How to grow a business the old fashioned way

How to grow a business the old fashioned way:

IMO, way too many entrepreneurs are obsessed with shiny objects. They want the next great AI tool or the next sexy software startup to solve all of their problems.

They read endless posts on X and LinkedIn about the latest “growth hacks” and obsess over “doing things that scale” instead of simply talking to customers and making some damn money the old fashioned way.

The reality is, so many of the best ways to grow a business aren’t new.

There are many simple tactics that don’t break the bank and have worked for decades for business owners all around the world.

Here’s at least 10 strategies that many business owners overlook:

  1. Use low cost, basic marketing materials to start:

A friend of mine runs a landscaping company. He gets most of his customers with yard signs and gets most of his employees with flyers taped up at gas pumps. He doesn’t have a website and he clears $250k + per year.

His “sales funnel” is his cell phone. He makes a basic flyer with his rates and information and his cell phone number at the bottom.

People see the flyer and he gets 3-10 calls/texts per week about landscaping.

He answers these calls and texts and he closes deals. It’s that simple.

This guy has virtually no tech and literally spends $300/yr on marketing to make $250K. It’s a phenomenal ROI.

This is also how the vast majority of businesses in America still run today.

Most local service businesses in your town survive and thrive based on simple things like referrals, basic flyers and pamphlets, door to door sales, taping your ad onto a light post at a crosswalk downtown, basic direct mail ads, the occasional newspaper ad or even leaving your business card at local restaurants or hotels.

There are so many million dollar per year businesses in the US that operate this way. They do virtually no “new idea” marketing at all.

2. Find out where your customers are, and go meet them:

The internet is awesome to amplify your message but if you’re just starting out, you don’t need it to make your first sale.

Create a list of 20 ideal customers in your town and go meet them in person. Get coffee, get lunch, invite them to golf or go get a beer. Building relationships and doing good work is the foundation of any successful business/career. Put your phone down and go meet some people in real life to make a sale!

3. Think outside the box:

In college, I ran a moving and storage company for students and I would draw chalk advertisements on the sidewalk in high traffic areas.

$200 worth of chalk per year brought in over $250,000 of revenue at some locations.

My wife and I would make the ads and we’d get a ton of leads. Then it would rain and our ads would get washed away.

Did we give up there? Of course not. We simply went back and re-did the ads.

Doing this 1-2 mornings per week in the summer probably brought in $500K+ in total sales. The cost to us was a few hundred dollars and a few hours of our time

4. Hire offshore talent:

Fortune 5000 companies have been doing this for decades. It started with call centers and customer support but it’s now transitioned to more skilled roles.

More SMBs should consider hiring competent people for 80% less than US equivalents.

80% of my employees are located in LatAm or the Philippines and make $5-10 per hour. And they are incredible and hold management roles (operations, underwriting, sales).

All hired using this company: www.somewhere.comIf you want an intro, respond to this email and I will set it up.

5. Wrap your vehicles:

If you’re in home services, wrap your vehicles. Way too many service businesses skimp out on an easy 5x ROI investment. Wrap your vehicles with vinyl advertisements for your company. It’ll pay for itself in a year or less.

6. Host and organize events:

We just did one for RE Cost Seg and it was a blast. We got about 100 real estate operators (GPs, agents, LPs, etc) in the room for some great beer, food and conversation.

This cost us about $6K and will make us $60K this quarter.

Events build community and relationships and are just plain fun. It’s well worth the investment to do.

7. Sponsor something in your town:

If you own a business that has enough cashflow consider sponsoring something in your town for marketing. This could be a local sports-team, community events, a charity golf outing, a once per year beer night at your favorite bar, your local film festival, etc to increase visibility and goodwill. Doing this will build your reputation tremendously and will likely generate WoM leads.

8. Collaborate with other business and co-promote each other:

Let’s say you run a local restaurant business. Go find your favorite boutique hotel in your area. Meet with the management team and ask if you can offer each new guest 10% off or 1 free drink with their dinner or whatever special comes to mind.

When folks check into the hotel, they will get your print out card with your offer and address and the receptionist will recommend you as a great place to eat nearby.

If you have to, give the hotel a percentage of the profit from each customer they send in. Typically hotels will do this for free since one of the top 2 questions they get asked every time someone checks in is “Where is your favorite place to ear nearby?” Or “What bars or coffee shops should I check out near this hotel?” It’s a win/win for both companies and a great way to grow together.

9. Ask for reviews and referrals:

Once you have worked with someone for a few months or you have done a good job for them several times, ask for reviews and referrals. A simple positive Google or Yelp review for your business is worth thousands of dollars in net value over the course of your career.

Additionally, ask for referrals. Referrals cost your customer nothing but could mean everything to your small business. If you have done good work for someone, ask if there is anyone else that they know that could benefit from your services. Offer a referral bonus if you have to or a discount if they refer someone that becomes a client for X # of months etc. This is a proven model and a free way to grow.

10. Do the basics well:

Once you are ready to add some digital components to your marketing stack, you simply need to do the basics well.

Build a good website with a clear value prop. Create a Google Business Profile. Increase your domain authority and outrank your competitors with SEO. Do basic Facebook and Google ads. Send simple emails to your leads. Call prospects and sell them on the phone. Do basic social media marketing to communicate your offer and value prop online. Write a basic newsletter once per month with updates to existing and prospective customers.

All of these things have nothing to do with fancy software tools or AI but they all work. It’s all about doing common things uncommonly well.

Thanks for reading.

Onward and upward,

Nick Huber

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About Me

I started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because I believe the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.