It takes money to make money, and as a business owner, you know that saying to be true. Running a successful business is expensive, so take every opportunity you have to save money. And there are many.
Marketing is important, but you don’t need to spend a lot on full-page ads in The New York Times. In fact, at least in the early stages, you need spend very little, or even none at all on formal marketing. The digital world provides a lot of free opportunities, especially social media. A well curated and active social media profile is more than just social. It can generate leads, spread your brand awareness, and foster loyalty with your existing customers. And all for free. Join online communities, groups, forums, and discussion boards. Be part of the conversation (but avoid the temptation to simply promote yourself all the time).
Customer testimonials are another free option that is tremendously popular and effective. Ask your existing clients - especially right after a positive experience - for a few sentences on their experience. Then, highlight those testimonials on your website (you do have one, right?) and social media accounts.
Offer your expertise in your area and online. Write a piece for the local paper or community newsletter. Teach a free class at the library. Speak at a local school.
These are all fantastic and free channels for increasing your visibility and authority, and that it tremendously valuable.
There are so many options and channels for outsourcing these days. Everything from HR to accounting, from customer service to design, from marketing to social media management can be outsourced for a fraction of the cost it would take to hire a full-time employee. Depending on your niche and objectives, you’ll want to keep some things in-house, but at least examine what’s out there.
Free (or Low Cost) Services and Products
Almost everything has some sort of free, open source, or cheap(er) alternative in the digital realm. Instead of paying for the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), consider the free OpenOffice Suite, or Google Drive. Instead of running Windows on all your computers, take a look at the free Linux operating systems. Instead of buying Adobe Photoshop, explore GIMP. No matter what you need, simply google “free alternatives to [blank]” to instantly see what’s out there.
Office equipment and computers are expensive, but there is a thriving market for used, second-hand, and refurbished products that cost considerably less. Worth the time and effort to look around.
You’ll very rarely need a hard copy (i.e. paper) of any document anymore. Utilizing the digital universe and eliminating (or reducing to its bare minimum) paper has many advantages: you’ll save money by not having to buy computer/copier paper, printers, and ink cartridges, you’ll increase efficiency by having your documents and files in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive) and instantly accessible to everyone and everywhere, and you can send invoices, receipts, purchase orders, memos, and so on at the touch of a button via email. Employees and customers can even digitally sign documents with free digital signature services like Hello Sign.
If you have a physical office, consider switching to shared space to lower costs, or if it’s just one and one or two other employees, think about working from home or your local library.
The same goes for retail space. Examine all options...switching to a smaller space, negotiating with your landlord, changing from a store to a kiosk or cart can all save big in the long run. Every situation is different, of course, so evaluate the choices and go with what works best for yours.
Join Associations and Industry Groups
These groups often have free newsletters, and typically provide discounts for their members on everything from insurance to advertising. Plus, you’ll be networking and making connections.
Other Avenues to Explore
- Just ask. Suppliers, vendors, landlords all want to maintain their relationship with you. Asking for a discount may not always get you one, but not asking is guaranteed to get you nothing, too.
- Tax Deductions - Best left to an expert (like your outsourced accountant), but business expenses are often tax deductible.
- Government Grants - not saving so much as getting, but government grants for small businesses (either local, provincial/state, or federal) may be available to you.
- Lower interest rates - compare available business credit card and loan interest rates. They are not all the same. Again, just asking for a lower rate will often get you one. Call your current corporate card company and ask for a reduced interest rate.
- Inquire with your suppliers about existing discounts they provide for bulk purchases or early payment of invoices.
The savings are there. Look for them. Ask for them. Explore the available avenues, channels, and options. Saving more is the same as making more, so it should definitely be part of your business strategy and plan.
Photo Credit: Ken Teegardin via Flickr
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