Small businesses strapped for cash must do some creative thinking to increase sales. When you don't have the extra money to invest in large marketing campaigns, look at what you already have working and go from there.

1. Listen to customers

One of the best ways to increase sales is to give customers what they want, and the best way to know that is to listen to what they have to say. Whether it's a conversation in-person, feedback left online or through a social media or email exchange, take in all the feedback that customers have to offer, and give it consideration. If you're hearing similar questions, concerns, praise, or criticism from different customers, there's a good chance that the comments are worth paying attention to, and addressing them can help improve sales.

2. Get people talking

World-of-mouth has long been one of the best marketing tools. Consumers tend to believe what they hear from friends and family over what they learn from other marketing channels. These days, however, people may need a bit more of a nudge than in the past when it comes to spreading the word.   

"You need to move away from hoping people tell their friends about you. And towards specific strategies that actively encourage people to refer," says Michael Glover at BigCommerce.1

He recommends setting up word-of-mouth "triggers," such as giving them a memorable experience, a visual experience that makes them want to take pictures to share with friends, and encouraging user-generated content, reviews, and ratings.

3. Target existing customers with promotions

According to HubSpot, businesses are 60-70 percent likely to sell to an existing customer, compared to the 5-20 percent for a new prospect.2 Find ways to better target and upsell those already buying from you. Foster customer relationships and identify products or services that they could be interested in, but aren’t currently buying from you. Offer them exclusive promotions and get the word out to them.

4. Hire less experienced people

It may seem counterintuitive to hire salespeople who don't have a lot of experience, but there is a case to be made for the “hunger factor” that comes with a young prospect eager to make their mark. At the same time, someone starting out will not expect the same salary as a seasoned veteran.

"You’ll save money upfront by being able to offer early-career sellers a lower starting salary," says Larry Alton at Small Business Trends.3 "Still, be generous with commissions and bonuses. Many salespeople depend on being able to augment their salaries with extras based on how much they bring into the organization. If you onboard talented folks primed to shine, you could find yourself ramping up business fast."

5. Give your website an overhaul

Make sure your website is set up to make it as easy as possible for customers to find what they're looking for and complete the transaction. This is one reason Amazon is so successful. The online retail behemoth is great at making it easy for consumers to find products and purchase them with one click. While you may not be able to create your own, you can study what works and try to make things convenient and simple. Consider hiring a freelance web developer to help you, rather than keeping an in-house employee dedicated to your website.

6. Remove as much friction as possible

Removing friction from the buying process is key on your website, but also in-person. Keep regular hours and make sure customers are able to easily find them. Check that your business info is up to date on your website, Google, and social media profiles. Include your phone number and make sure it's always answered during business hours. During off hours, have a voicemail set up so you can return calls, and then return calls in a timely fashion. Make it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you.

7. Narrow your focus

If you've expanded into different areas of services or products, determine where you are having the most success and narrow your focus to dedicate more time and resources to what's working. Eliminate unprofitable ventures and look for opportunities to capture more sales in the parts of your business that bring in the most revenue.

Increasing sales doesn't have to cost you a lot of extra money. With some creative thinking and strategic maneuvering, you can make a big difference for little cash.