing well and which aren’t. Invest your revenue in adjusting, improving and scaling up campaigns that are working. Avoid pouring money into campaigns that aren’t generating results.

4. Refocus Your Branding on the Right Market

Another key to growing a business without increasing your expenses is to improve the efficiency of your marketing and sales methods so you generate more return on your investment. 

One of the simplest ways of more efficiently marketing a small business with no money is to refocus your branding message by rewording your unique selling proposition (USP). 

Your USP is a short marketing message that tells potential customers:

  • What benefits your brand offers
  • Why buyers should want what you offer
  • Why they should buy it from you instead of a competitor

What you say in your USP plays a key role in determining who responds to your marketing message. If your marketing efforts aren’t generating enough qualified leads, changing your USP can help you adjust your message for better alignment with your target market. You can use a number of tactics to improve your USP, including:

  • Offer a different value than your competition offers
  • Provide more value than your competition offers
  • Offer the same value as your competition at a lower price
  • Slant your message toward a different niche audience than your competition is serving

Doing some market research can help you find a better USP. Start by surveying your own customers to find out why they buy from you instead of competitors. From there, you can expand your research by using methods such as surveying your competitors’ customers and studying market research reports.

5. Improve Your Sales Message

Another way to increase your marketing and sales efficiency is to develop a better sales message for your sales representatives to deliver. 

Review the language you use in your sales presentations and consider key sales elements such as:

  • Which probing questions you use to identify customer needs
  • Which benefits you emphasize in your sales literature and presentations
  • What value you emphasize in your closing offer
  • How you handle frequently encountered sales objections

You’ll get the most leverage out of improving your closing offer, so start there. 

For example, consider whether you’re emphasizing the benefits that are more desired by your customers in the language of your closing offer. Talking to your customers can help you determine which adjustments would make your close more appealing.

6. Run a Sale

If you need to generate some quick revenue, one way to do it without spending money is to run a sale. 

First, develop a good sales offer by using tactics such as:

  • Offering discounts
  • Adding bonuses
  • Bundling products with free services
  • Holding contests with free giveaways

Once you’ve got a good offer, you can promote it by telling your customers a reason for running your sale. Common sales themes include holidays, sports events, opening new locations, product launches and liquidating inventory.

A small shop has a big “Sale” sign on the front window.

7. Offer Deals to Your Current Customers

Acquiring new customers can be expensive, but promoting deals to your current customers doesn’t have to cost you anything. 

You can promote offers to website visitors, in-store shoppers and customers going through digital or physical checkout lines. If you maintain an email list or social media profiles, you can use these to reach out to your current customer base.

8. Invite Inactive Customers Back

Another marketing method that doesn’t have to cost you anything is reaching out to customers who’ve purchased from you in the past. If you maintain an email list or text messaging database, you can segment it to reach out to customers who haven’t purchased from you recently.

If you have a physical mailing list, postcards represent a low-cost way to touch base. Develop a special offer such as a discount to invite inactive customers back.

9. Ask for Referrals

One of the best lead generation methods that doesn’t cost you anything is referrals. You don’t have to pay anything to ask your customers to recommend you to family and friends.

To optimize this method, start by defining a profile of your ideal referral prospect so you can tell your customers who would be a good fit for your products or services. Give customers an incentive for making referrals by offering a discount or bonus. Tell them about a special sales offer designed to appeal to the referrals they reach out to, such as a new customer discount. 

Be sure to give them promotional tools to help them extend your offer to referrals, such as a website link.

10. Form Promotional Partnerships

Tapping into promotional partner resources is a way to gain new customers without spending marketing dollars. 

To use this method, you need an incentive for promotional partners that makes them want to promote you, such as:

  • Offering them a percentage of sales generated from referrals to their customers
  • Cross-promoting them to your customer base
  • Emphasizing how your products or services offer benefits that can help them build goodwill with their customers

Look for promotional partners who share your target market but sell a noncompeting product or service. Make a list of potential partners, develop an offer to appeal to them and reach out.

Build Your Business Without Breaking Your Budget

Building your business without spending money boils down to doing better financial planning and using cost-efficient marketing and sales strategies. 

Improve your financial planning by tracking your numbers, trimming unnecessary expenses and eliminating unprofitable marketing campaigns. Increase your marketing and sales efficiency by using high-leverage, low-cost promotional tactics such as refocusing your marketing message, improving your sales offer, extending offers to current and past customers and attracting new customers through referrals and promotional partnerships.

You don’t have to use all these strategies to see results. Any one of these methods can help you grow your business. Start by choosing one strategy that applies to where your business is at and adopt new tactics one at a time to nurture long-term business growth.

While the strategies discussed here can be deployed on any budget even if you can’t spend money, they can work even better in conjunction with strategies that do involve investments in financial planning and marketing. If you need additional cash to grow your business, take a few minutes to fill out our free, no-obligation prequalifying form and see your loan options.

Roy is a respected, published author on topics including business coaching, small business management and business automation as well as an expert business plan writer and strategist.
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