For everyday entrepreneurs, growing a small business is a worthy ambition. But it can be unglamorous.
Anyone who’s ever started a business is familiar with this narrative: the sixteen-hour workdays without a paycheck. The errands here and there to talk to this supplier or that customer. The endless negotiations. The overdraft bank accounts and overdue credit card bills.
All these, on top of worrying about businesses swooping in to take the growth they’re working hard for because they can’t afford to protect their business and its progress.
But small business owners can protect their businesses by going guerilla. They can use creative and unconventional strategies to grow and protect their business without draining their resources.
You can do that, too! Here are some strategies to take with you on the battlefield of growing a small business.
You read it right. The first and most important guerilla tactic for growth is not to sell. By that, we mean selling by getting into someone’s personal space with a cookie-cutter pitch.
But no matter how counterintuitive this advice seems, it makes sense. Try to recall the last time you’ve ever bought something because of a spammy seller there was none. If there was, you probably felt a tinge of buyer’s remorse afterwards.
Humans don’t like being sold to, but we love buying. While selling is at the heart of business, it’s better to let your products or services speak for themselves. First, align your business to your customer’s needs and wants. Then, use influence to pave the way for a sale. This saves you time, resources, and energy, too!
Give Something for Free
Freebies work on a psychological and experiential level. For example, if you’re selling a novel, let them read a few pages to get immersed in the story. If you have a coffee shop, offer a customer a free espresso shot.
Your customers will be inclined to return the goodwill gesture. By giving them the experience without consequence, you ease their reservations and help them discover how your product or service fits their life without costing you a leg.
This strategy works well with personalization. If you’re eager to learn how, skip to the Take Each Sale Personally section.
Get off the Usual Grid
Nowadays, entrepreneurs start their businesses virtually or in the real world. So if you started off with a physical store, take it online and go ecommerce. If you’re selling on amazon fba or in any online marketplaces, take it to the streets. Set up a temporary pop-up booth and join trade fares.
Exploring new avenues where you can sell gives you market insight. In addition, you’ll also expand the reach of your small business. You’ll get closer to finding where your customers, potential partners, and competitors are.
So go to markets you’ve never sold at before. The bigger and more unfamiliar, the more fun it is to test your creative business marketing ideas, because the risk is minimal. Go and jump out of the fish bowl and swim into the ocean!
Make a Bad Product (or Service)
This is not to be confused with deliberately making a terrible product or service that no one wants to buy. However, we mean that you have to get comfortable with a trial-and-error approach to develop a product or service from bad to good to great.
So bring your product developers and potential customers together. Invite them to a sit-down meeting and brainstorm new product ideas over snacks. Once there’s a consensus, have your team create a prototype and get the early adopters to test it out until it becomes market ready.
This is called incubation. You do this because you don’t have a budget for top-dollar, corporate-level product research and development (R&D). But who says you can’t do it with just a few free pizzas?
Be Human With Your Customers
A practical and proven PR move for small business owners is to humanize their businesses. They can do this by connecting with their social media followers who are mostly people used to seeing large businesses as emotionless entities. That’s where small businesses have an advantage.
In previous years, big food industries took the game plan of guerilla PR pros. One over-the-top example is Wendy’s. They did well interacting with their followers using humor. They even involved their competitors in the whole shebang. It’s funny and entertaining, and it certainly makes us see Wendy as a human being before we see the business behind it.
So respond quickly to your social media followers. If funny isn’t your forte, be truthful. Most importantly, address the bad customer reviews just as much as you accept the good ones.
Collaborate With Your Competitors
Let’s go back to our Wendy’s example. After their social media strategy blew up, Wendy’s brought Burger King and McDonald’s into the exchange and made fun of them. We argue that an opportunity lies behind Wendy’s move to rib at its competitors. The virality of the trio’s social media rivalry, in effect, allowed Wendy’s to share the spotlight with Burger King and McDonald’s, igniting a collaboration.
Wendy’s case isn’t exactly a new idea, but it is unconventional. It’s called coopetition a move that both large and small businesses do to capitalize on their competitor’s needs to gain a mutual advantage. It can take several forms, from joint product development to a marketing campaign stunt.
You can do the same for your small business. But be careful if you do this guerilla growth move. You must know your competitors, and be cautious about spilling the secret sauce while you’re elbow-to-elbow with the enemy.
Take Each Sale Personally
Treat each sale as if your friend is doing you a favor and you’re returning it. Go deeper than the sale. Give them what they want. Know why they want it and where they want it. This strategy costs almost nothing, but the impact is huge. Treating each sale personally makes you more likely to get repeat business.
To do this, make an effort to find out about your customers. While taking a proactive approach is great, you’ll have to know your boundaries. Avoid a strong approach. The key here is to be a friend. That’s why offering a freebie works well as a tool for future personalized sales. It builds trust and relationships between you and your customers, enough for them to tell you their preferences with little to no solicitation on your end.
You can also do it indirectly by inserting a feedback option in order forms or a post-sale personalized note. The idea is to give them space to process your request and a choice to act on it as they wish.
Put Your Eggs in One Basket
Risk-averse entrepreneurs tend to half-invest in their businesses when it comes to financing. By that, we mean they take half of their earmarked investment and diversify it into several business ventures. This is financially wise, but only if your business is in or beyond the growth stage.
So don’t buy a stake in your brother-in-law’s car dealership or your aunt’s pastry business. This will divide your attention because now you have eggs in several baskets. Instead, make investment decisions only if your own business profits.
Let Them Pay You Later
Giving credit for purchases is a powerful method to increase your sales without spending money. You don’t need to infuse cash into the business to do this. Just let your customer have the product and pay for it later.
Doing this drives your sales volume. Your product on credit gives them an incentive to get more of it because they will not be cash-strapped when they do so. As a result, you’ll grow your business revenue without any additional investment.
On the other hand, executing this guerilla growth strategy has its risks. So be sure you have a good credit policy in place to handle delays in payments and bad debts. You’ll have to hire an accounting professional you can consult with to do this right.
Don’t Do Your Own Numbers
Last but equally as important as the first strategy is to avoid doing your own bookkeeping. That’s because it will be time and energy-consuming whether you are skilled or not.
You want to spend time growing your business and executing your guerilla growth strategies. At the same time, you want immediate feedback on how these strategies are helping your business grow. You want to see the numbers, but it doesn’t mean you have to do them yourself.
So get someone to do it for you. Bookkeeping will take up at least half of your time. So as much as possible, outsource it to a bookkeeping business that will produce accurate financial data whenever you need it.
The Most Important Guerrilla Growth Strategy: Have Fun
Whether you take the tips above seriously or with a grain of salt, the important thing is to have fun growing your small business. It shifts you to the right mental environment for growth, and it’s free!
We get it. Entrepreneurs have visions of changing the world and making a difference. But, most of the time, the effort of taking your business too seriously only adds another row of forehead lines.
So loosen up! The locus of control only extends so far. Eventually, there’s a point where you have to let things fall into place themselves. We hope that you find joy in the space between the teeth-grinding hustle and the unknown.
And that’s what guerilla growth is all about: taking stock of what you can do and having fun with it. So enjoy executing these unconventional growth strategies, and the outcome will take care of itself.