Come up with a business idea, launch a website, create a few paid ads campaigns, and watch money pouring in. You’ve probably heard about this strategy in a million different ways. Of course, each time it’s talked about, the strategy gets more and more distilled: you get tips on what business to start, which ad platform to choose, how to write your ads, how much to invest and so on.
But the gist is always the same: pay to get paid.
Let me be clear: this is a perfectly valid business model. I’ve recommended it too, for a lot of clients that I’ve helped with marketing strategy advice.
However, it’s not the ideal business model in the long run.
If you want your business to thrive for years or even generations, paid ads fall short. They are unsustainable on their own.
Why Paid Ads Don’t Cut it on Their Own Anymore
In the early days of a business, it’s a good idea to use any channel at your disposal to gain brand awareness and your first clients. Ads are the fastest way to do it.
As you start to gain more ground, though, you have to consider the following:
- If your growth is solely based on an ad platform, can you be 100% sure that that platform will be there in five years? (See what happens with Meta as we speak.)
- When you stop paying for ads, the results stop. What happens if you have a bad month? You’ll be stuck in a vicious circle where you can’t afford to pay for more ads to get more revenue so you can pay for even more ads.
- Paid-ads-led growth can rarely spark authentic, long-lasting relationships with your clients.
Is there a better way? Yes, you’ve already seen it in the title of this article.
The Case for Organic Business Growth
I’m going to tell you exactly what I tell my marketing strategy clients: invest in your organic growth even before you launch and keep doing so consistently.
Case in point: a client of ours in the SaaS space came to us with a strategy idea that he wanted validation for: start with strong Google Ads campaigns and see how that goes.
It was a good idea to begin with. But our agency’s advice was a bit more nuanced: invest in Google Ads, but also optimize your landing pages for SEO from day one.
This helped him get a better score in Google Ads (and thus pay less for every click) and, more importantly, in the long run they were able to stop paying for ads altogether and rely only on organic traffic and leads. If you learn one thing from this article let it be this one: the results from paid ads stop as soon as you stop paying; the results from organic growth last for years with no additional investment.
One more story and then we’ll get to the how part of this article. Back in 2015, I launched my first digital marketing agency, Idunn. Although I already had some clients from my freelancing days, I wanted fast growth. So I experimented with Google Ads for a few days.
I stopped the ads within less than a week. The leads I got through them were so poor, qualifying them was a waste of time.
Instead, I focused entirely on organic growth. Within a few months, we had a constant stream of leads pouring in. Within four years, I launched my second agency, Copywritech, specialized in marketing for tech companies and built entirely on the success of the first one (but that’s another story for another time).
Since 2015, I haven’t even tried paying for ads. All our clients are won organically.
Want to stop paying for ads too?
Stick with me.
How to Grow Your Business Organically
When you use ads to grow a business, you rely on money. That’s an important commodity (to say the least), but it has a terrible habit: it tends to run out eventually.
My advice is to complement your ad budget with something that rarely runs out and when it does, it can be replenished: your own (or your team’s) expertise.
Build a strong foundation for your business. Here’s how:
Document Your Strategy
I’ve met countless founders who kept their strategy “in their head.” To be honest, I’ve done it myself in the beginning. It’s common in small businesses. It’s also very detrimental to any business.
When the entire strategy lives in your head alone, it’s hard to make tweaks. It’s hard to follow through. It’s hard to measure. Everything is hard.
That’s true even if you are a one-person-show. If you already have a team in place, it’s excruciating and it’s the perfect recipe for disaster.
Start writing down your strategy from the very beginning. You don’t have to complete it in one sitting. Treat it as a living document that you keep adding to.
Don’t think that if you have to change, delete, add, replace things it means that you’ve gone about it wrong. Market conditions change every day – it’s normal for your strategy to adapt as well.
My advice is to start with writing down your goals. Then add the tactics that can support these goals. Don’t forget about KPIs and measurement tools!
Write everything down and watch clarity happen. Remember that our memory is fickle and not as reliable as we like to think. Commit everything to (virtual) paper if you want accountability and real growth.
Create Valuable Content
Blog posts, infographics, webinars, eBooks, whitepapers, and so on – these are your foot in the door, the things that can help establish your company as an authority in your field. As long as you create content that’s worth consuming, you’ll see growth.
Add a sprinkle of SEO to anything you publish to get results from your content for years to come. 6 Mistakes to Avoid at all Costs When You Hire SEO Copywriters is an article we published in 2017. It still brings leads to my agency. Yes, it’s five years later and it brought so many leads that we’ve honestly lost track of its ROI.
How’s that for time-proof investment?
Build Relationships, Not Pitches
Build a community around your brand from day one. Spend time on social media to learn what people are truly interested in (bonus: this will give you a ton of ideas for great content).
But don’t try and pitch your services to everyone you see online. And, more importantly, don’t start DM-ing spam pitches – no one likes those.
Instead, focus on meaningful conversations. Answer questions, pitch in, give advice. It’s your way in. It’s the way you’ll get to be known as a knowledge source.
You can automate and schedule your posts on social media (I’ve been a fan of Sendible for this for years now!) but don’t forget to show up in person, too.
Be Persistent. Have Patience.
The only downfall of building your business organically is that it can’t happen overnight. But then again very few sustainable things do.
It takes time to build a reputation and it takes effort to consolidate it. Show up every day to add a new building block to your organic growth.