17 Promotional Ideas for Small Businesses

If you run a lean and mean business, you might not have a big budget to put towards marketing. However, there are plenty of low-cost and creative ways to get the word out. Marketing on a small budget is possible; you just need to be strategic. Try out these seventeen inexpensive marketing ideas for small businesses.

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1. High Quality Content Marketing

Content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content with the goal of attracting and retaining a specific audience. The popular Duct Tape Marketing blog goes into more detail:

“Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It can influence customer behavior over time as you effectively communicate with your audience. This will not only help you sell products; it will help you better forecast the growth of your business.”

The SmartBiz blog has more information about using content marketing for growth. You’ll learn about audience segmentation, cross-channel marketing, and SEO strategies: 7 Solid Reasons to Use Content Marketing for Growth.

2. Video Marketing

Video content is being watched more than ever before. A 2019 study showed that 85% of all internet users in the United States watch online video content monthly. On the other hand, only 34% of small businesses invest in video marketing, according to a recent survey on The Manifest.

Video marketing might seem expensive but there are ways to produce effect content on a budget. Popular ways video marketing can help a small business include customer testimonials, office tours, employee introductions, product tutorials, and email enhancement.

3. Visual Marketing

Visual marketing is an important part of any business strategy. You’ve likely heard the mantra “a picture is worth one thousand words.” It’s true-the right visual can be much more effective than a block of text. Visual marketing gets clicks and shares online at a much greater rate than copy. Make sure your website, blog, social media channels, and other materials have strong visuals. If you don’t have a designer on your team, consider a freelancer to help you make the best visual impression on your target audience.

4. Email Newsletters

Email marketing is frequently cited as the most lucrative form of online marketing returning an average of $44.25 in revenue for every $1 spent. This massive ROI isn’t just for large corporations, small businesses can benefit big time. To get customers to open and read an email newsletter, the content needs to be genuinely interesting - beyond an attempt to sell your products or services. Strive for a newsletter that educates and entertains.

There are a lot of moving pieces when you’re preparing a newsletter campaign including nailing the subject line, writing interesting content, using rich visuals, and setting up your mailing lists. The Balance Blog has a guide to get you started: How to Create a Newsletter for Your Small Business.

5. Social Media

It’s no secret that social media plays a crucial role in shaping the success or failure of your business. If you’re looking to cement your company’s online presence and enhance its growth, you can’t ignore social media channels. The SmartBiz blog has a good article with information you can use to build an effective social media campaign: Social Media Tips for Small Business. You’ll learn how to pick the right platform for your brand, define a plan, create the right type of content, and manage accounts.

You don’t have to figure it out yourself. Consider hiring a freelancer to get you up to speed. The SmartBiz blog has tips to help: How to Hire a Social Media Strategist.

6. Partnerships

Foster a good reputation with the community you serve. Check out local charities and explore ways you can help them reach their goals. For example, if there is a charity or other non-profit entity in need of items for the homeless or another at-risk population, you might set up a collection bin or a money donation jar. Create an ongoing mutually beneficial partnership that will last.

7. Hashtags

The Digital Branding Institute writes, “The hashtag is one of the great equalizers of 21st-century marketing. When used correctly, it can help boost the quantity and quality of views on your digital content.”

Hashtags are simply a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media websites and applications, especially Twitter and Instagram. Hashtags help users to identify and find posts on a specific topic. For example, Jala is a SmartBiz customer with over 35k Instagram followers. For a recent sale, they used the following hashtags: #layoga #yogawear #communityyoga #yogaeverywhere #sale #activewear. Do a little research and discover the popular hashtags for the audience you want to attract.

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8. Host an Event

If you have a bricks and mortar location, plan a special in-store event. For example, National Coffee Day in September is a great opportunity to connect with current and potential shoppers. Even if you don’t sell coffee, offer it along with snacks to celebrate. Promote with social media posts and signage to let the community know how you’re celebrating. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and the promise of a free cup can bring customers in the door.

9. Offer Webinars

Webinars are a great way to market your small business online because they build trust and help you capture customer details when they sign up (name, email address, etc.). There are a number of comprehensive and affordable services available online for hosting webinars. The best offer features to help you plan, create, schedule, promote, run, and follow-up on your webinars. Check out this list to find one that works for you: Best Webinar Software.

10. Blog

Have you determined that publishing a blog could help reach your ideal customer? If so, the first step is to figure out who you expect to read your blog and write content specifically for them. As a blog publisher, SmartBiz Loans has unique insight into this topic. Review this comprehensive article to help get you started: Develop a Blog Strategy for Your Small Business. You’ll learn how to target your content, identify keywords, develop an editorial calendar, and more.

11. Connect with Bloggers

You don’t have to write a blog on your own. Inviting others to guest blog for you can help extend the reach of your blog. Look for those industries who complement yours (for example a bakery and a wedding photographer). Once you create relationships with bloggers and blogging networks, you’ll have the platform to promote your business in an organic way.

12. Word of Mouth Marketing

You can probably think of a time when you were so impressed with a service or product that you just had to tell your friends about it. Maybe you had an excellent meal at a restaurant and posted about your experience on Yelp? These are both forms of word of mouth marketing (WOMM), an organic way of spreading information. WOMM can be summed up in one word: Trust.

Consumers trust other people’s reported experiences and are more likely to buy when they hear about it from someone they know. Visit the iMPACT website for an infographic to help you strategize this approach: 7 Must-Have Word-of-Mouth Marketing Strategies.

13. DIY Infographics

Images catch the eye and are easy to understand. But they probably don’t contain valuable information you want customers to know. Words have more details, but can be time-consuming to process, especially in this digital age. An infographic with both words and graphics can be an excellent way to get across information to your target audience. For an example of an infographic using word and images effectively, check out a SmartBiz produced infographic about the Small Business Administration: Get to Know the SBA: A SmartBiz Infographic. Infographics can be displayed on your website or blog, across social media channels or in an email. SCORE has a webinar to help you craft your own: DIY Infographics for Your Business.

14. Use LinkedIn

These days, business owners are using LinkedIn to build relationships with like-minded professionals, stay up-to-date with industry trends and uncover new leads who could become customers. Check out this handy guide from ThriveHive for more information: 20 LinkedIn Tactics for Small Business Owners.

15. Customer Referral Program

A customer referred to your business is 4 times as likely to buy your product than other prospects. They are also more inclined to stick around for longer as a customer. Offer existing customers a free product, free month of service, or some other reward if they refer a new customer. Remember, if your program is difficult to execute, your customers won’t use it. Provide the right tools in a user-friendly manner. Top software review site Capterra has a list of the best referral software programs for small businesses here: Referral Software 2019.

16. Giveaways

Everyone likes a bargain! But don’t just give away stuff or give random discounts. Offer shoppers specials like free shipping, coupons, a discount, or store credit. If you have the budget, you can create branded merchandise to give away in your store, with a purchase, or at community events. For creative ideas, check out this post filled with merchandise shoppers will love: Promotional Items for Your Small Business.

17. Customer Satisfaction Survey

When it comes to surveys, small business owners aren’t top users. A survey shows that 62% of small business owners say they “never” conduct surveys of their customers. You can easily survey your customers through inexpensive online tools like SurveyMonkey. For an effective survey, ask targeted questions about what customers like, don’t like and would want to see from you. Constant Contact has an article to help you get started: A Sample Survey: 7 Questions To Ask Customers.

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