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Small Business Marketing 101 (54 Tips & Resources)

Every business’s marketing strategy is what propels their product or service and informs consumer choices with their brand. For small businesses, marketing is an even more crucial aspect to their success, considering much of their customer base comes from marketing tactics.

The best way to harness the power of small business marketing is with a cohesive and informed marketing strategy.

Effective marketing is the key to success for your small business, so we’ve compiled a resource full of marketing tips for small businesses to help you acquire new customers.

Table of contents

  1. How to create a small business marketing strategy
  2. Top marketing strategies for small businesses
  3. Online marketing ideas
  4. Creative marketing ideas
  5. Free marketing ideas
  6. Local business marketing ideas
  7. Frequently asked questions about marketing ideas
  8. Wrapping up: how to market your business

How to create a small business marketing strategy

Buyer persona template with background information, preferred marketing methods, priorities and characteristics.

If you’re wondering how to market for a small business, the following tips can help you get started on your small business marketing strategy:

  • Create a buyer persona. To have effective marketing, you’ll need to anticipate the types of customers you want to target. This can be achieved through creating a buyer persona or a profile of the typical customer at your business. Make sure to outline their motivations, values, career, and other characteristics in the buyer persona.
  • Select your marketing channels. Once you’ve made a good first impression with your elevator pitch, you can select which marketing channels to use in your strategy. Some examples of channels with high growth potential include content marketing, email, and social media. Once you’ve selected your channels, you can discover who they appeal to.
  • Craft your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a concise script that tells listeners what your product or service is, why there is a need for it, and what overall goal you’re hoping to achieve. Your elevator pitch will inform the rest of your marketing campaign.

Read through our buyer persona template to discover who your target customers are.

Buyer persona download template

Top marketing strategies for small businesses

Marketing strategies that are considered the most effective in the shortest amount of time will likely produce the fastest results.

However, they can have a higher price tag associated with them since they require experts and specialists in the field. These top marketing strategies for small businesses will ensure a high return on investment for your small business.

1. Purchase advertisements

One of the top ways to engage your target market through marketing is advertising. Purchasing online and physical advertisements will help build brand awareness and ultimately lead customers to purchase your product or service.

While you can purchase online advertising space on websites or YouTube videos, you can also use physical advertising like billboards or posters.

Recommended reading: 3 Cost-Effective Small Business Advertising Ideas

2. Build engaging website pages

Creating your business website doesn’t stop at purchasing a domain name and selecting a website template — having engaging website pages that provide information to your customers is important for brand awareness and building credibility.

Ensuring your website has pages where you explain your company mission, products, or services and what you bring to the table can be the deciding factor of whether or not a customer makes a purchase.

Recommended reading: 7 Must Have Elements of Every Small Business Website

3. Invest in pay-per-click advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a marketing strategy where online advertisements are purchased to generate revenue for the business. For every click on the ad, the advertiser pays a fee to the business being advertised.

This way, businesses can generate revenue based on how many visits to their website a PPC advertisement leads to.

Recommended tools

  1. Google Ads
  2. Verizon Media Native
  3. Microsoft Advertising

4. Consider sponsored posts on social media

Invest in influencer marketing. The number of sponsored posts on Instagram increase steadily each year, from just over 1 million in 2016 to over 6 million in 2020.

Once you’ve marked your social media pages as businesses, you have the option to have your posts be marked as sponsored, which can help your content show up on your target market’s social media feeds.

Facebook and Instagram are popular social media platforms that sponsor posts easily.

Recommended reading: How to Use Micro Influencer Marketing to Grow Your Business

5. Make sure your marketing content has a call to action

Marketing content that doesn’t have a call to action defeats the purpose of marketing, which is to promote your product or service.

For example, if you share an email newsletter or blog post about the benefits of yoga, you’ll want to have the call to action be to attend your yoga studio’s classes or sign up for a yoga studio plan. This way, your marketing content has an end goal.

Recommended reading: 20 Call to Action Examples that Create Instant Leads

6. Try your hand at influencer or affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is when a company partners with affiliates who promote their product or service to earn commission on the resulting sales.

On the other hand, influencer marketing is when an influential person is paid a flat fee to promote the company’s product or service. Both are solid marketing strategies to spread awareness and ultimately drive purchasing.

Recommended reading: The Difference Between Influencer and Affiliate Marketing: What You Need to Know

7. Create positive experiences for customers

Once a customer has been obtained, creating a positive experience for them in the case of an inquiry or issue is crucial.

Making sure there are systems in place, like chatbots or service representatives, to foster those positive interactions and problem-solving prevents poor customer experiences, resulting in them no longer purchasing from you.

Recommended reading: Everything You Need to Know About Customer Experience Management

8. Invest in social media monitoring tools

Some may think that a successful social media campaign is simply posting often.

However, the most successful campaigns closely monitor metrics like which posts get the most engagement and shares. Social media monitoring software or applications can make or break your marketing strategy, as social media is an important component.

Recommended tools:

  1. Hootsuite
  2. Keyhole
  3. Sprout Social

9. Monitor your marketing campaign success

Similar to monitoring your social media campaigns, you should also be monitoring the effectiveness of your overall marketing campaign. If certain marketing channels are proving to be unfruitful, there’s no reason to spend more money on a channel that isn’t driving conversions.

Monitoring the success of your marketing campaigns can help you find areas that could be improved or cut entirely.

Check out free marketing tools from Google or read reviews about popular marketing analytics software for small businesses.

10. Segment the target market

Segmenting your target market into smaller categories and adjusting your marketing strategy based on those segments is the key to personalized marketing.

For example, using email and content marketing for millennial customers and social media marketing for Generation Z customers may prove to be more effective than targeting the entire market with the same marketing strategy.

Different ways you can segment your market include demographic, psychographic, or geographic segmentation.

Demographic segments could include age, gender, or income, while psychographics could include values, beliefs, or motivations. Geographic segmentation is based on the target market’s physical location.

Recommended reading: The Marketer’s Guide to Segmentation, Targeting, & Positioning

11. Map out your marketing channels and strategy

Mockup of SimplifyLLC marketing plan template

Creating a detailed marketing plan with different strategies for each channel provides a road map for where to go.

The marketing channels you choose may change over time depending on the success of the channels you began with. By monitoring the success of the different channels as outlined in a marketing plan, you can create the most optimized and effective marketing plan through proactive planning.

Check out our marketing plan template to inspire your business’s marketing strategy.

Marketing plan template download button

12. Determine social goals and metrics

Setting goals for your social media campaign to achieve is an excellent strategy to inspire growth.

If you got 100 likes on your posts last year, your goal for this year could be to get 200 likes or something similar. Documenting specific and measurable goals for your social media engagement is a great way to grow your brand.

Recommended reading: The 10 Most Important Social Media Metrics to Monitor

13. Curate content to share on social media

The key to successful content marketing is finding the right content to share with your audience, which is the job of a content curator.

Researching trending topics in your industry or new information that could inform customer purchasing decisions are great ways to boost your social media content.

Recommended tools:

  1. Curata
  2. BuzzSumo
  3. SocialPilot

Online marketing ideas

Every marketing plan needs a robust online campaign to engage its target audience. Compared to traditional marketing strategies, online marketing can reach a wider audience in a shorter amount of time at a fraction of the cost.

Read our online marketing ideas that can increase your return on investment in the long run.

14. Capitalize on social media

First and foremost, social media marketing is one of the most popular forms of online marketing. It’s become the new hub for product or service recommendations from influencers and affiliates alike.

Including a strong social media marketing campaign in your online marketing plan is the key to garnering customer interest with the widest reach.

Recommended reading: How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan From Scratch

15. Obtain potential customer information

Staying in touch with potential customers is one way to remind them that your product or service exists and is available to them. Consumers always see advertisements, so obtaining their contact information is a good way to reach them directly.

Recommended reading: How to Create the Ultimate Lead Capture Page

16. Invest in an email marketing campaign

Consider email marketing. For every dollar you spend on email marketing, the average ROI is $42.Another popular form of online marketing is email marketing through newsletters.

Reminding customers of your new product or special promotions via email gives them a tangible way to contact or engage with your business. It also allows them to stay updated with any news your customers would want to know.

Recommended email marketing tools:

  1. Mailchimp
  2. Drip
  3. ConvertKit

17. Track website traffic and other metrics

Monitoring how many people visit your website can be a great way to gauge your customer base and business growth. It can also speak to the effectiveness of your PPC advertising. One of the most popular ways to track website traffic and clicks is Google Analytics.

Recommended reading: The Beginner’s Definitive Guide to Google Analytics

18. Optimize your website using specialists

Website optimization is a process of trial and error where you try different methods to drive website traffic and achieve business goals like higher sales or more conversions.

There are many different ways web design specialists can help level up your website, from search engine optimization to the actual code that makes up your website.

Recommended reading: Technical SEO: The Definitive Guide

19. Utilize search engine optimization (SEO)

One of the best ways to increase your website ranking on Google is search engine optimization (SEO). Some ways SEO can help you rank is through including relevant keywords in your website content, getting others to link to your content, and adding section headers to your content.

Hiring an SEO specialist can also exponentially increase your website ranking on different search engines in a shorter amount of time.

Recommended reading: SEO: The Complete Guide for Beginners

20. Invest in Google Ads

One of the most popular marketing strategies that can drive conversion is using the online advertising tool Google Ads, a form of PPC advertising where you can display your ads on the Google search engine results page.

Customers are extremely likely to click on them since they’re at the top of the page.

Recommended: Browse free Google Ads courses from Google

21. Make sure your website is accessible on mobile devices

Nowadays, many consumers will browse the web on their mobile devices and tablets. This makes optimizing your website for mobile viewing especially important if you don’t want your mobile users to click away once they realize the website isn’t accessible.

There are plenty of ways to do this through the hosting platform you use for your website, so make sure to include mobile-friendly web design in your marketing strategy.

Recommended tool: Google Mobile-Friendly test

22. Use a customer relationship management (CRM) system

Customer relationship management (CRM) is the process of interacting with customers and managing their relationships.

A CRM system is a technology used to keep track of customer interactions and ultimately helps the business grow through analyzing the data found from those relationships.

This can help you create a positive social experience for your customers on a whole other level.

Recommended: Read comparisons of different CRMs for small businesses

Creative marketing ideas

Marketing strategies that use creativity often have high success rates. It also appeals to a wider audience that you might not necessarily reach with traditional marketing.

Keep reading to learn about creative marketing ideas you can implement in your business.

23. Start a blog

Set a blog strategy. 86% of content marketers use blogging as part of their overall marketing strategy.

Blogging is one of the most popular forms of content marketing for businesses. Delivering relevant content to customers can create a positive association with your brand and drive product or service purchases.

Adding a call to action in your blog posts can help with customer conversion as well.

Recommended reading: How to Start a Blog in 5 Simple Steps

24. Create visual marketing content

Another facet of content marketing worth exploring is visual content marketing, which uses images or videos to share information. It’s also more likely to be shared by readers since people often share visuals instead of plain text.

Branding your visual content will ensure that the content always gets traced back to your business.

Recommended reading: Your ultimate guide to visual marketing

25. Film an “about us” video

For new and upcoming businesses, filming an “about us” video for your website homepage, social media, or YouTube channel is a great way to introduce yourself.

It gives you credibility with customers and offers a personal touch to marketing. The video can consist of graphics with a voiceover or even a walk-through of your business with the CEO.

Recommended tools:

  1. Adobe Premiere Pro
  2. Final Cut Pro

26. Write an editorial calendar for your blog

An editorial calendar is a detailed plan of what you’ll publish on your blog, social media, or other marketing channels for the foreseeable future.

It can be done monthly, weekly, or daily and informs what you’ll share with your readers. This marketing strategy takes the guesswork out of what you want to share and when you want to share it.

Recommended reading: How to Plan an Editorial Calendar the Best Way (Template)

27. Advertise on billboards, radio, TV, and car magnets

As digital advertising seems to be the focus for most online marketing campaigns, physical advertising is tried and true. It appeals to a wide audience through billboards, radio stations, cable television, and even car magnets.

U.S. billboards made $5.46 billion in ad revenue during 2019 alone.

Physical advertising ultimately builds brand recognition that you wouldn’t otherwise obtain through exclusively online advertising.

Recommended reading: Offline Marketing: What Works In 2021?

28. Produce company business cards

Some may say that business cards are no longer needed for marketing, but they’re important now more than ever in the digital age. Consumers encounter thousands of brands in their lifetime, but few of them offer business cards as a keepsake.

It also gives your marketing a personal touch by giving customers something physical to take away from experience.

Recommended business card printing services:

  1. Moo
  2. Visaprint
  3. Zazzle

29. Make a “how to” video

Another option for video content is making a “how-to” video to educate your viewers about a relevant topic in your industry. Not only are you offering a valuable resource to your audience, but it can help you get noticed on YouTube or other social media to build awareness around your brand.

For example, if you have a bakery business, you could film a tutorial on how to make a croissant so customers can learn industry knowledge.

Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Easily Make Instructional Videos

30. Film video advertisements

Video advertisements take digital advertising to the next level since they show your product or service in action. They are also available for viewing on various social media platforms like YouTube or even streaming websites like Hulu.

Much like other forms of online marketing, they build brand recognition so when customers need your product or service, you’ll be at the forefront of their minds.

Recommended reading: 12 Video Recording Tips for A Shoestring Budget

31. Create videos on TikTok

TikTok is a social media platform that took the world by storm and serves as an excellent opportunity to engage customers. The app’s algorithm can favor you and even make you go viral if you have consistent content that entices your audience.

You can also make sponsored TikTok videos or partner with influencers and affiliate marketers on the app.

Recommended reading: How to Create Your First TikTok Video

Free marketing ideas

Small businesses often have a tighter budget for their marketing campaign, so opting for low-cost yet effective marketing strategies is the right way to go.

There are few words as pleasing to hear as “free,” so we included some free marketing ideas you can start right now.

32. Include coupons in your marketing

Offering customers coupons to incentivize purchases is by far one of the most crucial parts of conversion. If customers have coupons, it shows that you care that they purchase from your company and, consequently, return the favor.

Recommended reading: 27 Best Coupon Advertising Ideas to Try

33. Initiate customer service through social media

Engage with customers on social media. Customers message brands for a variety of reasons, from product information to advice. When customers have a bad experience with a brand, they will often take to social media to voice their concerns and tag the brand. A popular place where this is done is Twitter.

Brands will often monitor their social media mentions and have customer service representatives reach out to those speaking out to solve their issues. This is a free marketing tool that can ultimately repair customer relationships.

Recommended reading: 7 Best Practices That Your Social Media Customer Service Strategy Needs to Follow

34. Engage your existing customers

Acquiring new customers often takes more effort and resources than selling to existing customers.

According to HubSpot’s customer acquisition study, it can cost 5x-25x more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

This makes engagement and loyalty to your existing customers just as important, if not more so, than acquiring new customers for your brand.

In reference to creating positive social experiences with customers through your CRM system, this is the key to establishing brand loyalty for the long term.

Recommended reading: Customer Retention 101: Grow Your Business by Selling More to Current Customers

35. Encourage customer reviews

Consumers are bombarded with hundreds of products through advertisements to the point where customer reviews can hold more weight than information from the company itself.

Encouraging satisfied customers to write detailed reviews is an excellent method to drive conversion and build brand credibility. It’s also more likely that your product could go viral with thousands of reviews.

Recommended tools for collecting customer reviews:

  1. Yotpo
  2. Podium
  3. Google My Business Reviews

36. Get in online directory listings

Much like the yellow pages, online directory listings include a list of companies that provide specific products and services. You should include your business name, website URL, physical address, phone number, and any other relevant information in your listing.

Good places to start listing your business include Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Yelp.

37. Participate in niche social platforms

Since platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are saturated with many businesses, niche social media platforms like Reddit and Pinterest can be a better option for some companies.

For example, if you’re a graphic design firm looking to share your portfolio, Pinterest might get you more engagement since it’s a photo-sharing platform.

Popular niche online communities:

  1. Dribbble and Behance – for designers.
  2. GrowthHackers – online marketing community.
  3. Reddit – has subreddits for every topic imaginable.

38. Host a webinar

A webinar is when a speaker conducts a virtual presentation on a topic they have expertise in. Like a TED Talk, webinar hosts share their knowledge with large audiences looking to learn.

Webinars can be conducted via Zoom, Livestorm, or ClickMeeting.

Recommended reading: How ​to​ ​Create a​ ​Webinar from Scratch in 10 Simple Steps

39. Source in-depth customer testimonials

Like customer reviews, testimonials provide a more in-depth version of feedback to add credibility to a company. Customer testimonials are typically from satisfied buyers who speak to the value or performance of your product.

While they are often paid endorsements through affiliate or influencer marketing, they can also be from happy customers who voluntarily offer their feedback or through the company’s request for their testimonials.

Recommended reading: How To Ask For Testimonials: 7 Tips and Templates From The Experts

40. Use relevant hashtags or follow relevant trends on social media

Social media is a useful tool when it comes to staying up-to-date on emerging trends and hashtags. Embracing trending topics in the world within your marketing campaign is not only relevant but can tie into your own industry.

A great example of this was the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people had to make lifestyle changes to adapt to the work-from-home environment.

However, it’s important to read the room and not hop onto trends irrelevant to your industry or brand.

Recommended hashtag research tools:

  1. Hashtagify
  2. All Hashtag
  3. RiteTag

41. Do the necessary market research

Study market research in these forms: interviews, surveys, focus groups and observation

Market research is the first step to discovering who your target market will be.

It helps you discover their wants, needs, and values to cater your marketing strategy to them.

Examples of market research methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and customer observations. Conducting your own research can be costly, but reading studies related to your product or industry from other companies or research centers is completely free.

Recommended reading: Market research and competitive analysis

42. Make a LinkedIn page for your business

The most business-oriented social media platform is LinkedIn, where working professionals and businesses share their achievements and post job openings.

Making a LinkedIn page for your business is crucial to establishing credibility and finding new talent and hiring. It also gives potential employees more information about your company that can lead them to work for you in the future.

Recommended reading: Official guide on how to create a LinkedIn page for your company

Local business marketing ideas

Small businesses will often target the customer base in their geographic area, as that can be a large percentage of their market. Local business marketing can be more specific and personal than traditional marketing campaigns, where marketing materials are distributed through more physical channels.

Keep reading for marketing strategies that are most effective for small businesses looking to reach local customers.

43. Use your social media accounts for local promos

Social media business pages are a go-to source for local residents to post about their experiences with a brand. It’s also a way to encourage customer reviews and check-ins on Yelp, Facebook, and Instagram.

You can connect with local customers in the area and host events to encourage them to come into your store. Not only is this a free marketing tool, but it also engages the community.

Recommended reading: Building a Social Following Locally

44. Offer a referral bonus

Having a referral bonus is another popular way to incentivize word-of-mouth advertising. Offering customers a bonus of $10 to $25 for each friend they refer is an effective way to obtain customers and spread the word about your brand.

Recommended tools for collecting referrals:

  1. Referral Factory
  2. Friendbuy
  3. ReferralCandy

45. Host events, workshops, or conferences

Similar to hosting a webinar, don’t shy away from holding in-person events, workshops or conferences. This is a great marketing tool to allow customers to try your product or service before purchasing.

If you’re doing a grand opening, this is an excellent way to create excitement in the community and pique their interest. It can also be an opportunity to network with other professionals in the field.

Recommended reading: Why And How To Host A Digital Workshop As A Small Business

46. Participate in a brand partnership

Working with another local business that complements the service or product you provide is beneficial to both of you as a brand partnership.

Many companies will partner with nonprofits, where a portion of the business profits are donated to charity. By doing so, you can raise awareness about important issues while taking actionable steps to resolve them.

Ultimately, this can appeal to customers’ values and build brand loyalty.

Recommended reading: How to get brand partnerships right

47. Offer marketing surveys

Like we mentioned earlier, offering marketing surveys to customers is an excellent and accessible way to conduct market research.

Asking them, “How did we do?” is a great method to assess the quality of your marketing and customer service.

This feedback is precious because it’s from the exact people you’re trying to reach.

Recommended survey tools:

  1. Typeform
  2. Google Forms
  3. Crowdsignal

48. Do a competitive analysis

Conduct a competitive analysis by assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your business or a competing business

Looking at what your competitors are doing can help you gauge how you may need to improve or modify your own marketing efforts.

A competitive analysis is an actionable plan where you assess a competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Competitors’ weaknesses can be an opportunity for your company to do something better, so you can adjust your marketing efforts to satisfy that customer need.

Recommended reading: How to Do a Competitive Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

49. Make a brochure or leaflet

Offering a physical item that customers can take away is how brochures or leaflets can come in handy. They display images and information about your business and create a visual that’s hard to ignore.

While they are relatively easy to create with many different templates available online, they can become costly if you’re printing brochures with colorful images in large quantities.

Brochures are best for brand-new small businesses looking to get the word out about their company to local customers.

Free online brochure design tools:

  1. Canva
  2. Visme
  3. Venngage

50. Sell merchandise to do the marketing for you

Branded merchandise, like sweatshirts, T-shirts, hats, and water bottles, is like free advertising for your company. By wearing your merchandise out and about, customers unknowingly are advertising for you as people they encounter will wonder about the brand behind the design.

This could also be an opportunity for a brand partnership, where your business can partner with a clothing designer to make custom merchandise.

Recommended reading: Merchandise branding: how to create great merch for your brand

51. Join a local business network

Connect with other small business owners by joining a local business network where companies collaborate to accomplish common goals. It also serves as an opportunity to network with other professionals in the field and even get advice on how to run your business better.

Communities worth joining:

  1. SCORE
  2. Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
  3. A local Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

52. Launch a direct mail campaign for local customers

Some customers prefer direct mail to email, so having a direct mail campaign for local customers allows a marketing channel for that target market segment.

Marketing and promotional materials you can send via direct mail include brochures and leaflets, which can educate and inform customers about developments in your business.

Attaching coupons to the mail customers receive may also encourage them to visit your store.

Recommended reading: Direct Mail Marketing Guide for Small Businesses

53. Distribute samples or a free trial

The classic saying “try before you buy” is a great marketing strategy for those looking to acquire new customers or gauge interest in a new product.

This can also be a way to receive feedback about certain products, but most often, a free trial or sample can result in the customer purchasing your product since they were able to try and enjoy it.

Recommended reading: How to Use Free Sample Marketing to Sell More

54. Look into local search marketing

When customers look up businesses of a certain type on Google Maps, it will often show them what’s nearby. Registering your business on the map, so it shows up in local searches is referred to as local search marketing.

It’s a form of SEO where you try to show up in the right searches. Ways to increase the likelihood of success in local search marketing include providing an accurate name, address, phone number, and website to online directories.

Recommended reading: Local SEO: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

Commonly asked questions (FAQ)

We’ve got the answers to all the top questions about small business marketing.

Wrapping up: How to market your business

Although marketing is no easy feat, it’s definitely worth it in the long run. It’s one of the most valuable assets to your company’s success and helps small businesses grow exponentially. The first step to a successful marketing campaign is planning what marketing channels to use, finding your target market, and catering to the customers who inspire your greatness. Check out this comprehensive infographic that drives our point home.

Infographic on how to market small businesses

SimplifyLLC Authors

Article by:

SimplifyLLC

Editorial Staff

Team of legal researchers, qualified accountants, attorneys, and entrepreneurs passionate about simplifying business for everyone. SimplifyLLC's mission is to help you set up an LLC, educate you about the business essentials and provide ideas for your ventures.

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