If you're starting a small business, a major factor in its success lies in how well you market it. Marketing attracts prospects, prospects become buyers, and buyers provide profit. But marketing is more than just putting your business name out into the world. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, marketing must create a connection:
Marketing is everything an organization does to build a relationship between the company and consumer.
This definition is more relevant today than ever before, when consumers encounter ads at every turn, and businesses are expected to be engaged and responsive.
One of the smartest things a small business owner can do is take the time to develop a marketing plan. A marketing plan clearly outlines how you will reach your ideal customers by effectively implementing your marketing strategy.
There are countless ways to promote your small business, so it's important to identify and focus on the most effective tactics. Here is a list of 101 small business marketing ideas to get the wheels turning.
Marketing is about finding your ideal customer and sharing your message: 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. Refine your target audience and niche.
4. Write a unique selling proposition (USP).
5. Define the features and specifications of your product or service.
6. Match your features to benefits, for use in creating effective marketing messages.
Be prepared with custom resources you can share both online and in person. You should always have something with you that represents your company's mission and image that you can hand to a lead. The same concepts apply in online forums; a digital presence is crucial to success.
7. Create or update your business cards so they stand out from the rest.
8. Consider producing a leaflet or brochure if it will help spread the word in your industry.
9. Build a website, whether a simple landing page or a multi-functional online experience.
10. Get creative with promotional products and give them away at the next trade show or networking event you attend.
11. People hang on to things they can use, so create swag like magnets, pens, notebooks, stress balls, etc.
12. Utilize your USP for unique designs.
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.
To craft a winning elevator pitch, start with a hook your lead can't ignore, let your enthusiasm shine through, and have the data ready to back up your claims.
14. Register for a conference.
15. Introduce yourself to other local business owners or join a formal networking group such as Business Network International.
16. Plan a local business workshop.
17. Join your local chamber of commerce.
18. Rent a booth at a trade show.
Direct mail can be expensive, but if you find a targeted list and send attractive offers, it can also be very effective—and profitable. 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 and marketing are often confused, but in fact they are two different things. Marketing involves all aspects of 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. Buy a spot on the radio.
25. Advertise in a publication your target market reads.
26. Rent 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. Buy ad space on a relevant website.
31. Use a sidewalk sign to promote your specials.
Social Media Marketing
A reputable social media presence is no longer optional for small businesses. Most consumers expect to be able to follow a company's progress, view updates, and make connections with the community. Social media can help define your image, promote products, gain clientele, and build relationships. But like all other forms of marketing, you need to have a solid idea of who your audience is, where to find them, and how to talk to them. Finally, you need a social media plan.
Go Where Your Market Is
Managing multiple social media accounts, responding to user comments and questions, and keeping up with trends can be a lot of work. If it aligns with your marketing strategy, consider hiring a professional social media manager or outsourcing the work.
32. Get started with social media for business.
33. Create a Facebook page for your business.
34. Get a vanity URL or username for your Facebook page.
35. Create a Twitter account and start following experts and influencers.
36. Reply, retweet, or comment on other accounts.
37. Explore lesser-known or niche platforms, like Foursquare, Pinterest, Reddit, or Tumblr.
38. Create a LinkedIn profile for you and your business.
39. Write blog posts on a regular basis; post custom versions for different platforms.
40. If you aim to reach a younger crowd, make videos on TikTok.
41. Create an Instagram account and develop an attractive aesthetic.
42. Create an editorial calendar for your blog and social content.
There are a variety of ways to use the internet for marketing beyond social media. Here are a few other ideas:
43. Make sure you optimize your website and other online content using SEO.
44. Start a pay-per-click campaign using Google Ads or Facebook Ads.
45. Connect with social media influencers for promotional posts to reach their user base.
46. Record a video blog post to attach a face to the name.
47. Upload a video to YouTube.
48. Check your online directory listings and get listed in desirable directories.
49. Advertise on Facebook.
50. Advertise on LinkedIn.
51. Set up Google Analytics on your website .
52. Review analytics statistics to learn more about your market and how 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) service to be interviewed for media stories.
It's easy to click "follow" on social media, but consumers aren't always eager to give out their email. When they do, it means they want to know what you offer. Having a well-tailored email list can be extremely valuable in your marketing efforts.
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. Use an email service to manage your list, such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
Contests, Coupons, and Incentives
People love free stuff and discounts. If you can provide that bit of serotonin that comes with free goodies, or winning a contest, you'll have a new fan.
64. Start a contest.
65. Create a coupon.
66. Create a "frequent buyer" rewards program.
67. Start a client appreciation or brand ambassador program.
68. Create a customer of the month program.
69. Give away a free sample.
70. Start an affiliate program.
Giveaways and contests typically fall under state and federal regulations. Before you implement any gifting, make sure that you're following all the proper rules.
Most marketing is about creating awareness of your business. But once you have people's attention, you need to build trust and rapport, whether that's through email or social media.
71. Send out a customer satisfaction survey.
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.
“Sales is not about selling anymore, but about building trust and educating.” —Siva Devaki, Co-Founder and CEO of MassMailing, Inc.
Providing entertaining content can attract people to your business, where you can then entice them to buy. But to transcend mere advertising, be sure to offer something useful and relevant to the reader or viewer.
84. Plan a free teleconference or webinar.
85. Start a podcast.
86. Submit a press release to local outlets or to communications services like PR Newswire.
87. Repurpose your content to share in other places. For example, splice YouTube content for Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook.
88. Rewrite your sales copy with a storytelling spin.
89. Self-publish a book.
Marketing can be a full-time job, 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 apps and marketing tools to automate some tasks, such as scheduling social media posts.
Unique Marketing Ideas
A lot of marketing is about making your business stand out from the crowd. Being creative or provocative can be an effective way to get noticed.
96. Partner up with a complementary brand or a product that works in tandem with yours and cross-promote.
97. Create a business mascot to help promote your brand.
98. Teach a free marketing or startup class for a target audience, using your business as a model.
99. Pay for branded wearable items.
100. Get a full-coverage 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Much Should a Small Business Spend on Marketing?
It depends on who you ask, but if you prefer to err on the side of caution, most financial institutions agree that for business-to-consumer companies, spending about 5%-10% of your revenue on marketing is a prudent range.
How Do You Develop a Marketing Plan for a Small Business?
There are many tools and resources available for free online. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers general guidance in a well-organized format. SCORE matches small business startups with mentors, for a more personalized approach.
What Is a Positioning Strategy?
A positioning strategy, or market positioning, describes the way you will distinguish your brand or product's image from competitors. It influences your buyers' perception in very specific, strategic, and artful ways, to create a brand or product identity.
What Is the Average Return on Investment for Small Business Marketing?
When you're just starting out, you'll pay overhead in before you see profits, and it may take some practice to refine your marketing strategy. That said, an ROI of 15%-30% is generally considered healthy for small businesses by most financial experts.