Not only is your online business up and running, you’re doing a good job of selling what you have to offer and—most importantly—you’re actually turning a profit doing it. Kudos to you, and that’s not a reference to the delicious cereal bar. Making money with a startup is no easy feat, so that’s really something to celebrate.
You’ve probably learned a lot in the early going, like how to figure out who your core audience is and why it’s more important to have a website that’s easy to use than one with all the bells and whistles (unless you sell bells and whistles, of course). Maybe you’ve even discovered that the Pareto Principle applies to your business, with 20 percent of your products or services accounting for 80 percent of your sales, and used this knowledge to focus on your strengths.
While your business was still in its infancy, these were all important things to learn but now it seems like you’ve plateaued. Growth is stagnant and you might even be feeling a financial pinch from trying to expand before your revenue streams were ready for it. What do you do to get more money and keep growing?
Easy: find new revenue streams.
Okay, okay. Admittedly, “easy” probably isn’t the best word to use, but there are a number of ways that online businesses can do to add revenue sources, such as…
Add products or services.
Maybe your online tea business is selling hand-crafted tea cozies like crazy, but people don’t seem to be as interested in the tea kettles or the tea itself. You rightly focused more on the cozies because they were working but it’s not enough. Ever thought that perhaps you don’t have a tea business, but a cozy business? Try new products like coffee cozies, beer cozies, or toaster cozies and see how they do. A service company like a junk removal business could think about offering a separate moving service because it still involves hauling things.
Expand your customer base.
If could be that you’ve hit your revenue ceiling with your current customers because they don’t have any more money, or they’ve already bought everything you have. Get new customers (i.e. revenue sources) by marketing yourself to a wider audience using new SEO terms, guest posting on different sites, joining more social networks, using PPC advertising, and more. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can stop appealing to your core audience; you just have to find ways to reach out to others without alienating them.
Join an affiliate ad network.
Most businesses don’t like the idea of putting up ads for other companies, and especially fear driving visitors away with banners and pop-ups that are intrusive and annoying, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Amazon’s Associates Program lets you link to anything on their site in a contextual way and make money doing it, while Yahoo Publisher Network, Google Adsense, and others pay surprisingly well for ads that do little to disrupt your site. Perhaps the best part is that you can typically choose the kinds of ads that you want to display. In this way, you ensure that they reflect products and services that interest your customers. Some people have had amazing success using affiliate marketing.
Get outside investments.
This one works best with companies that are “big ideas” but don’t have a plan on how to monetize the business. Business ideas like Facebook and Twitter, or even companies that want to create something like a video game and sell it but don’t have the necessary money to create the game themselves. Kickstarter and websites like it provide you with one option but you can also utilize your own network to find people willing to invest money now for a piece of the profits later.
These suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding new revenue sources for your business. You just have to be creative—some companies even make money by outsourcing their employees to other businesses when things are slow. The key is to keep the money coming in while you work on growing the company.