Everyone’s trying to sell you something. You know that. Even blogs like this one– I am being paid, after all. My manager and I had a brief back-and-forth about the topic of this blog. She’s keen on linking it back to something we can convert from. Marketing services. Copywriting. Software development. I disagree.
I know that these days, people skim read. They spot a hard sell a mile away, and they want something of value, otherwise they move on. There’s a new demand on businesses, to be profitable and contribute to the moral fibre of our society. At first glance, it’s radically antithetical. In reality, why not? The truth is, why can’t we provide something of value, be ethical and make a profit? The other truth — that it is actually possible. So let’s just bloody well do it.
Of course, the exceptions lie with massive market players – tech companies and banks who got the big slices of pie. Well, we’re already seeing a shift away from traditional players, to those who prioritize community contribution, fair rates, transparency and contemporary cool. Think Koho, Monzo or Greenwood. Customers reward these providers with business, gratitude, engagement and interest. In turn, these providers make conscientious choices. A symbiotic relationship. More like the future.
That’s why I want to talk to you about something of real value.
Here it is: The most consequential aspects of your business come for free.
So often, businesses get the basics wrong, then mire those building blocks in money, packaging and outreach. The stuff that really matters, and the core ingredients of presence do not cost money.
What got you into this line of work in the first place? Can you summarize it in one sentence? One word? Your most powerful tool is your form – what is presented to the public. What you choose to present for consumption.
Most small business owners believe in their ideas or want to be their own boss. Only 8% of owners are motivated by money. Reasonably, of course, knowing how hard it is. Regardless of your ‘why’, the ‘what’ should be value. You have to decide how you’re going to provide it. Then, you need to communicate that clearly. This premise should align with certain themes or values that you’re going to keep consistent.
Distilling your business’ persona, voice, themes and values comes for free. It should be the highest priority in getting started or overhauling. The rules of thumb are to be clear, consistent and prioritize simple over flashy. The purity and repetition of your message are what will stick.
You don’t have to be a creative or a designer to make something that looks great. Not in the tech age. Tools like Canva are incredible – you pick a template, such as a presentation, or an Instagram post, or a logo, and step-by-step, create something aesthetically pleasing. It’s completely free, and you can choose from thousands of elements and styles. If you’re unsure, at least in picking one of their pre-made options that you feel you like, you’ll know that it’s on-point in terms of design.
Even website providers have in-depth and easy step-by-step tutorials for setting one up, and will let you create something for free. Monthly plans are reasonable, and if you don’t want to pay, you can usually launch for free as long as you’re happy to have the web provider’s ads on your site. Try Wix or Squarespace to get started.
You don’t have to be a whiz — again, just make clear choices and make them consistently.
Yes, programmatic advertising is cool. It can also be expensive. One of the greatest tools in digital marketing is social media. Helpfully, a business account page on either Facebook or Instagram, is free. And that may be all you need. Even if you’re looking to collaborate with an influencer, check out what underwear company Parade did for their launch. Now they’re huge, no scrabbling required.
WARNING. THIS IS A PLUG. heymate! handles all business operations, and it’s totally free. We only take a percentage of transactions you run through the system. That’s it. At 2.19% it’s the cheapest on-market, and the reality is that we don’t make money unless you make money. Win-win. End of plug.
Plus, “80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.”These are all aspects of operations that can be transformed and attended to, for free.
The public expectation of businesses to be conscientious is a hot topic. Consumers are clear that they want actions, not words, and contribution, not signalling. It’s a simple strategy; provide value, care for others and show a level of self-responsibility. This doesn’t have to negate profit.
This goes for internal relationships and culture, too. Your employees are your livelihood and newsflash – they tend to get less out of the bargain. Ensuring an atmosphere of respect, communication and common sense will go a long way. Making people feel valued, heard and like they’re able to grow are similarly important. If you lift the bar in honesty and excellence in one area of your life, it will begin to bleed into others.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The choice to view your business journey as a marathon, not a sprint, is the most freeing decision you can make. Realizing that failing once doesn’t mean failing permanently, and most successful entrepreneurs couldn’t see the golden light at the end of the tunnel. That’s only there in retrospect. With no expectations, there’s only one way, and that’s up. Unravel the complexity and get back to basics. Laugh off the fluff so you’ve got more energy for the properly serious things. Intentionality comes for free.
So what’s that one thing again?
The most vital aspects of your business come for free. If you get these right, everything else is just the bells and whistles.