It’s tough to be a small business. You’re up against other companies with seemingly unlimited resources, experience, and an all-star cast of employees. Everyone knows that effective marketing is important for getting new clients, but where to start when it comes to marketing your business?

Even if you have a limited budget, there are plenty of ways to market your small business effectively. You just need the right marketing ideas and some guidance on how to execute them.

Marketing ideas are a part of a solid Marketing Plan

The exact way to market will be different from one business to the next. And that should be! The best marketing campaigns are informed by knowledge: An understanding of your products, your marketplace, your competitors, goals, and your audience. Research, and a bit of planning is always a good start.

Here is a list of 101+ small business marketing ideas that are effective, and often affordable. Whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, or convert leads into customers, there is something in there for you.

25 Offline and In-Person Marketing Ideas

It seems like all we hear is digital, digital, digital marketing. But offline marketing and cultivating your personal network are just as important. Often for local businesses, just the fact they know and/or like you are big factors in deciding to buy from you. And for suppliers, industry specialists, etc – the chance to do something in person goes a big way towards building a solid relationship.

When preparing your marketing plan, don’t forget: “If they know you, they’ll trust you” and “they buy you as much as the product/service” Here are small business offline marketing ideas and in-person marketing you can use:

  1. Run an educational event for customers. Teach something in-person, like cooking if you sell kitchen equipment or an introduction to guitar lessons for a music shop.
  2. Share some swag. Often, you’ll see stickers, shirts, pens, pads, and other branded items to share. Give them away at events, local trade shows or in your product
  3. Send direct mail to residents in your area with vouchers to shop in-store or online.
  4. Get featured in your local newspaper or an industry magazine with a press release or building contacts with journalists and writers.
  5. Take part in local fundraisers and events as a guest speaker to share your insights.
  6. Use leaflets to share contact details and information about your brand.
  7. Print business cards that have something special on the back.
  8. Attend trade shows to network and present your products to interested audiences.
  9. Use bus advertising (also called transit advertising). That is your message on or in buses, trains, subways, cabs, or in terminals/stations around town.
  10. Visit community forums and business mixers to network with other business owners. You can consider joining a networking group like Business Network International.
  11. Cold call your target audience. (Make sure you’re careful about which customers you add to your calling list. Not everyone will be relevant).
  12. Join your local chamber of commerce.
  13. Go old school with flyers and posters in local restaurants and bars. 
  14. Rent a booth at a trade show or marketing event.
  15. Give out coupons through partnerships with local supermarkets or other businesses.
  16. Become a spokesperson and get involved with a cause or volunteer, do radio interviews.
  17. Offer free testers or samples of your product.
  18. Launch a pop-up store to tap into a new local audience and present a unique experience. Pop-up stores are retail locations that are only for a limited time.
  19. Send past customers free samples and incentives to regain their business.
  20. Rent a billboard.
  21. Advertise on your company cars with stickers, magnets or wrapping ‘m. 
  22. Stimulate word of mouth by actively asking for referrals and introducing a referral scheme.
  23. Take out an ad in your local newspaper
  24. Advertise on a local television station or cinema. Record and publish an ad.
  25. Use sidewalk signs to promote special deals and offers.

All of these promotions are valuable ways to fill in offline marketing. You can often combine offline and online marketing in a cross-channel, so where one channel amplifies the next. The channels make each other stronger and raise brand awareness.

Some tips for cross-channel amplification:

  • Add online details to offline marketing materials. Like your website URL or social media handles – with a Call to Action. Limiting it to adding a Facebook Icon to your flyers is not enough!
  • Write (and practice!) your elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and explains your products/services in just a few sentences. Like the more interesting answer to  “What do you do?”
  • Set brand guidelines: Small business marketing is more effective when it’s consistent. You need to have the same message, images, branding, and voice across channels. This includes your social media accounts, website, and email marketing. That’s where brand guidelines help. Brand guidelines give your marketing important rules to follow to be more consistent. 

Digital Marketing ideas

One of the most effective ways to get new customers is through online marketing. The digital marketing ecosystem is estimated to be worth $786.2 billion by 2026, wow! That is just how valuable online marketing is. Yet, according to a recent survey by 29% of SMBs don’t have their own website. You don’t need a big marketing team to get started. Often, a few simple strategies are all it takes. Such as:

  1. Launch your own website. Build a website where you can showcase your products and share content. This is your online home and often a good start where people can find you. 
  2. Build a personal brand. The people make the brand, create your social media pages, and share content online by stepping into the spotlight as a person.
  3. Get found with an SEO (Search engine optimization) strategy. Research keywords, build backlinks, and on-site optimization to help potential customers find you online via search.
  4. Use paid ads on Facebook and Google. Pay-per-click campaigns are good for generating traffic to business pages.
  5. Remember the Google display network for your paid banner ads.
  6. Create an affiliate marketing strategy. Pay other people and influencers to promote your products for you.
  7. Submit your website to online business directories. By being included in those listings, you aren’t overlooked as people are searching for your type of services
  8. Answer questions online. On sites like Quora and Yahoo! Answers you can directly respond to questions that are related to your business. This helps to be visible to people in a relevant context and show you are an expert.
  9. Publish landing pages. A landing page is a page with just one goal. For instance, landing pages with lead magnets can help attract new subscribers to your newsletter.
  10. Get listed on Google My Business to showcase your company to local brands.
  11. Encourage customers to leave feedback and reviews on your website and product review pages.
  12. Sign up to HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to be interviewed for media stories.
  13. Use website analytics to track your website performance, which topics are often read, and check your online reputation.
  14. Advertise on other blogs. Place your ads on other websites and blogs you know your customers are often visiting around topics they are interested in.
  15. Launch a new product or service on a launch site like Product Hunt.

Digital marketing is very diverse. There are tons of ways to engage with your audience online. Let’s break the concept of digital marketing down a bit. Some of the most common forms of online marketing include content marketing, social media, and email campaigns.

Content Marketing

Everything classified under content marketing can be labeled popular. Content creation is one of the most effective SEO tactics. Content helps you to collect leads and improve your SEO position at the same time.

small business content marketing plan
Image Source: Semrush
  1. Blogging. Writing blog posts is an excellent way to share knowledge, deliver value and improve SEO.
  2. Start a podcast. More customers are listening to podcasts than ever before.
  3. Plan a free webinar or training course for customers. You can start simple with some youtube videos or go full out and use a professional online course platform.
  4. Send email drips with training content or tips for clients and prospects.
  5.  Guest post on other reputable blogs.
  6. Submit press releases to digital news outlets, PR sites and individual journalists.
  7. Repurpose blog content and share it on social media platforms.
  8. Post your own whitepapers or eBooks for customers to download.
  9. Offer free PDFs and presentations/slides on your landing pages.
  10. Self-publish a book for bragging rights and awareness. And to improve your thought leadership position.
  11. Record videos and upload them to YouTube. Videos of your products, how-to videos, and behind-the-scenes content are all great.
  12. Partner with affiliates on content. Ask affiliates to write reviews of your product or comparison posts.
  13.  Create infographics, and useful (custom) images that people can refer to and share.
  14. Publish news about your industry on your website.

Email Marketing ideas

Email marketing is excellent for building relationships. It works in every phase of the customer journey: from attracting potential clients to stimulating repeat purchases and turning loyal customers into advocates. A marketing plan isn’t complete unless it at least includes some email campaigns.

  1. Create an email list. Use your landing page to get people to subscribe to an email list. Email allows you to nurture customers over time.
  2. Segment your audience and send regular emails based on customer interest.
  3. Send price, product, and service alerts to those select subscribers. 
  4. Have a sale – lift along with well-known shopping days like Black Friday 
  5. Send a periodic email newsletter letting customers know about new products, info, and content.
  6. Send invites to webinars, events, VIP evenings, customer days, etc! 
  7. Offer access to exclusive deals and discounts over email.
  8. Ask for product reviews and UGC turned into social proof after purchase.
  9. Use your email signature to link back to your website and social media accounts.
  10. Create a master email template for your brand. There are lots of sites with free email templates for you to choose from. Make sure the template will work with your email marketing software.
  11. Manage your email sends and lists with a professional email marketing service (email software). Don’t skimp on this, luckily if budget is a concern, there are plenty of easy-to-use, cheap email service providers
  12. Split test your emails to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and improve results.
  13. Suggest additional related products to customers based on previous purchases.
  14. Nurture client relationships with regular useful content.
  15. Automate a welcome campaign, giving a great first impression over the first few weeks of a new subscriber.
  16. Try interactive emails. AMP for email is a framework that brings interactivity to emails. Check out my collection of 150+ ways to use AMP for emails.

Social Media marketing ideas

  1. Use paid social media ads. Invest in pay-per-click ads and promoted content.
  2. Share organic content on social media channels like LinkedIn or Facebook.
  3. Connect through influencer marketing. Influencers and even micro-influencers are a part of social media campaigns. (co)create relevant content based on your audience.
  4. Use scheduling tools to automatically post small business content on social media.
  5. Run competitions through social media to create user-generated content. For instance, you can ask customers to share pictures of them using your product for a chance to win.
  6. Create an Instagram profile and develop a brand aesthetic to go along.
  7. Explore lesser-known niche platforms like Pinterest and Reddit.
  8. Create unique content for different social media apps. For instance, you’ll need videos for TikTok and professional posts for LinkedIn. (those lines may be a bit blurry) 
  9. Respond to customers on your social media accounts and create conversations.
  10. Run polls and surveys to learn more about your audience.
  11. Ask social media influencers to host a takeover on your account.
  12. Use regular giveaways to get customers talking about your site.
  13. Share exclusive discounts and sale information on social media.
  14. Share feedback from customer satisfaction on social media.
  15. Track metrics from your social media posts to learn more about your existing customers.
  16. Use social listening tools to see what people are saying about you.
  17. Partner with other local businesses on giveaways and social campaigns.
  18. Create your own branded hashtag.

Incentives, Coupons, and Relationship Building

small business incentive marketing idea relationship building
Image Source: Brafton

Freebies, giveaways, discounts, and competitions are great incentives. A customer always likes to save a few bucks, typically. The right contest or giveaway can generate interest in your brand and encourage word-of-mouth. And a “good deal”, can get customers coming back and consider you for additional purchases later on.

  1. Run a competition on your website, across social media, and offline.
  2. Create a rewards or loyalty program for frequent buyers.
  3. Add an advocacy program to reward people for referring new customers.
  4. Send regular coupons and discounts to your loyal customers.
  5. Generate excitement for your brand at certain times of the year with exclusive products and limited sales.
  6. Give away free samples, testers, demos, or a first consult.
  7. Send out customer satisfaction surveys to learn more about your audience in exchange for a discount.
  8. Ask your customers to share their feedback in exchange for rewards.
  9. Send anniversary discounts and birthday coupons to customers.
  10. Offer package deals to increase savings on commonly connected products.
  11. Get on Groupon or a similar site. Add your coupons to a savings website.
  12. Allow customers to leave comments on your website or rate your store.
  13. Make sure you’re active on common rating sites like Trustpilot.
  14. Ask customers to choose your next product or help improve your service.

Creative marketing ideas

Sometimes you need to get creative to stand out from the competition. Here are a few creative marketing ideas.

  1. Clean Advertising (also called Reverse Graffiti) is cleaning your advertising message onto dirty pavements. This is done using a stencil and a jet washer in the locations you target.
  2. April fools day marketing. As a brand you can have some fun – a great gag can turn heads and have people talking. Caveat: when done tastefully.
  3. Coming soon. Launching or opening up a new location? A new website or product online? Give people a chance to sneak a peek and get a first taste + sign up to get notified. 
  1. Meme marketing. Hook on to a popular meme, tap into the spirit and natural sharing nature of memes. Done in the right way it can be a boost for visibility. So not like we did with our temporary spokesperson harold here.

    Yeah, this is pretty bad. I apologize and we shouldn’t be doing that. :P

Other Interesting Marketing Ideas

The marketing world is constantly evolving. From new social media platforms, to search engine algorithms, there’s a lot to keep track of. As a small business, staying ahead of the curve means investing in innovation and trying out new ideas regularly.

You can use free tools online to track how people respond to your campaigns. There are even apps to help small businesses see which strategies attract more paying customers. If you want to expand beyond your content marketing strategy with new marketing tactics, try some of the following:

  1. Create a custom branded event. Run an annual event where you share your best content and give away free prizes every year.
  2. Partner with other brands. Work with other companies and cross-promote your brand to a shared target market.
  3. Create a business mascot. Find something or someone to connect with your happy customers.
  4. Take a stance. Become a fighter in a battle for something important to your customers. You might have an edge with certain audiences if you are outspoken about sustainability, equal pay, or other social issues. 
  5. Become an educator. Run regular classes, teach at the local university, offer an online course, or host regular webinars. Share your skills with the masses.
  6. Try co-marketing on product bundles. Bundle your items with other complementary products from leading brands.
  7. Donate to charity. Connect your small business to a charity your audience cares about.
  8. Work with existing customers. Pay existing customers to become advocates and help promote your brand.
  9. Send thank you cards. Tell your customers how much you appreciate them.
  10. Try mobile advertising. Ask for customer numbers and send SMS messages regularly.
  11. Make your website interactive. Add live chat and other features to help answer customer questions quickly.
  12. Create a press kit. Build your own press kit and send it to as many relevant publications as possible.
  13. Write a column. Become a regular contributor to a newspaper or blog.
  14. Sponsor something. Sponsor an awards ceremony, an event, or a local sports team.
  15. Enter awards. Find awards ceremonies related to your company and get involved.
  16. Do something different. Try an experiential or guerrilla marketing tactic to get people talking about your business.
  17. Get your team involved. Ask your employees to promote your company on their social media pages.

Small Business Marketing Ideas FAQ:

How much should you spend on marketing ideas?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. The amount you spend on social media posts, paid advertising, and SEO depends on your brand and the market you are in. Generally, for small B2B companies between 2-5% of your revenue is suitable and for B2C companies it’s between 5-10%.

How do you develop a marketing plan?

To develop a marketing plan you need to:
1. Analyze your market
2. Set your goals and objectives
3. Outline your marketing strategies
4. Set your budget
Follow these steps carefully without cutting corners and you’ll create a great marketing plan you can use to get started. Make sure to keep your marketing plan updated based on new insights and changing environments.

How important is marketing?

It’s crucial. Marketing is the most effective way to show your audience what value your product will bring to their life. You need to constantly promote your company. Whether you’re using Google Ads or networking events, your customers need to see you. Make sure you have a strategy for building relationships with your target audience.

What’s the return on investment for small business marketing?

It depends on the kind of campaign you roll out. Marketing ideas for email will deliver a different ROI than those for content. You’ll need to experiment with different campaigns to see what works for your brand. All advertising is valuable.

How often should you update your marketing ideas?

Regularly updating your campaigns is crucial. As you get to know your target audience, you’ll learn more about how to reach them and what is most effective. You can ask a marketing consultant, professional, or marketing agency to help you. These experts will cost extra but have the expertise.