With tight budgets and limited resources, growing a small business can be a challenge. At ePromos, we specialize in providing custom printed promotional products for small businesses that are perfect for giveaways at trade shows, conventions and community events.
However, we wanted to hear from the experts, so we have assembled 20 of our favorite small business marketing ideas from professionals in the industry. Here are some tips with proven success for expanding the reach of your brand both digitally and locally.
1. Team Up with Businesses in Your Community
One thing I recommend for a new business is to get out there and do some cross-promotions with other small businesses in your area. This can be sponsoring a charity event, a concert, or a community festival. This is a great way for other people in the community to see your brand and get to know what your business is all about.
Matt Ruley, Owner, WFHOffice
2. Get the Most Out of Your Social Media Pages
Many people think of social media for socializing, and search engines for searching.
The search boxes inside social media websites and apps get a considerable number of searches. For example, more people search on YouTube than both Yahoo and Bing. Your company’s community and business pages will get discovered by people searching for the products and services you offer. With limited space in the title, bio and about sections, focus on adding the buyer keywords that your customers are likely to be typing. Use fewer generic words like ‘professional’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘quality’. Use more keywords like ‘kids parties’, ‘best moisturizer’, gardening supplies’ or whatever you’re selling.
Jason Lavis, Managing Director, Out of the Box Innovations
3. Local Events with Branded Displays
As a new online small business, we found it challenging to get in front of new customers. One of our most successful early efforts was participating in local street festivals. The opportunity to have one-to-one conversations with new and potential customers is invaluable, particularly if you have a unique product and a niche market as we do. It’s also worth investing in branded assets for these events, as the visibility and brand recognition provided by having a high-quality branded setup for these events is worth the initial cost. We continue to see value from the initial investment in our setup and can use it for years to come.
Melissa Stern, Executive Director, Comprehensive Cranium Care
4. Get Found in Local Search
One of the best (and free!) ways to promote your small business is through local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – meaning, ranking in the “unpaid” search results that appear below the map of your local area.
To get started, create or verify your business with Google My Business, making sure to select the most relevant/specific business category and complete all available fields. Next, make sure the Title Tags on your main website pages contain 1 – 2 key phrases specific to each page, followed by your city (e.g. Dry-Cleaning Services – Chicago, IL). Lastly, get 3 – 5 relevant websites to link to your website. Quick wins often come from reaching out to organizations, associations, and any other local business entities you’re affiliated with.
Zack Reboletti, Owner & SEO Consultant, Web Focused
5. Don’t Overlook Direct Marketing
One excellent offline strategy for small businesses is door-to-door flyers. They are simple, easy to test, and cost-effective, making it accessible for most. Direct marketing has produced billions of dollars in sales for companies – because it works. In recent years, its effectiveness has increased as more companies overlook this simple marketing method. To get the most bang for your buck, keep your ad focused on your product or service’s benefit to the customer, and test paper color, offer, and the neighborhood of distribution.
Jon Nastor, Creator & Host, Hack the Entrepreneur
6. Network at Coworking Spaces
A local coworking spot is always one of the first places I connect with other businesses. As a marketer, these B2B relationships are ideal for leads and referrals. Even a B2C business can still benefit from growing their local network.
Paul Davis, Owner, Paul Davis Solutions
7. Host Your Own Event
One of the simplest and smartest use of limited resources is a combination networking/letter writing program. Find groups or organizations that most closely align with the types of clients or customers you are seeking and get involved. Attend the networking events, gather business cards and regularly send out direct letters to those folks to invite them to an event or some type of program you are hosting at your space – and make it something fun but related to what you do – for example, a tea, a business roundtable, a beer tasting or whatever. These direct and purposeful networking/follow up programs create a sense of trust with potential clients and not only build leads, but also build your credibility and your brand.
Rodger Roeser, CEO, The Eisen Agency
8. Leverage Pinterest for Your Brand
Even on a tight budget, a small business can take full advantage of social platforms, especially Pinterest.
Pinterest is second only to Facebook as the most popular social media platform when it comes to influencing buyers. This makes perfect sense as Pinterest users go on the platform to get inspired by items they want to buy. Once an account is set up and a business has chosen which products they wish to promote, the next step is to market their brand by creating a “board” and adding “pins”. An important step to remember is to include simple keywords, clear descriptions, and stunning images to optimize your marketing on Pinterest.
Arya Bina, CEO, Kobe Digital
9. Encourage Online Reviews
For a small or local business, being found online is critical to survive. Potential customers are looking for what other people are saying about your brand. That’s where online reviews come in. Not only do consumers actively seek out reviews, but because of this, Google rewards businesses with reviews with higher rankings in local search results.
Studies show that having more reviews means more leads and more sales. So how do you get online reviews? It’s not as hard as you think (and it’s cheap). All you must do is ask. The best time to do this is right after the sale. When thanking the customer for their business take the opportunity to also ask them to leave a review on Google or Yelp. You won’t get a review from everyone you ask, but over time, you will see an increase in the number of reviews.
Matt Stone, Founder, Review Ignite
10. Schedule Social Media Posts in Advance
A great way to marketing your small business with a limited budget is social media. You can reach thousands of people if you are using social media properly. One tool that is very helpful for social media tracking and posting is called Buffer. It is a free tool you can use to post social media posts in advance, as well as see how your posts are doing.
You will want to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour a day focusing on social media and deciding which social media posts are resonating with your followers and planning out your future social media posts. Make sure that when you are posting on social media you are not only talking about yourself and your company. You want to be a thought leader for your industry and post helpful articles, infographics and news to help your followers.
Samantha Walls, Inbound Marketing Manager, InTouch Marketing
11. Find Your Happy Customers
Word of mouth is one of the best forms of increasing your sales and it’s all free! You should already be identifying customers that have had good experiences with your business and trying to learn what made the experience so positive for them, but if you’re not, a quick customer satisfaction survey is convenient to institute and very beneficial for you. Out of these responses, find the people who really had the best experience (9 or 10 rankings on a 1-10 scale) and target them as your advocates. These people will be the most beneficial for you and are typically the most inclined to pass on good comments. Then, take your targets and encourage them to tell customers about your business.
Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation
12. Try Bing for Budget-Friendly Ads
The real challenge for a small business online is getting visitors to your website or offer on a small budget. This can be best achieved by utilizing the lower cost Bing PPC (Pay Per Click) ads and bidding on very specific phrases and exact match keywords. Paid ads are the fastest way to get visitors to a website and while most organizations are focusing on Google, small businesses take advantage of the much lower costs available to them on Bing to drive more traffic for less money.
Craig De Borba, Digital Marketing Specialist, Onpoint Internet Marketing
13. Partner with Relevant Businesses
Look for other businesses who target the same customers but aren’t a direct competitor and approach them for a partnership. By pooling resources such as social followings, email lists, offerings and budgets, you can create some great campaigns. Or, host events where both businesses can benefit and expose your company to a new audience. Just make sure to do your research and make sure your potential business partner is trustworthy!
Alicia Ward, Digital Marketing Strategist, Flauk
14. Establish Trust with Testimonials
If your company doesn’t have an established brand, it can be challenging to get your name out there. It’s a good idea to include client testimonials or product reviews on your website. People trust the advice of your past customers. If your customers have good things to say, it’s usually a good sign. Testimonials, case studies, and reviews serve as powerful social proof that can help you attract new business and establish credibility.
James Feldstein, Owner, Audio Den
15. Optimize Your Blogging Strategy
One of the best ways to increase online visibility is blogging for search engine optimization (SEO). This strategy has worked well for my small business, plus I’ve seen it work well for clients that invested long term.
• Publish posts regularly: Search engines monitor websites for new content; the more you update, the more often they’ll come back and index your posts. Even publishing once a week, on the same day and at the same time, can greatly benefit your SEO.
• Focus on longer articles: Many top performing posts on Google are 1,000 words or more.
• Use keywords strategically: Sprinkle them throughout your post and make sure you include them in your headline, introduction, subheads, conclusion, image captions and meta description.
• Publicize your posts: Share your content via social media and e-newsletters. If you have the budget for it, consider running social media ads around them.
Erika Taylor Montgomery, CEO, Three Girls Media
16. Share Your Quality Content on Reddit
Leverage Reddit, the bare-bones social network, for a powerful yet low-budget way to drive traffic to your small business website. Reddit has been known to jumpstart the careers of small business owners and entrepreneurs, but it must be used strategically.
The social network is made up of a community of very tech-savvy readers who condemn all obvious marketing tactics. To win at Reddit, you must only share truly awesome content in small, hyper-focused subcategories (referred to as subreddits). Any attempts at overtly promotional sales tactics will likely result in negative comments and a possible ban. The key is to find your niche and dominate it with useful content that interests readers in that community.
Juuso Lyytikkä, Head of Growth, Funnel.io
17. Social Media Ads Are Effective and Affordable
Advertising across the main social media platforms is a great tool you should be utilizing in your current marketing campaign. These ads are cheap and can get your business in front of the right set of eyes. The best part about social media ads is the outstanding metrics that you can use to track if your current campaign is successful or not. Also, being able to target specific people, locations, products, etc. is a great asset. Test out which platform you deem is best for your business and set a plan to execute!
Tracy Julien, VP of Marketing, GuidedChoice
18. Build a Referral Network
The key to building a successful referral network is to be super clear on who you work with and how you can help them. The people in your network need to be able to talk to someone and IMMEDIATELY think of you as the solution to their problem.
I helped a local gym get clear that their market was injured athletes – often from CrossFit-type gyms. That opened the door to make strategic partnerships with local sports medicine practitioners, chiropractors, physical therapists, and athletic coaches in the area, all with a clear message: We help injured athletes recover faster in a safe, fun environment.
Shannon Howard, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist, Overit Media
19. Make Use of Relevant Facebook Groups
Join as many Facebook groups as possible, as long as they are related to your industry. Publish links to your blog posts on these groups, without spamming them. If the content brings added value to the community, it will bring traffic from Facebook group users to your website.
Gregory Golinski, Head of Digital Marketing, YourParkingSpace
20. Pre-Screen Customer Reviews
If the customer is king, then customer reviews are royal pronouncements from on high…usually either “off with your head!” or “I hereby knight thee!”
Small business owners deserve credit for happy customers. They can get it by pre-screening customers, then asking for reviews. The idea is simple and timeless: First, ask a customer for honest feedback. Then, encourage happy customers to share their experience in a review on a major review site. For customers who aren’t quite happy enough yet, get more details about what improvements could make them (and customers like them) happy in the future. This way, you win no matter what the customer says when you pre-screen them. You either get public credit for a job well done, or you get valuable feedback to help you keep doing a better job in the future.
Chas Cooper, CEO, Rising Star Reviews
These 20 budget-friendly marketing strategies for small businesses can attract new customers, improve the credibility of your brand and help you make valuable partnerships in your industry. Regardless of which ideas you choose, keep in mind that one of the keys to a successful marketing campaign is evaluating the results and fine-tuning your approach.
For those interested in growing their brand with custom printing, check out our Top 100 promotional items or talk to one of our branding experts today.