It used to be that getting traffic to your business meant shoppers walking through the doors. But today e-commerce businesses can get visitors from all over the world. Still, traffic— virtual or in person— is a key to getting sales. People need to find your store before they will buy from you.
While massive marketing campaigns can run millions of dollars or more, there’s no reason you can’t employ smaller schemes to boost awareness and get people to your website, Etsy store or anywhere you offer your products or services for sale.
Here’s a list of the most popular (and proven) ways to get traffic to your small business on a budget.
1. Use Email Marketing
Most of us have email lists that are just sitting and collecting dust. With social media pulling people all over the place, it’s nice to know that email inboxes are still a sacred place where most messages are “invitation only.” If you haven’t sent an email in a while, it’s OK to reintroduce yourself to your audience, remind them that they did (at one point) opt-in to your newsletter, and give them a reason to stay subscribed.
And if you don’t have an email list, start one. It’s one of the best ways to stay in touch with people who are interested in what you have to offer.
2. Leverage Social Media
Social media marketing can be very effective, but it does take time and commitment. Whether you choose Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok or LinkedIn, pick ONE social media platform and do it really well.
Post daily, at a minimum, use a conversational style to communicate, and choose behind-the-scenes photos and videos to bring your audience into your world. Don’t forget to engage individually, by responding to comments or to tagged posts. You can even create your own hashtag to track conversations.
3. Get Organic Website Traffic
An entrepreneur’s ideal goal is for visitors to find them through website searches (organic traffic), rather than paid advertising or other types of referrals. Unless you operate in an extremely unique niche with few competitors, you’ll need to invest in high-quality content marketing so your site can come up on the first results page for a google search.
Take an inexpensive online course to learn the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), including concepts like long-tail keyword research and creating backlinks. It can help you write content that also fills the goal of search traffic.
Developing a successful content strategy takes work but done right it can pay off for weeks, months or years to come. If you don’t feel capable of creating great content yourself, you may be able to hire freelance writers to write articles or to turn your ideas into blog content. Infographics can be another great way to drive traffic to your site.
People who value these relationships will buy from you!
4. Become A Podcast Guest
Podcasts are often looking for guests with interesting stories or specific expertise to talk with. Appearing on podcasts that appeal to your target audience can be an excellent marketing strategy to connect with prospective customers, even if it’s just to create brand awareness.
Ask your customers what podcasts they listen to in your niche, and listen to some yourself before pitching yourself as a guest.
5. Invest In Digital Marketing
Digital marketing, such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, isn’t free, but it allows you to test advertising messages without spending a lot of money to find out what resonates with potential customers. Consider Google Adwords, Facebook ads, and other social platform advertising to test your call to action before you sink a lot of money into paid ads. If it works, you can scale up.
6. Use Influencer Marketing
It’s probably not in your budget to snag a Kardashian for a day, but it’s also not advantageous. Instead, get a “micro influencer” to chat about the benefits of your product or service, using social media or their website to talk about your products or services. Or they may want to host a giveaway of your product.
You can offer them samples of your products, though payment may be required too, and make sure that you insist influencers follow FTC disclosure rules to stay legally compliant.
7. Cross-Promote Content
Have you heard of guest posting? That’s where you write for other websites (usually for free) in order to get backlinks and hopefully web traffic. What about Instagram takeovers? The opportunities to get fans or influencers to create content for you are massive. Cross-promotion allows the brand and the influencer to both grow their audiences, and it can help you uniquely reach new customers.
8. Increase Your Curb Appeal
Whether your business is a restaurant or an online store, you want to present a beautiful, welcoming experience for your guests. Skip the gross stock photos and clunky text. Wipe away the cobwebs and create a stunning window display. (Tools like Canva make it easy to create great online visuals.) Ask people who don’t know what they think of the first time they see your website and social media accounts; then, take action.
9. Be Mobile Friendly
Don’t be that business that looks good on a desktop and not on a phone. With more shoppers spending time on their phones than their computers but doing more shopping from desktop than mobile device, it proves that it’s sometimes easier to shop from your desk. Be the change you want to see. Make it seamless and rewarding to buy from any mobile device.
10. Reward Loyalty
Punch cards, rewards points, buy-one-get-one. However you brand it, make sure your repeat customers feel like they are being thanked for their loyalty. Free stuff is great, and one of the main drivers behind returning to the same store over trying out new ones. Get a loyalty program in place that makes sense for your brand; enlist your customer feedback, if needed, to figure out what will work.
11. Ask For Referrals
When was the last time you asked your customers to tell their friends? It’s not shameless. It actually works! Whether you offer a reward is up to you, but the simple act of asking works. “If you enjoyed your experience today, please tell a friend about us,” is magical verbiage. Use it whenever it’s appropriate.
12. Up Your Customer Service Game
Lousy service can destroy all your traffic. Make sure everyone that works for you is trained and prepared to answer questions and offer solutions. Invest in people over tech. Not only will it make for a better user experience, but your employees talk. No one wants to buy from a company that treats their workers poorly.
13. Stick To A Marketing Budget
It’s a common folly. Company A starts a weekly Twitter event to build traffic and abandons it after three months. Then, they quit using Twitter altogether. Company B starts a loyalty program but doesn’t follow through on sending the perks. This is the danger in trying something new; you have to be willing to do what you say and keep doing it, even when the traction seems slow. Make sure any new plan you implement is something you feel good about staying with for the long haul.
14. Measure What Matters
Learning how to track and measure success is key to creating more of it. Bloggers frequently use Google analytics to understand the demographics of their site visitors, which types of content they are searching for and how long they are staying on each page. GA can also be used to understand conversion rates and to test different versions of landing pages.
For social media, you may track other measures, such as engagement, but ultimately you’ll also want to understand conversion rates. How many visitors to your website or social media are they turning into email subscribers and/or paying customers?
15. Create a signature event
There’s nothing new about having a Mother’s Day luncheon, but have you considered hosting an event for International Golden Retriever Day? There are so many holidays to celebrate. While many of them were created by marketing gurus, they all offer a chance to brand your business differently. Use these days to celebrate, every year, an occasion that’s near and dear to your heart.
As you can see, there are too many suggestions here to do all of them, right now, at one time. Picking a few that are affordable and offer a bigger return is a smart idea. As you master a few of them, add a new approach to your game plan. These traffic drivers are, by and large, common-sense business concepts that most of us know about. The execution and consistency is where many business owners struggle, however, and reminding ourselves of their benefit can boost your traffic enough to warrant taking another look.
How To Fund Online Marketing Expenses
If you do hit upon a formula that’s working, you may need to invest more capital to get more results. This can be a fairly low-risk strategy as long as you don’t overinvest. (What’s working today can change tomorrow.)
Business credit cards can give you low-cost access to a short-term line of credit. For example, you can buy ads and pay for them in a month or two when the bill is due. (It depends on the timing of those purchases, of course, but most credit cards offer a month’s grace period on new purchases.) You can also choose a credit card with a 0% intro APR to finance those costs for 6—12 months or more, interest-free (a fee will apply).
Business lines of credit also give you access to funds when you need them. They are ideal for short-term working capital needs, such as marketing or inventory. Make sure you understand how the interest costs impact your profit margins. Used wisely, though, you can leverage a line of credit to increase sales and profits.
This article was originally written on May 22, 2019 and updated on February 3, 2023.