101 Small Business Marketing Ideas

Image shows a woman with a rose tattoo on her arm designing a website, working at a trade show, a cell phone showing her product, a coupon, her talking to someone, and some graphs. Text reads:

The Balance / Brooke Pelczynski 

Marketing attracts prospects, prospects become buyers, and buyers provide profit. But marketing is more than just putting your business name out into the world. The Small Business Administration has a marketing 101 course that states:

Marketing is everything an organization does to build a relationship between the company and consumer.

This explanation of marketing is more relevant today than ever, especially since consumers expect businesses to be engaged and responsive.

To this end, one of the smartest things a small business owner can do for their business is to take the time to develop a small business marketing plan that will set them apart from the competition. A marketing plan clearly outlines how you will reach your ideal customers by effectively implementing your marketing strategy.

There are thousands of ways you can promote your small business. With the right mix of activities, you can identify and focus on the most effective marketing tactics for your small business. Here is a list of 101 small business marketing ideas to get you thinking about all of the different ways you can promote your business.

Marketing Planning

Marketing is about finding your ideal customer and sharing your message on how you'll make their lives better. To do that, you need to research and identify your target market, decide how your business will stand out, and develop a plan. Here are strategies to get started:

1. Update or create a marketing plan for your business.

2. Revisit or start your market research.

3. Conduct a focus group.

4. Write a unique selling proposition (USP).

5. Refine your target audience and niche.

Marketing Materials

Be prepared with materials you can share online or off. Things like business cards are inexpensive, easy to hand out, and give you credibility. You should always have something with you that you can give to a lead. These materials should be transferred to online resources, such as a website, as a digital presence is crucial to success.

7. Create or update your business cards.

8. Make your business card stand out from the rest.

9. Create or update your brochure.

10. Build a website.

11. Create a digital version of your brochure for your website.

12. Get creative with promotional products and give them away at the next networking event you attend.

In-Person Networking

The digital world has made marketing easy and affordable, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get out into the world to promote your business. Even if your business is primarily online, consider adding networking to your marketing tactics. Remember, success in business is about relationships, and networking allows you to make the types of relationships that lead to sales, referrals, and other important business growth.

13. Write an elevator pitch.

15. Introduce yourself to other local business owners.

16. Plan a local business workshop.

17. Join your local chamber of commerce.

18. Rent a booth at a trade show.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is an expense, but it can still be effective if you find a targeted list and send them an offer they can't refuse. In fact, direct mail results in five times more sales than email. 

19. Launch a multipiece direct mail campaign.

20. Create multiple approaches, and split test your mailings to measure impact.

21. Include a clear and enticing call to action on every direct mail piece.

22. Use tear cards, inserts, props, and attention-getting envelopes to make an impact with your mailings.

23. Send past customers free samples and other incentives to regain their business.

Advertising

Advertising and marketing are often confused, but in fact, they are two different things. Marketing involves all aspects relating to getting your product or service to a market. Advertising is a part of marketing that involves getting your message about your product or service to the market. 

24. Advertise on the radio.

25. Advertise in a targeted publication your market reads.

26. Advertise on a billboard.

27. Use stickers or magnets to advertise on your car.

28. Take out an ad in your local newspaper.

29. Advertise on a local cable TV station.

30. Advertise on Facebook.

31. Advertise on LinkedIn.

32. Buy ad space on a relevant website.

33. Use a sidewalk sign to promote your specials.

Social Media Marketing

You need to be on social media as it allows you to not only share about your business but also build a relationship and trust with your market. But like all other forms of marketing, you need to keep your market in mind in terms of knowing where to find them and how to best talk to them. Further, you need to know how to use the social media platforms you're on as they're not one-size-fits-all. Finally, you need a social media plan.

Go Where Your Market Is

Go where your market hangs out to learn about what you do. If your market likes to use Facebook to learn about products or services that you offer, then you should be on Facebook.

34. Get started with social media for business.

36. Get a vanity URL or username for your Facebook page.

37. Create a Twitter account and start following experts and influencers in your industry.

38. Reply or retweet someone else on Twitter.

39. Set up a Foursquare account for your business.

40. Create a LinkedIn profile for you and your business.

41. Start a business blog.

42. Write blog posts on a regular basis.

43. Create an Instagram account.

44. Create an editorial calendar for your blog and social content.

Internet Marketing

There are a variety of ways to use the Internet for marketing, including options already mentioned such as social media. Here are a few other ideas:

45. Make sure you optimize your website and other online content using SEO.

46. Start a pay-per-click campaign using Google Adwords or Facebook Ads.

47. Comment on another blog post, leaving your name and website URL with your comment.

48. Record a video blog post.

49. Upload a video to YouTube.

50. Check your online directory listings and get listed in desirable directories.

51. Set up Google Analytics on your website and blog.

52. Review and measure your Google Analytics statistics to learn more about your market and what is working to reach it.

53. Stay on top of current and growing trends, such as new social media platforms or tools.

54. Learn more about local search marketing.

55. Track your online reputation.

56. Sign up for the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) email list and submit to be interviewed for media stories.

Email Marketing

With the growth of social media, some have said email marketing is dead. However, people on your email list are more interested and committed to your business. It's easy to click "follow" on social media, but consumers aren't so easy to give out their email. When they do, it means they want to know what you offer.

57. Create an email opt-in on your website or blog.

58. Offer a free download or free gift to entice people to give you their email address.

59. Send regular emails to your list.

60. Start a free monthly email newsletter.

61. Use A/B testing to measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns, and consider segmenting the list to better target your markets' interests.

62. Perfect your email signature.

63. Add audio, video, and social sharing functionality to your emails.

Contests, Coupons, and Incentives

People love free stuff and discounts. Just make sure you follow the laws about giveaways and contests.

65. Create a coupon.

66. Create a "frequent buyer" rewards program.

67. Start a client appreciation or a brand ambassador program.

68. Create a customer of the month program.

69. Give away a free sample.

70. Start an affiliate program.

Relationship Building

Most marketing is about creating awareness of your business. But once you have people's attention, you need to trust and rapport, whether that's through email or social media.

Focus on building a relationship, not making a sale.

72. Ask for referrals.

73. Make a referral.

74. Help promote or volunteer your time for a charity event.

75. Sponsor a local sports team.

76. Cross-promote your products and services with other local businesses.

77. Join a professional organization.

78. Plan your next holiday promotion.

79. Plan holiday gifts for your best customers.

80. Send birthday cards to your clients.

81. Approach a colleague about a joint venture.

82. Donate branded prizes for local fundraisers.

83. Become a mentor.

Content Marketing

Content is king. Providing useful or entertaining content can attract people to your business, where you can then entice them to buy. Content comes in many forms, from text and video to graphics and more.

84. Plan a free teleconference or webinar.

85. Record a podcast.

86. Write a press release.

87. Repurpose your content to share in other places. For example, take YouTube content and splice for Instagram TV or Facebook. Or use the audio from the video on a podcast.

88. Rewrite your sales copy with a storytelling spin.

Marketing Help

Marketing could be a full-time job. Most successful businesses can't do everything themselves, so if there are aspects of your marketing that you don't like or you aren't good at, consider getting help.

90. Hire a marketing consultant.

91. Hire a public relations professional.

92. Hire a professional copywriter.

93. Hire a search engine marketing firm.

94. Hire an intern or virtual assistant to help with daily marketing tasks.

95. If you're on a tight budget, use marketing tools to automate some tasks such as social media.

Unique Marketing Ideas

A lot of marketing is about making your business stand out from the crowd. Being creative, odd, or provocative can be an effective way to get noticed.

96. Get a branded tattoo.

97. Create a business mascot to help promote your brand.

98. Take a controversial stance on a hot industry topic.

99. Pay for branded wearable items.

100. Get a full-body branded paint job done on your company vehicle.

101. Sign up for online business training to revamp, expand and fine-tune all of your marketable skills.

Once you have a few brand new marketing ideas to try in your small business, get started on creating or fine-tuning your marketing plan.

Article Sources

  1. Small Business Administration. "Marketing 101: A Guide to Winning Customers." Accessed Jan. 20, 2020.

  2. Kellogue School of Management at Northwestern University. "5 Ways to Authentically Engage Your Customers." Accessed Jan. 20. 2020.

  3. U.S. Small Business Administration. "Direct Mail is Hot Again. Here’s How to Use It." Accessed Jan. 20, 2020.

  4. Concordia University. "Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference?" Accessed Jan. 20, 2020.