5 Creative Ways to Expand Your Home Business
Running a home business can feel like a lonely occupation when there isn’t enough business to keep your time occupied and no matter what you try, customers seem to stay away. Without a doubt, times are tough.
Given how hard it is for small businesses to thrive, it is vital that you, as a home business owner, work as effectively as possible to grow your business. Easier said than done, I know.
The good news is that there are some creative hacks that can have a huge impact on your business – from reducing expenses to gaining valuable media coverage.
1. Get Involved in a Great Local Cause
A Corporate Social Responsibility campaign is a powerful marketing strategy that can build consumer trust in your business.
By identifying a great cause that people care about (locally, regionally or nationally) and researching potential beneficiaries to work with, you can use CSR as a vehicle to generate newsworthy stories that are mutually beneficial to both parties.
Seek out particular problems and partner with a trustworthy charitable organization to solve that problem. It could be cleaning up a local river, or helping homeless people find jobs, whatever is relevant to your town or region.
Not only will you help charities and non-profits do better work, you’ll also create fantastic newsworthy stories that can be incorporated into your own PR campaign in the process.
2. Buy Cheap & Sell Back
Amazon is a leading retailer of both home and office supplies, as well as a host of other business related products and services. It has many sellers offering discounts on these products at different times, which means there are great discounts to be had.
The problem is that they are easy to miss, because prices can change so quickly – sometimes even on an hourly basis (depending on how many sellers there are and how competitive the market is for that particular item).
The best way to stay updated on pricing changes is to use an accurate hourly price tracker that sends you alerts when the price drops (or increases – useful if you want to sell reusable items back to make a bit of profit) any time, day or night.
Here’s a chart from RankTracer showing how the price of a common office product changes with time.
Obviously, there are better times to buy this toner cartridge than others – as you can see from the prices ranging from around $22 to $32 over the course of a month. And while this particular item is consumable and not really suited to reselling, there are plenty of products that you could easily purchase and then resell in used condition on Amazon (to recover some of your expenses).
3. Turn Bad PR into Good
Often negative reviews are a spur of the moment result of frustration and can be easily turned into a positive experience with very little effort.
Identify people who have created bad publicity out of a knee-jerk reaction and engage with them to address their concern. Sometimes this can be as simple as helping them select the product they want, or complete payment. Seriously, I’ve had bad reviews from people who forgot their login password and didn’t know how to click on the ‘forgotten password’ link to get a new one. They’re happy to write a terrible review about the entire service because they can’t login – it happens.
It’s important to focus on where you can make the most impact – this is especially true online.
According to the Pew Research Center, around 82% of U.S. adults read online reviews before making a purchase, making them an essential part of online marketing for home business entrepreneur.
Instead of viewing bad PR as a disaster, treat it as a marketing strategy. Using existing customers to create online reviews is a great strategy anyone can use right from the start – no matter how small your customer base.
Customers who have a positive interaction with you are often happy to send on goodwill recommendations and reviews to their friends, family and colleagues – making them a valuable inbound marketing channel.
4. Make the News (Literally)
Most good journalists and news editors are completely overwhelmed with spammy outreach emails from entrepreneurs, small businesses, organizations and companies. As a result, they don’t waste time on anything that doesn’t reach out and grab them straight away.
That’s why you need to actively put yourself in the news. Here’s how…
Step 1: Come up with Interesting News
I decided to rank the top new business ideas from university entrepreneurs over the last year or so. It took a small team of people a few days to comb through the Internet looking at winners and finalists from hundreds of different colleges across the states.
Step 2: Build a List
I had two groups:
- University media and public relations
- News media covering education
This meant I had to create two press release templates – not one.
Step 3: Send out a Press Release
I thought about what the PR and media people in those two groups of influencers needed in order to make my press release compelling and easy to use. Here’s my advice:
As a general rule, be succinct and to the point.
Don’t waste time and effort rambling on about anything. Short, punchy sentences that don’t beat around the bush are by far the most effective way to get your message across.
Step 4: Run a PR Campaign
Sometimes, for whatever reason, a journalist who is actually interested in your news misses it – perhaps they spilled coffee on themselves just as they were opening the press release. If you haven’t heard anything back, it’s worthwhile to send a follow-up email about 3 – 4 days after your original press release. After that, it’s best not to harass them further.
Be prepared to engage with journos and media people to help them get the information they want in order to publish content around your press release. The easier it is for them to put together a piece that mentions you, the more likely it is to happen.
It’s also worthwhile keeping an eye out on Google for recent news articles mentioning you (or set up an alert), because media houses often publish without notifying the source.
5. Create a Killer Sales Funnel Using Content
Online content that drives business is difficult to create. The two most common mistakes I see are:
- writing content that assumes the reader is ready to buy, and
- not spending nearly enough time promoting content you create.
It’s very important to write content that reaches out to a wide audience so that potential customers can enter the top of the sales funnel and get to know you and your service, without feeling immediate pressure to buy.
For example, you might write an article about “how to use widget A to accomplish something important,” with a link to your buying page for widget A. People who are doing research before they buy can read the article, get the information they were after, and be exposed to your brand before moving to a buying decision.
Content that home business owners (especially online store owners) create should also be of interest to other people, organizations and influencers because getting other people to share it is important. Without interest from important influencers it’s hard for your content to have any real impact since you’ll have a tougher time getting it in front of your target audience.
This means building relationships with influencers (often called influencer marketing). Building relationships with bloggers, reviewers, and journalists is time-consuming, but pays accumulating dividends as time goes by. The sooner you start, the quicker you’ll develop a strong network of influencers and quicker you’ll start seeing returns.
Don’t forget that content that ranks well in Google search results can be a nice source of passive income for work at home entrepreneurs, too.
As a small business owner, I’ve no doubt you’ve got plenty of other great tricks up your sleeve. Perhaps you recently discovered a fool-proof way of finding new customers, or getting bloggers to talk about your service? Whatever it is, share what’s worked for you in the comments to help others grow their business!
David Mercer contributes to SME Pals, a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online by turning creative business ideas into profitable startups. He is a tech entrepreneur and published author with programming and Web development books translated into over 13 languages worldwide.