How to Build a Business without PPC

How to Build a Business without PPC

Most new businesses don’t have the benefit of venture capital injections. They usually have to work with limited funds, so how they use their initial investment is critical to the company’s longevity. In fact, how you start and grow your business is the number one determinant of long-term success or failure. That’s because the way you get business is the way you lose it. I’ll go into more detail on this point later, but for now, understand that building a solid foundation at the start enables you to weather hardships later on. 

 New startups often assume that they need to hire a bunch of sales reps and start dumping money into marketing (pay-per-click, social ads, affiliate marketing, etc.) as quickly as possible if they want to flourish. While this can be effective, more often than not, it’s a mistake. When you’re operating on a narrow budget, big plays are far more likely to bankrupt you than boost your fortunes. 

 One of my favorite books, “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins, offers a better method for more reliably growing a business with staying power. Jim perfectly captures what has been my experience in building a business with this line: 

 “Fire bullets, then cannonballs.” 

 You can read a synopsis of the concept here. In this analogy, bullets and cannonballs are strategies for growing your business. If you blow all of your gunpowder on a single, uncalibrated cannonball shot, there’s a good chance you’ll miss your target, and when you do, you’ll have nothing left for a second shot. Instead, start with bullets. They use less gunpowder, allowing you to fire a lot of them. Use these experiments to find what works and what doesn’t, thus calibrating your shots. Once you have a few workable strategies, THEN fire your cannonballs. You’re much more likely to succeed because your bullets provided empirical validation of your methods. 

 Start with the fundamentals and take small, calculated risks until you have a winning strategy and the budget to pursue it. Only then should you take more significant risks. Let’s take a deeper look at how to build a business without PPC.

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A still from the scene in Glengarry Glen Ross where Alec Baldwin famously says, "Always be closing."


No amount of marketing is going to build your business if you can’t close a sale. Closing is a fundamental sales skill that’s critically important for your business’s future. Thankfully it’s a learnable skill, and practice makes perfect. 

 Any investment you make in yourself and your sales skills is a worthwhile expenditure, so put in the time. Learn new skills, read some of the classics, avail yourself of seminars, and get feedback from sales leaders. Closing can be intimidating, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become with the process. 

 Like an athlete, spend some time every day working on your sales fundamentals. Find a mentor and be responsive to their coaching. As Alec Baldwin famously quipped in Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always be closing.” Not only will you close more deals, but the practice will also make you better.

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There’s nothing better than hands-on experience. You can talk about features and benefits until you’re blue in the face, but often the best salesman is your product. If you have quality offerings, they can speak for themselves. Get them into your client’s hands for a tangible experience that can seal the deal. 

 Imagine you sell gourmet burgers. What’s the best way to win customers — describe the flavor of your burgers and hope people get it or let them try a free sample so that they can experience it directly? It’s for sure that the experience of the burger would be far more convincing than a description. 

 This is a universal truth, and you can apply it to almost any product or service. If the unit price per product is low, you can afford to give away free samples. For more expensive items, you might set up a hands-on demo.  

 This applies to services, too. Creative services often use portfolios of previous work as a sales tool. This is an example of your service selling itself. Professional services can offer free consultations. Athletes might send prospective teams game film to show what they’re capable of.

SEE ALSO:  How to Start a Business on a Shoestring Budget

Professionals talking at a networking event.


I mentioned earlier that the way you get business is the way you’ll lose it. To explain, imagine you win a bunch of customers through PPC ads. How likely are they to remain your customers? What happens when they see a competitor’s ad with a better price? If they responded to your ad, they’d react to another, and you’ll lose your customers the same way you won them. 

 The key to building a solid business is relationships. “Loyalty is royalty” is a favorite saying of mine. Networking is critical because it builds relationships, and business won through a relationship will only fall to a stronger relationship — and that’s hard to do. Which means business built through networking is much more stable. As long as you keep the relationship with your customers strong, they’ll stay loyal, and loyal customers will stick with you, even through the hard times. 

 Building relationships takes longer, but it’s less expensive than advertising and creates lasting customers that will grow with your business.

SEE ALSO:  How to Build Relationships More Productively

Man in his office, talking on the phone.


Though it often gets a bad rap, cold calling can bring a hefty return on a minimal investment if it’s pursued doggedly. I love the challenge of the cold call. It’s a great way to work on your sales technique. If you can convince a total stranger to listen to your pitch, your sales prowess will go through the roof.  

 My team and I average at least 80 calls a day. It’s difficult but rewarding. You never know where opportunity is hiding. Your next biggest client could be the next cold call on your list.

SEE ALSO:  How to be Great at Sales

Maintain a Blog

Content marketing is a bedrock practice for building strong on-page SEO to help drive organic traffic to your website. When people search for terms related to your business, you want to have a page on your website that directly answers their questions. The more of this content you have, the more searches you can answer, and the higher your search ranking will climb. 

 Blogs are a great way to break into content marketing. Write a post on every possible topic that’s related to your business. And be sure to post regularly because Google and the other search engines like fresh, regular content. 

 As you can see, building a business isn’t just possible without resorting to PPC, it’s preferable. Focusing on relationships and on strengthening your interpersonal sales skills will build your business consistently and provide a loyal customer base that will help you grow for years to come.