With tight budgets and limited time, small businesses often struggle to stand out against their competition. However, with a little innovation and some creative thinking, these folks have come up with some pretty inspiring ways to market their businesses.
Here are 28 of the best small business marketing ideas that will help make your business one to remember.
1. Give Out Free Samples of Your Products
Steve Pritchard, Founder, Cuuver
Business owners should never be against providing a free sample or trial of their products and services. While it’s not advisable for a furniture company to give away a free sofa to see if a customer likes it, providing free fabric samples is a great way for the potential shopper to gauge if the physical fabric looks the same in person and if it would fit with their décor. This could be the difference between them putting in a high-value order or not shopping with you at all. Similarly, if you are a service provider, offer a free trial to consumers or clients to give them a taste of how beneficial your services could be to their lives or business.
Marc Prosser, Co-founder, Fit Small Business
As a customer, there are few things more frustrating than encountering a disconnected phone number, an old website or driving out of your way to visit a store only to find that the hours listed online were incorrect. Are search engines reporting inaccurate information about your business? Use Yext to scan your profiles across multiple sites, such as Google, Bing, Facebook, and more. Click here to get started.
3. Don’t Discount Email Marketing
Kasey Bayne, Marketing Consultant, KaseyBayne.com
Growing and nurturing your email list is so important, not only for short-term sales — which is awesome — but also for the long-term growth of your business. Find ways to encourage sign-ups to your list — from your website with ebook offers, subscribing to your blog or sharing sales. From there (and once you have that permission!) you can develop a long-term relationship with this group. Using tools like HubSpot and MailChimp make this really easy.
4. Repurpose Your Content
Derek Miller, Content Marketing Specialist, CopyPress
Recycle and repurpose content to increase return on investment. Recycle content by updating a popular post. For example, take one of your most popular posts from 2016, update that article with new, relevant information and republish it. You can also repurpose content by posting the same content in different formats. For instance, take an article and create a podcast using the same information. Recycling and repurposing content stretches ROI.
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6. Organize a Block Party
Aaron Pfeifer, Principal Business Consultant, Obsidian Solutions, LLC
Small businesses overlook a huge opportunity in partnering with neighbors when they are located in a strip mall. Find some key partners and jointly advertise an event which supports you all. Once such example – cigar shop, hair cutter, breakfast, and high-end car dealer. They aren’t even in the same strip, but they partnered together for an afternoon where they offered barber shaves, premium cigars, whiskey, bacon and pancakes, and surrounded the event with exotic cars. They not only hosted this event together to promote each other, they were able to hit complimentary customer bases and leverage new clientele.
7. Prepare Demonstrations to Market Your Product
Kevin Namaky, Founder, Gurulocity
Demonstrations, or “demos,” are perhaps the best way to give a potential customer a true sense of the value your product or service will provide for them. It makes your offering real and tangible and can often add a human element in an otherwise cold selling environment like the Internet. Customers love doing business with actual humans!
Demos come in many forms. It helps to generate a few different format ideas before choosing one. Example demo formats include screenshots, recorded videos, live videoconferences, walkthroughs, free time-limit trials, free membership tiers with upsell and free samples. Use your imagination! Once you have the demo created, place it on your website (if possible) as well as at the appropriate steps in your marketing funnel. How can you link to it from an email campaign? Can you link to it from a blog article? Can you drive advertising traffic to it? It may not be the first step a customer will take. So, think about the right spot for it in your customer journey. How can you demonstrate the result or experience of using your product or service?
8. Set Up a Messenger Chatbot on Facebook
David Alexander, Digital Marketer, Mazepress
Chatbots offer a fantastic new opportunity for small businesses due to the low barrier to entry and affordable setup. The most popular chatbot solution at the moment is Messenger chatbots on the Facebook platform that allows you to automate and engage prospects in a new way. Chatbots allow you to offer instant replies to your customers’ questions, and you can build triggers to help answer anything that can be automated. You can use chatbots to sell your products, take bookings, educate your consumers and much more.
The most popular tools for building chatbots on Facebook are ManyChat and Chatfuel, both of which offer a freemium business model with free access to the majority of services with upgrades for pro features. Once people opt into your Messenger chatbot, you can then keep them updated with news and other announcements to increase customer retention and the open rates on Facebook are considerably higher than those of email marketing campaigns. Creating a chatbot that solves a specific pain point for your consumers can be a great way to create viral buzz and get press attention and mentions in major publications.
9. Write Guest Posts for Publications
Linda Pophal, Owner and Marketing Communication Consultant, Strategic Communications, LLC
Depending on the type of business (I tend to work with a lot of business consultants and other service-related business professionals), offering to write articles for both local media outlets as well as national trade and business publications — traditional and online — can be a great way of raising awareness for your business services as well as establishing yourself as a thought leader. Media outlets are particularly hungry for content these days and often very eager to accept contributed content — even the very large media outlets like Forbes, Huffington Post, and others use contributors regularly.
10. Get Your Business Involved in Charity
Danielle Fernandez, Marketing Director, Williams Law, P.A.
Get involved with a charity or cause the business feels passionate about. When it comes to partnering with a charity, it’s important to look locally and involve employees in the decision. A potential customer might choose to buy your product over going someplace else specifically because they feel like they are helping the cause. Plus, your company becomes known for giving back. Helping others is the best way to get known in your community. Kindness is free and effective.
At first glance, this may seem like an odd suggestion, but it works! People love to support local small business, and putting your brand on the back of their grocery receipt or on their shopping cart will make you more recognizable. Get in touch with IndoorMedia to see what options are available in your area.
12. Start a Knowledge ‘Leaderboard’
Jack Saville, SEO Specialist, Bynder
I would like to talk about a strategy I like to call the “knowledge leaderboard.” This involves creating a quiz based on the product or industry you are in. So, for example, if you run a cafe, you could create a quiz about coffee. Google Forms is a great (and free) way to create the quiz. Then distribute the quiz link through your social media or newsletter. Depending on your budget, you could also offer a prize to the person who gets the most correct answers, like a gift card or something similar.
Once you have a reasonable number of responses, create a leaderboard of those who got the most correct answers, and post the leaderboard on your website. The people who made it onto the leaderboard might share it on their social media channels, therefore giving exposure to your business. Those who see the leaderboard and think they should be on there will then take the quiz to try and move onto the leaderboard, therefore also engaging with your business.
The quiz is a fun and interactive way for people to engage with your business. The more people who take the quiz, the more exposure your business will get.
13. Never Underestimate the Power of Localized Marketing
Grant van der Harst, Managing Director, Anglo Liners
Encourage your customers to put their money where their house is and shop locally. Whether this is taking out an advertisement in the local or regional newspaper or running campaigns that are specifically conceptualized to gain local attention, localized marketing helps to spread the word of your business in the local and surrounding communities. Like ripples in a pond, your reputation for quality services or products starts to spread to wider regions.
14. Start Live Streaming Workplace Activities
Makenzi Wood, Digital Marketer and Writer, Kenzi Writes
Audiences expect to connect with brands online in as real a format as possible. Live streaming through media like Facebook Live or Periscope give small businesses a free way to interact with current and prospective clients on the cheap. The most effective livestreams from small businesses involve behind-the-scenes sneak peeks with new products, how-to or “how it’s made”-style videos about your products or covering a local event live. This builds rapport with your audience by providing value with your content that, in turn, promotes your business.
15. Host a Meetup Event
Alice Donoghue, Digital Marketing Expert, Alice in the Matrix
Whatever type of business, if there’s a storefront and somewhere to sit, then you can host a gathering. It makes sense if the focus of the meetup relates to the focus of the business. Arrange for experts to head the meeting, answer questions and keep the conversation flowing. You’ll get truly engaged people walking through your doors, which are the best type of potential customers.
16. Design Effective Conversion Funnels
Tim Jernigan, Head of Product Marketing, Badger Maps
One way is to design your funnels around the awareness, education, evaluation and retention framework. The top of a conversion funnel should focus on your market’s biggest problems and drive them to educational resources positioning you as an industry expert. This gives you an advantage when your prospect reaches the next stage of the decision-making process, evaluating the right solution to buy. Retaining your customers successfully involves a mixture of enabling them with the right training material and providing top-notch customer service. If you’re missing any of those elements, you might notice leaks in your funnel.
17. Boost Awareness Using LinkedIn
Logan Estop-Hall, Co-Founder & CEO, Rebelhack
Connect with 30 new LinkedIn contacts a day. With a 50 percent follow-back average, you’ll have access to around 15 new professional email contacts per day. Proceed to follow up your connections with cold email outreach introducing yourself, “Hi, we just connected on LinkedIn …” adding a nice personal message on each one. You can scale this using scraping platforms.
18. Brand Your Vehicle
Desiree Thomson, Marketing Executive, Gardening Services London
If you offer door-to-door services or products, you shouldn’t waste this opportunity. Potential clients are everywhere and the more you drive around, the more people will see you. Some of those people might need what you’re offering and before you know it, you already have a new client.
19. Sponsor a Little League Team
Adrienne Irizarry, Principal Owner, Leviosa Communication
There is a lot of power in a local footprint. Sponsoring a little league team is a great way to gain visibility. You are doing a good service for the local community. Who doesn’t love a company doing something good for children? Those T-shirts are highly visible with a captive audience. It is a win-win situation. Don’t forget to show your sponsorship of that little league team on social media and tag (as I’m sure if the league is a good one they have already thanked and tagged you).
20. Become an Expert in Your Community
Sarah Gulbrandsen, VP Sales & Marketing, RingPartner
Become an expert in your community. Reach out to local junior colleges or your local chamber of commerce and offer to be a guest speaker. You will have a captive audience to talk about being an entrepreneur and potentially about your products and services. Being a community expert will have you and your business recognized around town giving a ton of brand recognition. This method doubles as a way to recruit top talent from local universities and colleges as well.
21. Build True Partnerships
Ashley Mitchell, Marketing Manager, Goldfish Swim School Franchising, LLC
Find like-minded, noncompeting businesses in your area with a similar target market and figure out a creative way to work together. The key is to make it unique while also easily executable on both sides. Think about your company and the business you are partnering with — what makes you both stand out? How can you tie those things together in a synergistic way to leverage the customer base of both businesses in an authentic way? The best partnerships tie the brands together seamlessly in the consumers’ eyes.
22. Partner With Micro-influencers
Rahna Barthelmess, Founder & President, Beacon Marketing
Micro-influencer marketing is very effective and can lead to great exposure and often to solid conversions. In the past several years, the focus has been on macro-influencers. These are people, including celebrities, who have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. This type of influencer marketing can be expensive and the engagement rate is often not that high. Micro-influencers, however, (those who have typically between 1,000 and 50,000 followers across social media) have a very loyal following and a much higher engagement rate than larger macro-influencers. They are also much less expensive to work with.
You can partner with a micro-influencer for anywhere from $50 to $500 per promotion. Depending on what type of promotion you choose like a product review, article or demo of a product and where it will be posted, such as an influencer’s blog only, across select social media channels and so on, the costs will vary. What you want to ensure is that the Influencer has a high engagement rate, meaning that many people comment, like and share the influencer’s posts.
23. Always Be Networking
Rick Sloboda, Senior Web Copywriter & Content Strategist, Webcopy+
How, you ask, can you always be networking? I give to receive. With every interaction — online and offline — I look for opportunities to help others out, ranging from introductions to valuable connections to advice. It often entices people to reciprocate. I’m generous with ideas and time because I enjoy it, so it comes naturally to me. As a result, I frequently receive referrals and good traction with my LinkedIn posts (most are viewed by 3,000 to 5,000 people). I call it karma economics.
24. Register for an App to Connect With Your Customers
Andy Curry, Marketing Expert Consultant, AndyCurry.com
Small businesses can benefit from registering an app they can use to connect with their current and potential customers like the WallaZoom app. Once businesses have their page set up on the app, the consumer can connect with them. Any time the business advertises their next thing, the consumer knows about it in about eight seconds. It creates a hotline between the local merchant and the consumer and is meant to get the consumer to look to their local merchants first to buy before they look outside of their community.
25. Start a Referral Program
Yael Tamar, Founder, DigiMark
Referral programs can help small businesses flourish. Businesses can give their customers and those referred by them a referral credit. This works really well for clinics and spas as well as other services that are used regularly. Businesses need to notify customers via every available channel, give out a flyer and a magnet when customers visit as well as have visible signs about the referral policy on location.
26. Create Content Meant to Help Your Customers
Matt Roberge, CEO, SLC Bookkeeping
Nothing has driven more customers and revenue to our business than our company blog. The biggest mistake I see when small businesses create content is they try and sell instead of help. You should write content that actually adds value to your readers. Don’t worry about giving away any secrets you may think you have — just focus on helping your audience. Every time you write something before publishing it, just read it and ask yourself, “Is this helpful?” Another mistake I see businesses make when they start creating content is they set unrealistic goals and give up too early. Inbound marketing is a long-term commitment with a huge payoff.
27. Utilize Pay-per-Click Advertising on Google
Bill Sheikh, Founder & CEO, U-Thrive Marketing
One of the most successful online marketing tactics for our clients in 2016 has been pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. A highly targeted PPC marketing campaign on a Google search will give you the ability to drive customers that are actively looking for the services or products you offer to your website. Unlike an SEO campaign, you can see results within a few days, if not hours, of launching your campaign through Google AdWords. Some businesses can set up and manage their PPC campaign on their own. However, for most, they end up utilizing a Google partner agency in their area to set up and manage a more robust campaign.
28. Maximize Your Video Marketing
Rahul Alim, President, Custom Creatives
One tip is video. It’s low cost to do, and you can leverage your expertise as the leader in your marketplace, industry or location to develop a relationship with your prospect. This influences action and moves them down the buyer cycle much faster.
The more complex and expensive the sale, the more you will want to educate the prospect. The less complex or expensive the service, the faster you can convert to a sale.
You don’t need to really buy equipment to make professional looking videos. You can use your phone assuming it’s somewhat modern, prop it up on a cup of coffee as your tripod and start practicing your video skills. It takes time, but then you can really educate and engage your prospects more effectively than just writing on a page. If you’re not comfortable on camera, use a software like Camtasia and do a voice over with a PowerPoint presentation or use whiteboard or animated explainer videos.
Over to You
These are some pretty great small business marketing ideas, don’t you think? Got any of your own to add? May these unique and affordable promotion strategies spark ideas for you and your small business!