It’s a tough world for small businesses, who not only have to distinguish themselves from their competitors, but also have to compete with well-established multinational corporations and their gargantuan marketing budgets. But while it’s undoubtedly a challenge to stand out from the crowd as a small business, that’s not to say it’s impossible. With enough gusto and creative small business marketing ideas, any small business can pull ahead of the competition and produce the sort of unforgettable marketing that pulls in new customers and keeps them coming back.
Here are some the best small business marketing ideas that are fresh and creative.
19 Creative Small Business Marketing Ideas to Set Yourself Apart
While marketing your small business effectively may seem difficult, it can actually be easy and fun with the right ideas.
Here are some of the best small business marketing ideas that will help you set yourself apart from the competition while keeping your budget safe.
Create a Google Business Profile
Google is an invaluable tool for any business looking to make its mark. Not only has optimizing online content for Google become its own industry (see here for our complete guide on doing SEO with WordPress), but the multinational titan controls several advertising channels that make it easy for businesses small and large to distinguish themselves.
One of the most useful of these is the ability to be displayed on Google Maps. This is achieved with a Google My Business profile, which lists your location, important information and – crucially – allows you to respond to ratings and direct messages.
It’s important to make sure your account is properly maintained and optimized in order to get the most out of it and make sure that you’re prominently featured on Maps, however. The better optimized and the more active your Google My Business account, the more conversions you’re likely to get. These conversions make a Google Business Profile one of the best small business marketing ideas.
Maintain an Active Social Media Presence
Some of the most successful small businesses have extremely active social media pages and presences. This doesn’t simply mean throwing out ads for your goods or services twice a week – it means a page that interacts with followers and other pages, is actively involved in conversations (related to your industry or not) and is always on-hand to answer any questions that followers might have.
It’s important to have a presence on all of the big social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. The idea is that you’re relatable and reachable; something that is surprisingly easy to do with just an hour or so a day spent cultivating and maintaining your accounts.
You’ve no doubt seen trending Tweets or IG posts that are trailed by a long list of hashtags. Though it’s possible to overdo them, there’s no doubting that hashtags are very useful when it comes to promoting a business – and a great small business marketing idea. They have spread from their original home on Twitter and are now widely used not only on social media, but also in some messaging apps.
Some ways that you can use hashtags are:
- To piggyback off trending hashtags and boost your business’ profile.
- To help cement your business in local minds by including your city or town’s hashtag.
- Tie yourselves to specific trends or kinds of posts (advice, responses etc.) by using hashtags related to that topic, e.g. #OnlineShopping or #MortgageAdvice. Who knows – you might even start your own trending hashtag.
- To mix and match trending and bespoke hashtags to ensure maximum engagement with potential customers.
Run Competitions and Offer Prizes
A relatively inexpensive and easy way to reach a whole lot of potential customers is by running a competition, particularly if the prize is something attractive and the requirements for entering the competition are low-effort. Who doesn’t like potentially getting something nice for free? Competitions may not have been on the top of your mind, but they are definitely among the best and most creative small business marketing ideas.
This is a really effective way of ramping up your business in the early days. You could make the requirements something simple like liking your page and sharing the competition; it’s astonishing how quickly you can build your base of followers with something like this.
Use SEO to Boost Your Local Profile
When you need a vet, chances are you’ll google “vets near me”. It’s almost certainly the autocomplete, in fact, that pops up as soon as you type “vet” into your search bar.
When you do that, what determines the first hit that pops up after the advertised links? Why are they top of the search page?
It’s all down to search engine optimization – SEO. It’s the difference between getting your business noticed immediately to languishing down in the middle of page 2. Research has shown that 26-32% of people click on the first hit shown on Google, and a staggering 91% of traffic stays on the first page without ever clicking through to the second. Furthermore, the first hit gets twice the organic traffic of the second hit, and it gets more hits than results #3-5 combined. Getting to first on Google really does make a difference.
Note that this is organic traffic; paid links (that are at the top with ‘Ad’ next to them) aren’t nearly as successful. The 4 ad hits at the top of page one get a little over 6% of the traffic. This is compared to the almost 40% CTR (click-through rate) of the first organic hit. Why is this the case? Simply put, users trust organic hits more. They haven’t paid to hit the top of the page.
What all of this means for your business is that the #1 Google result is massive. And in order to get it, you need to optimize your content. We have published several articles on how to optimize your content so that it ends up at the top of page 1 (see for instance our guide on great copywriting or doing SEO with WordPress), but what it boils down is anticipating what users will search (to return to our example, ‘vets near me’) and making sure that you include keywords related to that search. Sprinkle references to your town or city throughout your blogs. Make sure that any keywords you use have a density of 1-2% within your blogs. On the other hand, don’t overdo it; if your article has 43 mentions of ‘vets near me’, Google’s algorithm will recognize your attempts to game the system and exclude your page from results.
Bottom line: optimizing for SEO is one of the best creative marketing ideas you can have. It’s free and, to potential customers, it’s trustworthy.
There are many great tools out there that can help you with SEO. A firm favorite is Semrush – the leading all-in one SEO solution out there. It makes it incredibly easy to find the right topics and keywords, and write SEO-optimized content.
Get Noticed in the Real World
It’s obviously extremely important to boost your online profile, but don’t neglect the benefits of getting seen offline too! Some extremely effective marketing techniques started offline, and such was the buzz generated that they went viral and generated tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars’ worth of free marketing. Examples include Burger King’s ingenious ‘truce’ offered to McDonald’s and Fox News’ interactive posters from which chef Gordon Ramsay conversed with passersby in real-time. Therefore, although it is so simple, doing offline marketing is one of the more creative but invaluable small business marketing ideas in an increasingly online-based world.
Use Mass Marketing Emails
Email has garnered a reputation for being somewhat old-fashioned in recent years, but it remains a valid method for communicating with potential (or existing) customers. It’s also a great way of keeping customers up to date with news, offers and promotions that they might be otherwise unaware of.
In order to make the most out of mass mails, it’s important to bear in mind the following:
- Include a clickable link in your email to make it easy for customers to respond to your call to action.
- Use a pithy, attention-grabbing subject line.
- Personalize the email instead of making it an obvious mass marketing mail.
- Use a mass-mail service like Mail Chimp so you can get insights and analyses about the performance of your mass mails.
Make Use of Friends and Family
It might, at first blush, seem a little mercenary to use friends and family to further your business’ marketing. But all it really is, is asking them to do you a minor favor – and what friend or family member wouldn’t want your business to succeed?
Simply ask them to retweet/share your posts, casually mention you to friends and colleagues, and perhaps occasionally help to hand out flyers or pass along business cards. It’s free and can be quite effective – and therefore one of the best small business marketing ideas.
A clean, attractive infographic can work wonders as a marketing tool. People love quick, easily digestible bits of information, and they’re easily shared on social media and thus have the potential to quickly go viral.
Although it can be expensive to hire someone to make an infographic for you, there are plenty of websites and apps out there that can pretty much make your infographic for you. Simply plug in the text, choose a theme and let the app/site do the rest.
You don’t even have to source your own data, if you don’t have the time or resources (or the inclination). Simply check out governmental or NGO statistics and use them as the basis of your infographic.
Attend Networking Events
Again, it’s important not to focus on the online space to the detriment of the offline. There’s a lot to be said for face-to-face networking at conventions and business meetups, and a lot of these are completely free. Stay up to date with your business communities, and be sure to attend these events as and when they crop up.
Make Use of Trial Subscriptions to Advertising Tools
Though there any many free ways to advertise (Facebook alone has two: Messenger and Marketplace), sometimes it pays to pay. The problem is that a lot of marketing platforms can be quite pricey, which isn’t great for someone looking to make use of ideas for marketing small businesses. Some of the best revolve around SEO, like Moz and Semrush, and it’s quite often to get lucky and land a free subscription when you create an account. Subscribe to the email lists of marketing companies in which you’re interested – they’ll be sure to let you know when they’ve got offers on.
Hold Coffee Meetups for Regular Customers
Sometimes, the easiest small business marketing ideas are the most effective ones. Retaining customers is just as – if not more – important as attracting new ones, and one of the best ways to make customers feel valued is to offer free meetups where you can converse with them and take on board their feedback personally.
It’s possible to make this even cheaper by making it a round-robin event where the host is different each time, extending the meetups to client houses or even just going to a different café each time. You could even open up your office space in order to give clients a peek under the hood, further enhancing trust and engendering a sense of openness and inclusion. When it comes to small business marketing tricks, this one is near the top of the pile.
Apply for Awards Within Your Industry
There’s nothing that makes a business look legitimate quite like industry and customer satisfaction awards, and it’s one of the neatest small business marketing tricks for attracting new customers (or retaining old ones).
If, for whatever reason, there are no awards within your industry, why not create your own? You’re bound to attract interest from competitors eager to win the award themselves, and you can create an event that will generate free publicity and benefit all involved.
Set Up a Referral Scheme
Using customers to create more customers is one of the most creative ideas for small business marketing around. It’s a surefire way to engender customer loyalty (as you’re giving them bonuses and incentives for referrals) and makes your business seem trustworthy to the potential new customer (who is being recruited not by you or your advertising, but a trusted friend). It’s also a great way to encourage organic word-of-mouth advertising – and, as we know, organic marketing is much better than its paid equivalent.
Engage in Guerilla Marketing
There’s nothing quite as creative as guerilla marketing. From the examples we looked at earlier to more recent instances of the tactic (just look at the hugely successful guerilla marketing campaign for 2022 horror movie Smile), guerilla marketing has the potential like no other to quickly generate huge buzz about your company or profit, and have potential customers running to search you out and find out what, exactly, your business is about.
Guerilla marketing emphasizes creativity in a way that traditional marketing doesn’t, and the sky really is the limit. It can also be a very economical way of marketing – it could be something as simple as stickers on lampposts in your area, for instance.
Start a Blog
It goes without saying that you should have a website for your company, as this acts as a great base of operations (outside of your social media channels) for your online presence. But rather than just having a landing page and the usual ‘about us’/’products’/’contact us’ sections, you should consider including a blog. While a blog is not one of the most creative ideas, it is invaluable for small businesses.
Blogs are a really good way of driving organic traffic, and they should be tailored to your company’s product or service. Are you a florist? Write a blog about the five best flowers for Valentine’s Day. If you’re a plumber, write a blog on quick home fixes for common plumbing issues.
Your blogs should be authoritative, easy to read, optimized for search engines, and include a call to action of some kind. Remember that the point of the blogs is to serve as a creative marketing tool – they’re not simply a blog for the sake of a blog!
Post ‘How-To’ Videos on YouTube or Your Own Website
Some of the most viewed videos on YouTube are simple ‘how to’ guides. Whether it’s for putting a duvet cover on or fixing a leaky faucet, people flock to the video website in droves for quick and easy tutorials that can help them in their daily lives.
There’s no reason why you can’t be one of these videos. As with your blogs, keep it within your area of expertise and keep it accessible. The ultimate goal of your video is to drive traffic to your website or page, so make sure you include a call to action in the video at some point.
Repurpose Existing Content
If you’ve written a blog and it does well, it doesn’t have to end there. Repurposing old content is one of the best small business marketing ideas, as it’s easy and free! Use your blog as the premise of a podcast or Facebook/YouTube video and attract even more potential customers to your brand. Similarly, a YouTube video with tens of thousands of views is begging for a companion blog. There’s no need to always be creating new content if you have perfectly serviceable existing content!
Use Employees to Promote Your Brand
Similarly to friends and family, employees can be used to promote free advertising via word-of-mouth promotion when they’re not working. Unlike friends and family, however, employees are not necessarily predisposed towards portraying you in a favorable light. This means that you’ll have to work at cultivating a positive relationship with employees; offer generous salaries and benefits, and you won’t need to do much more.
As we can see, there are no end of cheap, interesting ways to engage in creative marketing for small businesses. Whether making the best use of your Facebook page or churning out high-quality, informative blogs, there is no reason why you cannot take your small-business marketing to the next level. With enough ingenuity, hard work and verve, you’ll soon turn your small business into a local powerhouse, using some of the small business marketing ideas from above. And from there, who knows? Even Amazon began as a humble company operating out of a garage. Play your cards right, and the sky is the limit.