The CMO Survey reports an 11 percent increase in the marketing budgets for United States businesses in 2017. As more businesses recognize the value of a solid marketing strategy to their bottom line, the marketing landscape has turned into a complex network of ideas and approaches that can sometimes overwhelm.
To make sure that you’re able to maximize your marketing budget, we asked experts to share their experience in turning your usual marketing strategies into creative ideas that convert.
Here are 27 of the top creative marketing ideas that can be used for any business as shared by the pros.
1. Target Your Audience with Customized Videos
Jeremy Levine, Fit Small Business
Videos are a good way to build your brand, but did you know you can also use video to capture leads and create engagement? Hippo Video is a complete video marketing platform that lets you easily create videos and embed them in emails, social media, and on your website. What’s more, you can also add lead generation forms, quizzes, and polls to your videos to drive more traffic and sales. Try it free for 14 days.
2. Start a Holiday-themed Giveaway on Facebook
Tori Shanks, Director of Content and SEO Marketing, Nu expression
During the 2018 holidays, we worked with an e-commerce client who sells cookies, cakes and other goodies. We decided to run a contest to increase the engagement with the brand and sales. However, their brand was Southern, warm and family-oriented. So, rather than posting a contest through social media where they are sent to a page to fill out a form, we implemented chatbots on Facebook. We set up Facebook ads and posted each day to promote the contest. Each day we associated a word or term with the chatbot so that when a new user saw the contest post, they could enter by simply commenting with this trigger word or phrase.
Once they commented, they were then sent a message through Facebook messenger. They were asked a couple of questions about their favorite treats, provided their email address and Boom! — they were entered to win 12 days of prizes! All orchestrated by automated chatbots! This allowed our client to continue to communicate with people who entered after the contest ended and also made the experience more enjoyable and personable for the end-user.
3. Provide Your Services for Free to Charitable Causes
Adrian Fields, Co-founder, SmartFund
I am the co-founder and visionary of a fundraising system that helps nonprofits and small businesses at the same time. To market this program, we have started a charity that manages social media for nonprofits in exchange allowing us to raise money for them using our fundraising system and give small businesses heavily discounted social media management in exchange for becoming a partner.
4. Focus Your Marketing and Branding Efforts on Your Product’s Unique Features
Karen Kat Ellis, Founder, Social Sweet Spot
I was hired to market a startup home improvement company for Georgia and surrounding states. The company was selling replacement bathrooms, replacement windows and gutter covers. Home improvement is a highly competitive, repetitive market with little to no innovation in the last 20 years. I determined from market research that the best way to do this was to promote the products as green alternatives to the competition’s products.
I pulled all the products together with explanations of how they were environmentally-friendly — the bathrooms and windows were kept clean chemical-free while the gutter covers filtered water for rain harvesting. The branding at shows included big bold backdrops of nature with the products sitting in front creating an organic feel, and the show giveaways included branded bottles of spring water.
5. Start a Referral Program
Maggie Aland, Fit Small Business
One of the best ways to get new business is by letting your existing customers do the work for you. ReferralCandy is an easy-to-use referral program that lets you create rewards for customers who refer their friends. Simply send them a shareable referral link and promote your program with beautiful pre-made widgets and email templates. Try ReferralCandy free for 30 days.
6. Create a Unique Approach for Offering Trial Periods
Payman Taei, Founder, Visme
The idea of a free trial period is nothing special but, instead, we modified how we use the terminology and attract decision makers by offering it as an exclusive complimentary premium version of our tool. We reached out to various stakeholders and bloggers and offered it with a small note that says: “We don’t want anything in return. If you like what you see, can you also share with your community?” The results have grown to hundreds of articles and reviews and reached audiences we could have never reached with advertising.
7. Repurpose Your Popular Traditional Social Media Content Into Other Formats
Werner G. Krebs, Ph.D., CEO, Acculation
Initially, we’d start with the staid, generic, traditional marketing idea of writing boring blog articles and, using data and algorithms, turn it into a much more creative, cross-media concept. We’d lay down a few storylines, write blog articles and post a compelling, related photo or series of photos to Instagram. The most popular images would get turned (by algorithm) into glitch art and then, potentially, converted into video. Alternatively, images might be turned into 3D printable objects available for purchase, or even loaded into a virtual reality game where they could be made available as virtual in-game items for sale or converted back into images, such as virtual reality fashion modeling of a model wearing a data science visualization.
8. Get Really Proficient at the Services That Lead to More Work
Jonathan Jenkins, Lead SEO Consultant & Founder, Lofty Rankings
In our case, the obvious starting point for any ongoing marketing campaign is a detailed audit of the existing website and marketing efforts. Don’t fall into the temptation of giving this away for free. Instead, refine your process and come up with something really actionable and valuable. Making your audit a paid service whittles out the long-shot potential clients who are very willing to sign up for something free but very unlikely to try anything paid. Also, the type of low-quality free audit you could realistically churn out with ease is unlikely to actually win any business, whereas an exhaustive, actionable audit provides ample evidence that:
- You are an expert
- There’s plenty to get to work on
You’ll resent every second spent on the free audit because you’ll know the eventual sale is unlikely. On the other hand, if you provide an excellent paid audit, even if the client doesn’t engage your services, you’ll both come out on top. You’ve been paid and they’ve got an actionable list of site improvements to work on.
9. Get Creative with How You Share Content That Features You
Jeremy Ryan Slate, CEO & Co-founder, Command Your Brand Media
So what I’ve managed to do is take smaller press features and use them to create more attention. Most people get featured in a piece of press and just post the link, saying “Wow, I was featured in XXX publication.” That doesn’t work — first off because platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn do not like links, so they drive them down in ranking. So, step one is to use an image or video, it grabs attention and ranks much higher. The second thing to do is to write a story, the first line of which is something emotional, then a short narrative that has something in it for the reader; I’ve seen it work with simple press release, podcasts, and even smaller newspaper features. Press isn’t about just getting it, but it’s about what you do with it — something I tell my clients every day.
10. Ask Your Customers to be Your Advocates
Nicholas Thomas, Fit Small Business
Word-of-mouth will always be one of the most powerful forms of marketing. Leverage your satisfied customer base and ask them to leave reviews online, so that potential customers can see them when they search for your business. Podium, a review management software, lets you send review invitations, respond to those reviews, and monitor insights, messages, web chats, and customer reviews from 20+ review sites — all in one dashboard. Businesses that use Podium have seen up to 15 times more reviews and an increase in local traffic. Watch a 3-minute demo here.
11. Capitalize on Recent Marketing Successes Through Multimedia
Shaan Patel, Founder & CEO, Prep Expert
When deciding how to follow up our successful appearance on ‘Shark Tank,’ I felt that multimedia was the way to continue pushing forward. With this basic idea in mind, we filmed our free weekly webinar video, which has become the cornerstone of our content marketing strategy. By driving as many backlinks and targeted ad spends to this webinar, which shares SAT and ACT test strategies that students can use immediately, we created a focused funnel that has driven our brand recognition and sales revenue further through the roof. This funnel has allowed us to measure the temperature of consumer interest from season to season, create direct dialogue with potential sales leads through comment moderation and capture data for further remarketing.
Overall, the pivot into content marketing through multimedia has increased our overall user engagement while reducing ad spends, leading to a fantastic ROI [return on investment] in the past year since launch.
12. Focus on Long-term Campaigns Like Email Newsletter Subscriptions
Brittany Hardy, Owner, Empty Desk Solutions
To illustrate the evolution of a marketing ‘idea’ that we turned into a more creative campaign, we can share our ‘weekly marketing tips’ series. We knew our audience already and what type of information they wanted — step one! The basic idea was (and still is) to provide small marketing tips to our small business audience via social media and our blog. But, then, we got to thinking, ‘How can we capture the attention of our audience for a longer period of time?’ and ‘Could we deliver this in a more convenient way for our target audience?’ After much brainstorming among our team, we decided that we would embark on a little journey to use this idea to build an email list that we can nurture over time.
We put it out there to subscribe to get our ‘Free weekly marketing tips series’ and, once someone signs up, they automatically start receiving one email per week with a marketing tip. Some are shorter tidbits of information and others are longer, in-depth articles we’ve written. But, the bottom line for us is that once we took our ‘idea’ to a campaign process, we started building more meaningful online connections. These connections are now in our sales funnel and have exponentially more value than a ‘like’ on a Facebook post.
13. Track the Performance of Competitor’s Products on Amazon to Know What Marketing Strategy Works for Them
David Mercer, Founder, SME Pals
Tracking the sales of products on a platform like Amazon is a fairly well-known strategy for small business retailers to source products. But, there’s a much more creative way to use them as a method of spying on competitors marketing campaigns in order to find out what is working for them. Monitor the sales performance of competing products, receive alerts when those products experience surges in sales and then discover the marketing and promotions that drove those sales. In this way, marketers can build up a playbook of strategies that are known to work for similar products and services, thereby focusing and streamlining their efforts to increase ROI.
14. Add Mini Stories When Using Printed Posters for Marketing Campaigns
Victoria Kline, PR/SEO Specialist, Passion Communications
The Foot Shop is a small sneaker business (only three locations) that came to us looking for a fun and youthful campaign to attract their target market. While evaluating their company’s branding, they found it to have a spunky and rebellious vibe. Passion ended up using one of the oldest marketing strategies out there for their campaign: posters. Passion created the campaign “Step Into Another World” where they invited people to feel a little different when they wear clothes from the Foot Shop (based on the idea that you feel like a new person whenever you put on new shoes). We commissioned one of our art directors — who happens to be an awarded illustrator — to spend 128 hours creating bespoke illustrations each with a unique story hidden within.
The illustrations invite the viewer to look through all the interesting mini-stories that are happening within the illustration. In essence, each one is another world that you can step into. They were then printed on to posters and were distributed. The campaign went on to be incredibly successful.
15. Start Text Conversations With Your Customers
Marc Prosser, Fit Small Business
Most businesses rely on email and social media to connect with their customers. However, you can create more personal and direct relationships with text marketing. CustomerSpec lets you send one-touch surveys to your customers asking what topics they’re interested in, what improvements you can make, or what products they want to see. You can then use this feedback to offer promotions targeted to the right customers. Try it free for 14 days.
16. Reframe Promotions and Offers as Favorably as Possible
Zack West, Director of Marketing, Novomotus
The word ‘free’ is a powerful motivator and should be used whenever possible. For example; let’s say a local nonprofit sells T-shirts to support themselves partially at a price of $18, of which they keep $12 per unit. A more creative approach would be to offer those same T-shirts for free in exchange for donations. The same dollar amounts are involved, although the product becomes something entirely different — an award of support (with a possible tax deduction).
Here are two examples of two ways to use the same T-shirt to earn the same amount of money. Note how one offers something for free and the other doesn’t.
- Buy an $18 T-shirt and support your local charity
- Donate $18 to your local charity and receive a free T-shirt
17. Integrate Your Marketing Campaign with Other Complementary Businesses
Liz H Kelly, Founder, Goody PR
When we were asked to develop the Autism Guardian Angels brand and launch campaign, Goody PR got creative with an integrated marketing campaign called ‘Bring Out the Brilliance in Exceptional Children & Adults With Autism.’ Our marketing client, real estate developer David Luber (LCC Properties Group founder), wanted to make a difference by investing in technology that empowers people on the autism spectrum. To make this marketing campaign a success, we partnered with key influencers in the autism community because we knew this space. We started working in March 2017 and launched the campaign in April during Autism Awareness Month.
Marketing elements included a new custom website, new logo, multiple press releases, blogs, social media campaign, an iPad sweepstake, AutFest (Autism Film Festival) sponsorship and a Golden Goody Award (top humanitarian award from the Goody Awards) for Autism Society of America Leader Matt Asner. As a result, this new ‘Shark Tank Venture Capitalist for autism’ launch went from really boring to viral within the autism community overnight.
The perfect infographic can get your business in front of your target customers and decision makers but why stop at making your own when you can get them involved? Start an infographic contest for your followers and find that most of them have interesting ideas that they would love to share and would welcome the creative challenge you offer. Share this quick guide on how to make infographics for nondesigners and introduce your contest right after.
If you’re running out of time and ideas for valuable content, there’s always those company PowerPoint presentations that you have neatly filed away, so why not repurpose them on SlideShare? The site has reported more than 70 million visitors looking for sources and information that you can share your content to. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a detailed guide with illustration on how to create top SlideShare presentations that you should check out.
20. Develop an Interesting Brand Persona on Twitter
Pam Moore, CEO & Founder, Marketing Nutz
You’ve probably seen those viral tweets by now, from larger than life personalities not only representing individuals but companies too. Your business’ brand persona on social media will help introduce your product or service to your target audience. This article shows you how to create and develop a Twitter persona that will get you noticed for the right reasons.
The challenge of setting up a loyalty program is with making sure that your customers are constantly engaged. While all loyalty programs are successful to some degree, most of those will always have room for improvement. This article talks about how to gamification can be optimized by including three key concepts plus offers analysis on some gamified solutions from which you can learn.
Not all guerrilla marketing tactics border on offensive. Moss graffiti, for example, can give you the opportunity to make a statement and improve your brand’s credibility by promoting eco-friendliness. The final artwork can be very impressive and is limited only by creativity, not to mention it is easy on your budget. Learn how to do it yourself with these instructions and examples to get you started.
You’ve managed to get a hang of putting out the best content you know your target market will love, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get more audience to read your posts. One of the simplest creative marketing ideas is knowing when to engage with your followers on social media. Although it may sound easy, some businesses aren’t able to optimize their visibility only because they ignore the importance of timing. Here are tips to show you how.
One of the most popular features that Facebook has added to their platform is Facebook Live and, with the right strategy, it can work wonders for your marketing campaign. Check out these 10 Facebook Live tips to follow before, during and after your broadcast.
Having your own mobile app that your customers can use for free gives you better access to and engagement with your audience. However, for small businesses, launching their own app can be an intimidating task to take on. This article lets you in on the number of ways a small business can develop its own app and alternatives that can help you get started.
For brick-and-mortar shops, getting customers to stay longer or come back is an important factor when establishing long-term plans for the business. Photo booths are fun, easy to set up and can be adapted to any event. Follow up this strategy by sharing photos on your social media or even start a contest. Learn how to make your own photo booth in this article.
If you haven’t tried it yet, look for a local cause or charity event and volunteer your team to participate instead of donating money. Not only is it more affordable but it makes for better credibility and visibility as well. In case you have trouble getting your employees to participate in these events, read this article for tips to show you how.
Whether it’s a retail store or a service business, an open house is a great way to let potential customers know you exist. Don’t forget to set up a means of collecting email addresses to build your list and begin communicating with the attendees. This article gives you tips on how to plan a business open house.
As one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies, bumper stickers have become more versatile over time. Say anything you want and design in such a way that can best promote your brand. Check out these tips from PS Print on how to use bumper stickers for your marketing campaign.
Over to You
If you find yourself using the same approach repeatedly without any improvement on your target market’s response, this list of creative marketing ideas should be able to help you overcome any inspiration block to get your marketing target back on track.
Want to share your go-to creative marketing ideas? Let us know in the comments.