When you break it down, there’s really only two ways to grow your online business: Paid vs Organic Marketing.

This might sound like an oversimplification, but it’s not!

And there is quite a bit of skill and nuance within each of those ways to grow. Both have pros and cons, and costs and benefits, and there’s also a huge mindset component that you need to be aware of. I’m going to share all of that with you throughout this video so keep watching.

Paid vs Organic: Growing Your Business Organically

First, I’m going to talk about growing organically because this is where most people start. Most people start an online business in order to make more money. They want an additional income stream, or their job doesn’t provide for them the way they want it to, or they hate their job and want to replace their salary, or they want upgrade their lifestyle. Whatever the case may be, they often don’t have a lot of disposable income to spend in the beginning.

This is totally fine! I actually think it’s kind of smart to save your money until you’re a little further along and have some traction. I have a very successful client that has almost exclusively grown to 7 figures organically. So it’s definitely possible!

Growing organically really just means that you’re not paying for advertising with money. You are paying for it with your time and your energy. Instead you’re:

  • Posting content on social media
  • Doing in person presentations and workshops
  • Posting/handing out flyers on the street
  • Networking with people in your industry
  • Cold emailing people to try to get on their podcasts
  • Writing guest posts
  • Trying to get on online summits
  • Optimizing your SEO

All these things help you to grow organically. They don’t cost any money upfront but they take a long time. How much time and energy you put into all these activities is usually going to net you more results IF you do it right.

What I Love About Organic Growth

Now, something I love about organic growth is that it can really build a community of people that love your stuff. It’s almost like your audience has a little bit more buy in with you because they found you organically, especially these days when we are just inundated with ads everywhere.

The other thing is when you grow organically and there’s this slower burn, it gives you the time to build the skills you’re going to need when your business gets bigger. Growing too fast in business can be just as problematic as growing too slow if you’re not prepared for it.

When you grow organically, you have the opportunity to really go deeper with your audience and really connect with them, which is something I talk more about in my video about how to stand out in a competitive market.

And when you go a little slower, you have the opportunity to experiment a little more, and really nail down your messaging and your brand and your voice, and figure out your offers, and your process and your systems and the tech and maybe even start building a team.

Another thing that’s really important here, and I was just having this conversation with my partner who just started a business, is that starting and growing a business is truly a spiritual endeavor. This is personal growth on steroids. If you are called to start your own business, whether online or brick and mortar, whatever it is, you will be tested in every way possible. You will be confronted with your own bullshit. You will be judged. You will have to set boundaries. You will have to make decisions. You will feel like a failure. You will feel like nothing is happening. You will wonder if you’re cut out for this. You will want to give up.

You will be forced to grow and develop in ways that you would have never expected. And it’s not easy. But doing that slowly in the beginning makes it a little bit more manageable, and you’ll learn to expect those things to come up, and this allows you to keep going when it feels like nothings happening or when it’s really hard..

And when it comes to the business side of things, you get to experiment and try different things, you get to see what’s working for you and for other people, you get more familiar with the online business space and other people in your niche with little monetary risk to you.

So there can be great benefit to you as a business owner and really just as a human when your grow organically, even if it’s a little bit slower than you would like in the beginning.

Paid vs Organic: Paying to Grow Your Business

Rather than people finding your organically, you can pay to have yourself put in front of people who are likely to be interested in your coaching, your service, your digital product, whatever you may be offering to potential clients and customers.

This really just means that you’re going to them to see if they’re interested, rather than waiting for them to come to you.

There’s many ways to do this, but the most common would be

  • Paid advertising (running a Facebook ad, or an ad on Instagram, Pinterest, etc)
  • Pay to participate in a live or online event
  • Bring on affiliates
  • Referral bonuses

Like I said, lots of ways to do this, but we’re really just talking about spending money to get yourself in front of more people faster. There are pros and cons to this as well. The biggest pro is what I just mentioned, getting yourself and your stuff in front of more people faster.

But if you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on your business in the beginning, then this may not feel like an option for you at all. And that’s ok! Like I mentioned earlier you can have incredible success growing organically, but you’re going to have to put your time and energy in and be patient instead.

The Paid Growth Learning Curve

The other thing about paid advertising, specifically advertising on social media, is that there is first a bit of a learning curve. If you’re going to run ads yourself, you’re going to need to learn the backend of these platforms like Facebook ads manager or google Ads, or whichever platform you choose. Advertising agencies make a shitload of money for a reason!

Just using facebook as an example, there’s a lot of things that need to be done and setup on the tech side, setting up your account, installing your facebook pixel, making sure it’s firing and tracking all the right things, and there’s also guidelines as far as what you can advertise and what you can say, so you may spend hours creating the perfect ad and then Facebook rejects it.

There’s also no guarantee that there’s going to be a return on your investment (or what we call return on ad spend) when you pay to grow your business. The ROI or ROAS is going to depend on a variety of factors.

It’s going to depend on the target market, meaning is the ad being shown to the right people, the assets of the ad, meaning does the hook grab their attention, does the graphic catch someone’s eye, is the copy and call to action compelling, do people click on the ad, do people watch the ad, how much of the ad do they watch.

So spending any amount of money to get yourself in front of more people faster doesn’t guarantee in any way that those people will opt in, subscribe to your list, buy from you, or become a client or customer in a specific time frame. So you are paying money upfront, without knowing if, when, or how much money is going to come back to you.

I don’t say that to deter you from paid advertising, but i think it’s important to mention that, especially that time frame part, so that you can put this into perspective a little bit more because in my experience this does take a little bit of a mindset shift.

Paid vs Organic: There are NO Guarantees!

Let’s say you’re a beginner and you want to grow your email list, so you decide to run an instagram ad to promote your free ebook. Even if the ad is doing great, and people are opting in, your list is growing, you’re nurturing these subscribers, staying in touch via email. Everything is going great!

At this point, none of these people have given you any money yet. You might not even have anything to sell them. But you are growing this pool of potential customers and clients that are going to eventually — hopefully! — give you money for your stuff.

So paid advertising can really be a long game. It’s also a numbers game.

If i tell you that my client spent over $5000 on ads in the last week, that might sound like a huge amount of money to spend on ads, but we’ll be ending the month over 6 figures. So is it worth it to spend $15,000 in a month to make $135,000? The math says this is an obvious yes. But this is a mindset shift that a lot of beginners struggle with. And iif you don’t have the money to put upfront, it can honestly be a little bit scary to start paying for advertising because there is so much uncertainty.

Would You Spend $5 to Make $135?

We can even try this with smaller numbers. Would you be willing to spend $5 today to make $135 dollars in a month or in two months or six months even? These are the things you’re going to need to consider when you’re thinking about paid advertising. There’s not always a direct link between what you spend and what you earn, or there’s not always an immediate or clear return on ad spend. You really kind of have to look at the bigger picture here and be thinking about what we call the lifetime value of a customer. So how much money is someone going to spend on you, how much money is a person going to give to you over their lifetime.

You can probably think of people that you follow of you’ve bought from in the past, and maybe you’ve bought multiple things that they’ve sold. Maybe you bought their ebook and then you bought one of their online courses and then you joined their group coaching program or whatever. As a personal example, I’ve been a follower of Christine Hassler since my 20s when i got her book 20 something 20 everything. Since then, i’ve purchased several of her programs, and attended live paid workshops and her retreat. All these things add up to the lifetime value of me as a customer. How much money have I personally paid since the first time i came into contact with Christine. Let’s say theoretically that when I first found her, it was from a paid ad. Maybe she was paying for $100 a week ads to promote her book. I ended up clicking the ad, buying the book, joining her list and spending more and more money over the years.

So that $100 that was spent on that initial ad for her book, has turned into probably thousands of dollars over the years.

So that’s what I mean when I say looking at the bigger picture and playing the long game here. If you’re spending $1 today on advertising expecting to get $5 back tomorrow or by the end of the week, paid advertising is going to be extremely stressful and frustrating for you.

Paid vs. Organic Marketing: Which One Should I Use?

Now the big question is which is better? Which one should I use in my business?

Well ideally, and eventually, you’ll have both of these things going at the same time and you’ll find that they kind of feed into each other.

Growing organically helps you to make you the money to pay for the ads. Paying for the ads helps you grow your audience so that you can get in front of more people organically. They can work really nicely together when you do it right.

One is not better than the other.

One is not morally superior to the other.

They both have a cost, they both have risks, they both have benefits and they’re both valuable tools for you to use when you’re growing your online business. It really just depends on where you’re at in your business, how much money you have to spend, how fast you want your business to grow, and how much capacity you have to support that growth.

So I’d love to know your experience with trying to grow your business either paid or organically, or any questions you have about growing your online business.

I’d love you to like this video and subscribe to the channel if that feels right for you. It would really help me out, and make sure to check out 3 Reasons to STOP Worrying About Your Crowded Niche next!