Finding Growth In All the Wrong Places: Unlikely Ways To Build Your Business

Ben Lee

Ben Lee

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.

If you’re running a startup or small business, chances are you’re nearly inundated with tips, tricks, advice, and think pieces about how to acquire customers and grow the business. The wealth of online knowledge available to startup owners now is an incredible resource, but it can easily get overwhelming, confusing, or downright repetitive.

So instead of the usual tips to “optimize your marketing channels,” “target more specifically,” or the always-popular “measure your marketing,” here are a few tips you haven’t heard before – ways to find growth in all the most unlikely places.

Think Outside The [Face]Book

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past decade, you probably know how critical social media is to your business. It’s an unbeatable ally in building your brand, engaging your customers, and driving conversions – but unfortunately, many business owners think that a “comprehensive social media strategy” just means having a Facebook page.

Consider this: 96% of small businesses are on Facebook. That’s a huge sign of how far social media has come in marketing importance over the past few years, and it makes sense – Facebook is the most visited website. Ever. Conversely, 63% of brands worldwide have a Twitter account.

Pinterest-advertising

Capitalizing on newer social networks like Pinterest may be more effective than traditional social channels like Facebook.

But social media is about more than just the biggest platforms – what about smaller networks? Pinterest is literally a social network about products, and all the content is formatted as highly engaging, beautiful pictures – few things are better set up for a business trying to attract customers. You can even create a Pinterest for Business account and start creating boards to attract followers, create customers, and secure conversions.

Quora is a rising star in social media that lets users get detailed, informative answers from experts. Chances are, as a business owner, you probably know a few things about running a startup, or at least about whatever industry your startup operates in – so why aren’t you on Quora? Answering questions on Quora is a great way to build your brand identity within your space, and if you’re helpful to people, they’ll probably want to find out more about you and your business – which could turn them into a new customer.

If your business has anything to do with software – meaning a mobile app or other piece of software plays a key role in your operations – and you’re not on Stack Exchange and Github, you need to be. If you don’t do your own coding, encourage your CTO to spend some time answering questions and contributing there. It’ll help instill you and your brand as a presence in the developer community and build your authority.

It doesn’t necessarily matter which social networks you choose to operate in. The main point is to start targeting outside the obvious ones. Facebook has the largest user base of any social network in the world, but that comes with increased competition, making it harder to break through the noise. By targeting smaller, lesser-known networks with a more specific niche, you increase the chances that your efforts will find interested users – and that increases the efficacy of your marketing time and money.

Let Other People Do The Work

There are so many products and services available now that some companies literally exist solely from finding and organizing the good ones. You can use this to your advantage. Instead of doing the hard work of finding customers yourself, let others do it for you – take advantage of the plethora of people and websites dedicated to curating the best businesses and products.

product-hunt-catThe biggest, most obvious one here is Product Hunt. Product Hunt is a website dedicated to promoting the newest, highest quality products in a variety of spaces). If you can get your product featured there, it’s free advertising to a community of about 150,000 users (thank you, Quora) who are already looking for new products to use. Here at Neon Roots, our internal product, Arbor, recently hit the #1 spot on Product Hunt’s tech category, and we saw a huge increase in sign ups.

Beta List is a site dedicated to connecting its visitors with the newest startups – and if you’re looking for people to test your new product, this site is hard to beat. You can submit your startup online, and if you’re accepted, your business and product will get shown off to a dedicated audience of more than 25,000 early adopters, all of them ready to try our product and give feedback – and if they like it, chances are they’ll become customers and brand ambassadors.

If you’re selling a physical product, you can quickly increase your reach by setting up business profiles on a variety of marketplace-based websites. Etsy is a hugely popular site aimed at artisan and handmade goods, and Store Envy is perfect for small businesses that still qualify as “indie brands.” Creating a store profile on sites like these can help to showcase your product to customers who may never have seen it otherwise, and eventually it might drive traffic back to your main channels.

Un-PC Yourself

the-man-your-man-could-smell-like

Old Spice’s infamous “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign generated tons of buzz by going off the traditional script for deodorant ads

When you think of advertising – or really, when you think of any communication that comes from a business – what tone comes to mind? The vast majority of advertising and messaging put forward by corporations is designed to avoid offending anyone. As a result, it can often feel bland, boring, and flavorless. But who said it has to be that way?

Instead of making all of your brand messaging simple, harmless, and boring, try stepping outside the box. Write provocative headlines for your blog posts, add a little shock value into your advertisements, and try saying something with conviction. Chances are, that’ll generate more traffic than the whitewashed tone that consumers expect from businesses.

Of course, you should use this only within reason. If you put out messaging that’s overtly offensive to a specific group, relies on discriminatory stereotypes, or is unnecessarily profane or obscene, that will hurt your brand. Use common sense when thinking about what kinds of messages you want your business to be sending – but don’t be afraid to get a little off the leash in how you go about it.

Devote 3 Days To Process

There are so many productivity tools, organizing products, and ways to make you and your business more efficient that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. Taken together, the tools and gadgets available to you could probably save you hours of work by making your workflow more efficient. But, they don’t.

Why? Because successfully implementing these things takes time, and most business owners aren’t willing to burn even one afternoon on some new productivity gadget.

Instead of getting stuck in this self-made trap, try dedicating 3 working days to improving your workflow. Of course, it doesn’t have to be 3 days – it can be a week, a day, or even just a couple of hours. The point is to set aside some time specifically for working on your workflow instead of chugging away at the primary function of your business.

If you spend time researching and implementing productivity tools, you’ll likely find a variety of new systems that will benefit you for years. Try setting up multiple inboxes for Gmail, which makes it easy to get to inbox zero on a regular basis. Try out Clara, the artificially intelligent virtual assistant that will take care of scheduling your meetings and phone calls for you. If you aren’t yet, get your team set up on Slack. Learn what effective to-do lists look like with Trello. Set up email open-tracking and automated sending with Hubspot. Start using a collaborative document & project manager like Quip. Automate your computer with IFTTT.

There are nearly infinite productivity tools out there, but most people don’t benefit from them because they don’t invest the time to set them up and start using them. Try blocking out time – even just a few hours – to improve your workflow. Chances are, those few hours will come back to you in all the time you save thanks to increased productivity.

Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself

Naturally, the traditional growth channels still matter. You should still be running traditional Google Adwords campaigns, leveraging advertising on Facebook, and of course, getting outside of the building and talking to customers. But keep in mind that growth comes in many colors, and your most effective tool for growing your business might be something you’ve never even thought of before. To keep business rolling and attract new customers, make a practice of regularly trying new strategies, measuring their effectiveness, and doubling down on what works. The more you can fine tune your growth strategy to what works for your specific business, the faster you’ll achieve long-term, sustainable growth.