Great Marketing Ideas for Small Business

Small business marketing and selling are two different animals. Selling is getting your customer to give you money for a product or service. Marketing is about developing your brand and demand for your product. You might be focused on making the sale but to be successful, you’ll need to get your product in front of your target customer.

Sign up for Advisor. It's free!

“Guerilla marketing” is defined as unconventional and low-cost marketing techniques aimed at getting maximum exposure. If you need to easily refresh your marketing tactics check out these creative and inexpensive marketing ideas.

Look at the Calendar

Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Christmas are the low-hanging fruit of an annual calendar. Stand out from the crowd by promoting a unique calendar observation like #coffeedrinkersday, the summer solstice or National Courtesy Month. These small marketing campaigns are creative and easy to launch.

A good strategy to get marketing ideas on the fly is to check daily trending topics on Twitter. If it’s #HugARedheadDay and you have a red headed team member, snap a photo and use the hashtag to get more eyeballs on your social media channels.

For a comprehensive list of January through December calendar observations, check out this article from the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: Marketing Calendar: When to Promote Your Business.

Cross Promote

Cross promotion is all about introducing your business to new customers through a partnership with another business. The HubSpot blog has a great list of successful big brand cross promotions. For example, GoPro and Red Bull announced a global partnership in 2016. Both are lifestyle brands targeted to active millennials and they’ve been successfully co-sponsoring events and festivals across the globe.

You can have success without a big budget. For example, a local bakery could offer nail salon customers a plate of cookies along with a coupon on a high traffic Saturday. In turn, the bakery could put an advertisement for the salon on receipts or in their store. Get to know the other business owners in your community and keep an eye out for cross promotion opportunities.

For 12 small business cross promotion ideas, read our blog post: Cross-Promotion and Your Small Business: Ideas for Success.

Manage Your Online Reviews

The first stop for most consumers is the web. Online surfers aren’t just looking for products and services, they leave reviews and read reviews from real customers, forming an opinion about your business. You need to be hyper aware of what these micro-influencers are writing about your company.

To do this, claim your page on review platforms like Google+, Yahoo and Yelp. When you claim your page, you’ll have control over how your profile appears. Add a link to your website, high-quality photos, directions, hours, email and any other important details consumers need to know about your business, products and services.

Once you’re set up, monitor comments and address any issues.

For more tips and tricks to elevate your online reputation, check out this post: Navigating the Web: Tips to Build An Online Reputation.



Embrace Social Media

According to a recent survey conducted by eMarketer, customers spend 20% to 40% more on products/services by companies who engage with them on social media. A Facebook page, Instagram feed or YouTube channel are proven ways to attract and educate consumers about your product or services.

Social media content and advertising is constantly evolving and it can be difficult for a busy business owner to stay on top of everything. Facebook marketing can be particularly complex.

If you need some outside help, review the article How to Hire a Social Media Strategist from the SmartBiz Small Business Blog.

Implement Good Branding

A big component of marketing is to develop an easily recognizable overall look and feel from colors to font and everything in between. Stay away from a generic business look. Your branding will appear on everything from business cards to your website to packaging so make sure you nail it before you start implementing.

If you want to take your branding a step further, consider a well-designed mascot. A solid mascot can easily become a small business’s best sales and marketing tool. You might have an idea in mind and can hire an artist to bring your vision to life.

If you’d like a mascot but not sure which direction you’d like to go, consider working with an outside agency or consultant who has mascot experience. This is a higher cost marketing component but can give you the extra muscle to go above and beyond your competition.

Start a Customer Referral Program

Word-of-mouth marketing may be one of the most powerful forms of marketing. A good way to get this going for your small business is through a customer referral program. Consumers trust friends and family so a simple referral can go a long way. Offer free shipping, coupons, a discount, or store credit if one of your customers refers another who purchases your products or services.

No one wants to jump through hoops so keep your referral program guidelines as simple as possible. The ThriveHive blog has an excellent list of referral program examples to help spark ideas for your business.

Join Professional Organizations

Unless you live in a remote area or very small town, almost every city around the U.S. has local business networking groups. The most common example is the Chamber of Commerce. They typically have special events, speakers, workshops and other get togethers to help promote local businesses.

This is a great opportunity to learn from other small business owners in your area and promote your own business. Be sure to have your “elevator pitch” ready to clearly let others know what you do and the type of consumer they can send your way. Find your local Chamber of Commerce here.