51 Small Business Marketing Ideas

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October 18, 2013
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October 28, 2013
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Great small business marketing ultimately determines a business succeeding vs. just scraping by and/or failing.

Many entrepreneurs spend so much money setting up their business and unfortunately spend little time on a small business marketing strategy to help drive business.

Sketching out a small business marketing plan doesn’t have to be difficult, though having some type of plan is needed.

Recently we shared 10 Small Business Marketing Ideas  that should be a part of every businesses core marketing strategy.

Here’s 51 other small business marketing strategies to help you brainstorm:

  1. Customer Service is number 1 for so many reasons. None of the other 50 matter if you can’t keep your customers happy. Think about the cost to attract a new customer in any business? Its so much easier to reduce customer attrition (which every business experiences) by making your customer happy.  Reducing customer attrition by just 10% shouldn’t be difficult and will immediately improve your companies bottom line. Over-service your existing customers and you’ll see new customers coming in from word of mouth more than ever before.
  2. Improving the front-line by empowering Employees to make customers happy.  Employees represent your company and have a huge impact on word-of-mouth marketing and word-of-mouth destruction.  Great small business owners hire slowly and fire fast. Have A+ employees interacting with customers always and have a zero-tolerance policy in place for an employee “having a bad day” and leaving a bad taste in a customers mouth.  Make your work-place a fun place, reward employees and help them enjoy the culture.
  3. Join your local Chamber of Commerce and participate.
  4. Visit your neighboring businesses and become personable.  Other business owners love recommending businesses they feel comfortable with.  Simply stop in and introduce yourself, seems so simple (it is) and it truly works.
  5. Donate to local Chinese Auctions and fundraisers in the community. Building a great reputation as someone who supports the local community can really differentiate your small business. Not only are you helping a good cause typically, you can attract customers easily.
  6.  Purchase Lawn Signs and place them strategically around town. Lawn signs are cheap and extremely effective when the sales copy is attractive. Have a great offer and keep the content brief and to the point.
  7. Wear company attire. Be proud of your business and make sure you display it whenever possible.  Done creatively this can really strike up conversations. During the holidays we gave our 35 cleaners nice company sweatshirts that were seen all over the community.  Back to #2 empowering employees, many times employees were asked for information when standing in line at local businesses.  They were all trained what to say and incentivized to encourage action to be taken by that prospect.
  8. Visit larger employers in the area and meet with someone in charge of employee benefits.  Employers love offering employees benefits and if you know the cost to attract a new customer you can really offer something attractive for the employer to offer the employee.
  9. Participate in your local Welcome Wagon or build relationships with all the major local realtor offices. Realtors typically hand out some type of package about the community to new homeowners and why not be the first one in front of that new homeowner.
  10. Here comes one of the most underutilized small business marketing ideas, ask for a referral. Not only as the owners or managers, but employees should be trained to ask for referrals.
  11. Have a company referral rewards policy in place. Many social media platforms now have apps that are free or low-cost and Customer Thank Yousare easy ways to track referrals.  Make the offer attractive enough for customers to want to participate.
  12. Holiday Promotions are great and we all know those local businesses that are always “the ones” who are creative. Be that business and start making it part of your brand. Celebrate all the different holidays also, other than just the traditional ones.
  13. Loyalty rewards are so important.  If you know your customers average lifetime value, imagine being able to increase it by just 10%. This adds to the bottom line and does wonders for small businesses.
  14. Facebook should be a part of all small businesses marketing plans.  Not only can you run low-cost ads (even to your competitors fans) but you can do so much more. Have a great Facebook fan page that is informative and fun. Don’t toot your own horn, toot your customers.  Make sure also to encourage customers to check-in each visit if you have a brick and mortar establishment (check-ins can be part of your loyalty rewards also). When customers like your page and checking in, this also increases the likelihood of their friends eventually becoming customers.
  15. Participate in local community fairs with a booth.  This typically isn’t expensive and is a great way to meet the local community. I use to get a ton of clients that came directly or indirectly from participating in the local community events.
  16. Consider having door-hangers hung in target markets. Door-hangers work and you can collaborate with other small businesses that you don’t compete with to join in to lower the cost. I’ve done this with Pizzeria’s and day-cares bringing my cost to virtually nothing.
  17. Reach out to local radio stations. Local radio stations typically will share good stories and every small business owner should have a good story to share.  If you don’t have your story yet, consider visiting Elance and hiring a consultant to help you. For under $200(even $75) you can really have a great story put together by a professional that others will want to share.
  18. Visit online Meetup and find a local networking event to attend.  Networking outside of your local community in surrounding towns can also do wonders for your business and Meetup will show you all the events by niche you’re interested in. If you’re not comfortable networking, read how to network easily.  Networking has become so much easier today by being able to connect socially beforehand, that anyone can do it comfortably.
  19. Visit local businesses that are already dealing with similar customers that don’t compete.  Introduce yourself and ask to learn more about their business to refer them customers. They will also want to reciprocate.  Local realtors, day cares and doctor offices all had my company information out on the counter for their customers. They also got a nice reward for each referral.
  20. Volunteer at your local school to come in and either speak to the children about your profession or run a night class.  Any profession can do this. We have a local Pizzeria that comes in to let kids roll dough and they’re the most popular place kids want to go and have pizza. Cost to your business, nothing!
  21. Send announcements and press releases of worthy news about your business to local papers. Plain and simple, more press equals more business.
  22. Instagram is a great small business marketing tool.  This is a great way to take customers inside your business and really help them connect. Instagram is growing rapidly in use and small businesses utilizing this marketing tool are seeing great returns. This is a great post by Social Media Examiner on 26 Tips for Using Instagram for Small Businesses.
  23. The local Grocery Store board near exits can be effective. I’ve used this for hiring employees and advertising my businesses, both for free.
  24. Craigslist is a great free marketing and low-cost marketing tool for business owners.  Again I’ve used it for hiring and advertising my businesses.
  25. Visit local churches and see how you can help them and their congregation.  This is a great resource for employee hiring and referrals.
  26. Meet with your local community town papers.  I was spending $500 a month in a larger paper when I opened one of my first businesses and the return wasn’t very good. I reduced that to $75 a month with a local paper that everyone read locally to see what was going on in town and thus saw my brand weekly.  Results differ in different parts of the country, but local small papers will negotiate the ad rates making it worth a try.
  27. Run regular raffles and contest for your business. You can do this with social media plugins easily today and people love participating in raffles.  Landscapers can give away a free mowing, lawyers a free review of a will and just about any business can think of something to cause buzz.
  28. Pinterest is a great social platform that local businesses can do great with.  Think about posting things about your community that area prospects would find useful.  Become your local resource around a topic you’re passionate about, it doesn’t have to be your business.
  29. Consider sponsoring a local children’s sports team but also going to a few of the games. Those that actually visit a game can see great rewards as most just sponsor a team. This worked well and we always treated the teams to a special treat for being great.
  30. Community involvement wearing your companies brand.  Sounds silly but if you’re going to a children’s soccer game, wine festival or what have you; wear a company shirt and network. Be seen in your community.
  31. Wrap a company vehicle for under $600 or consider having a car magnet put on the back of the vehicle.  We used unique phone numbers to see how many calls we got and this landed us business that more than paid for the materials.
  32. Billboards can be effective, though expensive. Consider splitting the cost with another business in the area (if not 2 other businesses) and then it can become affordable.  Don’t sign long-term contracts and measure the results like with all advertising. All rates are negotiable, so never go with the first quotes.
  33. Youtube is a small business marketing machine. Any local small business can benefit by being creative. Stores, service companies, eateries can all film how-to’s, customer appreciation, behind the scenes and so much more. The great part about YouTube is it will help your small business rank higher in Google for local people to find you.
  34. HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a free site you can join to answer questions from the Media.  3 times a day they’ll send an email from Media outlets throughout the country looking for assistance on media they’re creating. Your business can get on so many different news outlets reporting on it and this helps build credibility.
  35. Every small business should have at-least a basic Website.  The percentage of businesses that still don’t have a simple website is way to high. Business owners can have a basic site designed themselves or hire someone else for under $500.  I’m leaving the phonebook out as a marketing strategy because its dead (sorry but its just a fact). Consumers are searching online at home or via mobile before making a purchase or visiting an establishment.
  36. Small businesses should have a blog on their website. Over 80% of small businesses that have a website only have 5 pages that are never updated.  As a local small business owner you have a huge advantage over big branded companies because Google prefers to show a local businesses search result.  Produce a blog post that will answer your customer questions, talk about the community or share something of value. Doing this will make you stand out greatly compared to your competitors and help you dominate local online search. This is one of my favorite posts that can show you how to increase your blog traffic once you start creating good content. 
  37. Incentivize customers, other businesses and especially employees to help you grow your business. This doesn’t always have to be monetarily, as public recognition, notes or a simple box of Joe works just as well.  This one is huge, so don’t overlook putting some thought into how you can maximize this opportunity.
  38. Branding is just as important for a small local business as it is for a larger business. I remember hearing a California Plumbing Small Business Brandingcompany talk once about branding at a conference. The company was doing several million dollars a year and had dozens of trucks on the road. Each time a plumber arrived at a customers home they’d have a new clean shirt to put on before, booties to cover their shoes and a clean vehicle. All the employees were trained on how to address and speak with customers. The companies brand was huge and consistent. Don’t be a cleaning company pulling up with a dirty car, not very good branding. What can you do to make your brand stand out above your competition?
  39. Everyone loves receiving Promotional Items. Be creative and think about something other than pens.  I knew a hugely successful cleaning company that had Frisbees with their information on it and they went around neighborhoods tossing them out to families if they were on their front lawns. They’d simply scream over Hello and toss a frisbee saying “Have Fun, on us”.  Maybe you’re a local dentist office who has customized dental floss for a local restaurant. Just be creative and back to #38 build your brand.
  40. Twitter is a great tool for business marketing. I interviewed a cleaning business that used Twitter exclusively to build their commercial cleaning business.  If you’re unsure how to use Twitter, I created this 6 part video series on Twitter for Business.
  41. Have Flyers made for your business and distribute them to other businesses whose customers will find value in them.  Make it special for that business to want to hand them out. Back to #37 incentivize them or make it customized.  For instance a Daycare facility could customize a flyer for a local OBGYN Dr. that says “1 Month Free for Dr. ….Patients”. This works much better than saying can you hand out my brochures. Now the Dr. has something special to give to expecting parents. If you’re a business catering to new parents, approach the maternity wards of hospitals and provide something of value for the care package new moms go home with. I did bibs with our logo and message.
  42. Private community newspapers or newsletters are always looking for sponsors and many times the cost are very low. Retirement communities, gated communities, golf clubs and so on all typically have a newsletter. If they don’t, why not make one monthly for them for free 🙂  The most important part when advertising this way is to customize your message to the target audience and give them a good reason to visit you.
  43. Make sure to set up a LinkedIn business page or personal page.  LinkedIn has great groups you can join for marketing ideas and if your a professional service you can build great local connections on this social channel. Like every social site, make sure to give more than you expect to receive.
  44. Consider advertising on Placemats at local eateries, but keep the copy short and relevant. For instance if you’re a Nail Salon you could say, “Now that ABC Filled your Belly, Get Pampered with $9 Pedi”.  Pizza restaurant delivery boxes, ball fields signage and many other places offer you the opportunity to advertise your business for low-cost or barter.
  45. Loss Leader advertising can really work for a business. Have you ever had a Great Clips open up and offer $1.99 hair cuts or a Planet Sun come in and offer unlimited monthly tanning for $10? These businesses do this to drive competitors traffic to use their service and then gradually begin to increase.  Think about a way you can attract customers this way as it truly works phenomenally.
  46. Direct Marketing still works when done correctly.  Consider creating a marketing piece with other businesses to drive down the cost. There are many direct mail companies like Money Mailer, though you can do this yourself sometimes more effectively. Realize that it takes repetition as many consumers won’t respond until the 4th or maybe 6th time receiving something.
  47. Local movie preview advertising can work.  Many local theaters run advertisements before movies and this is a way you can brand your business.  Tip for success would be add value with something they’d find helpful and get them to come back to your website to submit an email for something of greater value.
  48. Google local Pay-Per-Click advertising, Google Places Page and Google+.  You can start off with simply creating your
    Small Business Signes

    No Hours, phone # or website listed!

    Google Local and filling out your information completely. Make sure to get customer reviews.

  49. Review Sites and local directory listings should be completed. This is a must for small business owners and not only helps you show higher in Google rankings, it also adds business credibility.  Yelp, Foursquare, Manta and hundreds of other sites should be reviewed and your business information completed.
  50. Signage is important as it represents your company.  Keep it clean, functioning and informative. Have you ever walked up to a business and its closed with no information about hours of operation? Maximize your opportunities and drive them back to your company website if your business doors are closed. You can also have bar codes set up for virtually nothing and bring them to a landing page with a quick 20 second video saying sorry you’re not open and a message. Be creative!
  51. Be Bold & Unique.  Stand out from your competitors and do something that your community will always think of you when they need your product or service.  We have a business locally that hires a clown every weekend to stand at a major intersection juggling and doing wacky stuff. Odd as it is, it’s extremely effective. This business is packed all the time. How can you be bold and unique?

There you have it 51 small business marketing ideas to help you succeed.

Now it’s your turn, share below an marketing idea you have to help a local small business prosper.

Michael Kawula
Michael Kawula
Michael is an Inc. 500 Alum, Passionate Entrepreneur and a Best Selling Author. Michael is the CEO of Social Media Startup Social Quant where they increase the size & quality of your Twitter followers. The result is more engagement, traffic back to your website and ultimately more business.
  • Liran Hirschkorn

    Great tips – I think every business owner would have at least a few great takeaways based on your tips – I personally use HARO and think every business owner can benefit from that one.

    • Thanks Liran and thats awesome you’re using HARO effectively. It is truly a GEM that should be in all small business marketing plans.

      Hope you have an amazing 2014 – Michael

  • Marita Steffe

    Great tips, I always put a lot of effort into customer service and all my customers loved me for it. I built my businesses with repeat customers and I love it. You mentioned some other tips that involve networking one on one and I must admit this is something I neglect, but it’s on top of my list now, I know it works.

    • Thanks Marita and thats awesome you focus so much on Customer Service. Well served customers are the key to a long-term successful business for sure.

      Love networking and has been huge in all my businesses. If you ever want to brainstorm lets connect on LinkedIn. Have a great 2013 finish and awesome 2014 – Michael

  • Jerry Katz

    I suspect that there is something in this for everyone, if not everything listed. Good read, Thanks!

    • You’re awesome…..thank Jerry! Tried to include a bunch of different options with the goal of a business owner finding a few they feel comfortable executing for incredible results.

      Have an amazing entrepreneurial finish to 2013 – Michael

  • Cathy Jennings

    Mike — great list of tips for small businesses! None of these would “break the bank” for a local biz to implement and everyone can find SOMETHING on this list that they could use to raise their visibility and reputation in the community.

    Thanks for compiling this great resource!

    • Thanks Cathy and couldn’t agree more…. small business marketing doesn’t have to be costly. There are plenty of free or low-cost options that can be hugely beneficial to small businesses.

      Appreciate you visiting and have an awesome finish to 2013 – Michael

  • Daveda

    There are so many avenues to use to build your business and you’ve done a great job sharing them here 😉 This really helps people to see their options!

    • Thanks Daveda and couldn’t agree more….so so so many choices and ones we’re passionate about and execute well can make all the difference in a business succeeding.

      Hope you have an amazing Entrepreneurial 2014 – Mike

  • Patricia

    Lots of info!! Lots to read!! if i were being very honest with you, Michael, I would have broken up these awesome tips into segments of 10″s and made at least 5 posts!! just saying! great job! P

    • Thanks Patricia and really appreciate you visiting.

      Its funny you say dividing it up as I asked Neil Patel that today. Google prefers longer post lately and I believe some readers do also. Though I do find value in quick reads that are only 500-1000 words also.

      Again appreciate you visiting and have an awesome close entrepreneurially to 2013 – Mike

  • David Simons

    Great post Mike! I gained alot of value from this especially the referalls and HARO (never knew about that, that’s so cool!)

  • Clive Maloney

    Top tips Michael. I’d never heard of using Door Hangers before. What a novel idea!

    • Thanks Clive. I’ve used it for clients and in previous businesses with success. When I owned my cleaning company the cleaners use to put one on each neighbors door and it was one of our top lead sources.

      Have an awesome 2014 – Mike

      • Clive Maloney

        Will do Mike. Have the same yourself.

        I have a client who supplies corporate clothing. I’ll be sure to mention your tip and give you the credit.

        • Thats awesome Clive. Works very well in Corporate buildings with other businesses. Recently did this with a sign company and they’re getting awesome conversions and its virtually “free”. Thanks again – Mike

  • Crystal

    Very good info Michael. I have to add some of these to my to do list.

    • Awesome Crystal and may just a few make a HUGE difference in your business.

      I really appreciate you visiting & Have an Awesome finish to 2013 ~ Mike

  • PurificWaterUSA

    Your blog is the most helpful one that I read each week. I am truly inspired by each post. Thank you a million times over

    • I sincerely appreciate hearing that. I hope you got a few ideas from these marketing examples.

      Have an amazing entrepreneurial finish to 2013 – Mike

  • Jackie Harder

    As a former chamber of commerce president (and chairman of the board!), I agree that this is the place to start promoting your business.

    • Thanks Jackie and that is awesome you served your local Chamber of Commerce.

      Have an Amazing finish to 2013 – Michael

  • Kim Nesbitt

    I’ve actually done the flyers on the pizza boxes and it went very well. In fact that reminds me, I have a Holiday Bazaar coming up and I will do this again! Thank you!

    • Kim thanks for commenting and love hearing you had success with the Pizza Boxes Marketing for your small business. Done well, with great copy, results can be awesome.

      Good Luck with your Holiday Bazaar – Mike

  • Shelley Webb

    Wow….Awesome list of marketing ideas – something for everyone. I love the Frisbee idea; they made the right choice by getting full-sized Frisbees rather than the tiny ones which would be tossed in the trash.

    • So right Shelley…if you’re going to do something….do it right! I’m sure we’ve all been to Trade Shows and every booth typically gives out the same Pen with a different Logo. Be different and make it effective.

      So appreciate you stopping by and hope your business has a great finish to 2013 – Mike

  • Kristen Wilson

    Holy moley… this is a GREAT list! I will definitely be taking advantage and sharing with clients. Thanks so much!

    • You’re awesome Kristen and thanks for visiting!

      Wishing you an amazing entrepreneurial finish to 2013 ~ Mike

      • Kristen Wilson

        I am soooo gonna kick butt in 2014! Watch out! lol Thanks Mike!

        • Love the Mindset! Believe it and it shall happen! Lets Rock 🙂

  • Wow … that wore me out! lol Seriously, great stuff and all the more reason to have a well designed plan so that you do NOT wear yourself out!

    • Thanks Sharon and so true, some type of marketing plan or strategy of just a few can make all the difference.

      Entrepreneurial Successes in 2014 ~ Mike

  • Edmund S. Lee

    Love the 51 strategies that you listed. Always wanted to do the “car wrap”, but never had the chance to pull the trigger on that one. Great to see you saw positive results from it.

    • Thanks Edmund! Wraps worked greta, though for employees driving company cars that was a headache. Ended up reverting to “Car-Tops” that worked well when in front of the house and the employees got paid an extra $.50 per hour if they would put on the car.

      All about getting the brand out there…right.

      Hope you have an amazing 2014 ~ Mike

  • Maria Stefanopoulos

    Great list! Glad to know I have some of these covered. Will be adding many of these into my 2014 marketing plan.

    • Thats awesome Maria. Funny 1 business I was just working with was doing almost everyone. After deleting 75% and focusing on the core that were working their business rocked.

      I hope you see awesome results in 2014. Thanks so much for commenting and visiting. Have an awesome rest of 2013 – Mike

  • Theresa

    Mike, OMG! What an AWESOME list, you gave me so many ideas, now to go work on a couple. Thank you – T 🙂

    • You’re awesome thanks Theresa! Hope 1 can double the business next year! So looking forward to 2014 and crushing it! Thanks Again.

  • Marilyn Arriaga

    Great list, and so glad my company incorporates these as part of the inclusive service I offer lol. I love my business because it does so much for a business, plus it is fun too.

    • Thanks Marilyn and you know I love what you do. Who doesn’t love Goodie Bags 🙂 such a creative marketing strategy for small business owners for sure. When will we be blessed with your new rocking site? Hope you have an awesome 2014 ~ Mike

  • Perfect Print Shirts

    Great list you have covered everything, thanks

    • So many different Small Business Marketing Ideas that a few of these should be good to start with. Thanks for visiting 🙂

  • Well done my friend! I am definitely moving into doing more marketing for myself. I will try a few of these out!

    • Thanks Allan for visiting and glad you enjoyed. Tons of marketing strategies, all about picking just a few and building a system around them. Let me know if you have any questions and have an amazing week! Mike

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