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Small business marketing: 21 ways to grow your business

There have never been more opportunities to market your small business. Particularly with the rise of social media and digital communication channels, so many doors of opportunity have opened to raise awareness around your products or services. This, understandably, can leave many business owners feeling overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this article, we’re covering some of the most popular marketing topics for businesses, including:

  • What is small business marketing?
  • Benefits of small business marketing
  • Fundamentals of marketing for small businesses
  • 21 effective small business marketing ideas


Consider this a bite-sized guide to marketing your small business.

What is small business marketing?

Small business marketing is the process of promoting your business to potential customers. It gives visibility and exposure to your business to people who might not know about you. The approach is a bit different than it would be for larger brands because small businesses are generally working with fewer team members and a smaller budget.

Marketing often falls on the back burner as more pressing business needs arise, but the opportunity it offers isn’t one you should overlook. Lacking an effective marketing strategy can leave organizations struggling to make sales and grow the business. If you want your business to be sustainable for the long term, you must get a handle on marketing.

Benefits of small business marketing

There are many reasons to invest time and energy into marketing your small business. Here are several advantages that come with taking on this initiative:

Reach more people

Your business depends on customers. Small business marketing makes it possible to expand your reach and get more eyes on your offers. This is particularly important for new businesses looking to make a name for themselves.

Strengthen your brand

Consumers buy from companies they know, like, and trust. Connecting with your target audience more frequently can influence the opinions people have about your business.

Improve your reputation

It’s likely that businesses serving the same audience as you already do some form of marketing. Developing your marketing plan can keep you on par with them and help you stand out.

Keep pace with competition

It’s likely that businesses serving the same audience as you already do some form of marketing. Developing your marketing plan can keep you on par with them and help you stand out.

Boost your bottom line

More customers coming your way will result in more sales, ultimately generating more revenue for your business and a return on investment.

Fundamentals of marketing for small businesses

The marketing space can be overwhelming because it’s always changing. However, there are a handful of fundamentals that make up every successful marketing effort.

Take a closer look at these core concepts:

Know your target market

The first step to marketing effectively is understanding your audience. Think about what you offer and who is most likely to purchase from you. For example, if your restaurant serves classic eats, you might target families in your area. If you serve healthy meals that customers can grab on the go, your ideal customer could be a busy professional.

Choose your channels

You know who you want to reach. Now you need to figure out how to reach them. This process should include thinking about where your people hang out digitally and in real life. That way, you can meet them where they are and make a memorable impression. You may have better luck reaching a younger target demographic with social media posts and reaching families with direct mail and coupons.

Plan your marketing approach

Next, think about your plan to engage your target market. The key is to choose proven marketing concepts that are effective, while also considering the capacity of your team and the skills they have. You have a lot on your plate as a small business, so it’s important to manage resources well. Will someone you have on staff take over these tasks, or will you outsource?

Measure and optimize your campaigns

Figure out what key performance indicator (KPI) metrics are most important to you. These may include:

  • Organic traffic
  • Social shares
  • Conversion rates
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Customer retention

Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve for my business? Then determine whether your campaigns work by looking at the data you have available. This will empower you to optimize accordingly and improve results.

21 effective small business marketing ideas

Marketing your business can be tough, especially when there are other tasks competing for your time. These 21 small business marketing ideas will help you reach your goals without breaking the bank.

1. Create a website

No matter what stage your business is in, you need to have a website that works seamlessly across all devices. This makes it easier for potential customers to find information about your products and services. There are many low-cost solutions to building a website without technical knowledge, and you can even have a built-in online ordering service to turn traffic into sales.

2. Improve your local search engine optimization (SEO)

Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it ranks higher in local search results. Research shows that the top 3 Google search results get over 75% of all clicks, which makes this a good tactic to focus on. You can incorporate keywords you want to rank for on pages across your website and in your content.

3. Start blogging

By creating blog posts regularly, you can build authority and answer questions before your audience asks them. Post about your business values, upcoming events, or tips you want people to know to strengthen your SEO efforts and connect with customers.

4. Post on social media

When you engage with your customers on social media, it shows that you have an interest in building relationships with them. Social channels are also a great place to boost brand awareness. Connect with your customers by commenting on social posts that you’re tagged in, and post your latest offerings to generate buzz.

5. Capture video content

Video is a great asset to add to your content marketing strategy. In fact, research shows that 88% of consumers are convinced to buy a product after watching a video and that people are twice as likely to share videos than other types of online content. You can use videos in all kinds of ways to educate, entertain, or directly promote your business. For example, give sneak peeks into what’s coming up or details about one of your products.

6. Claim your business on Yelp, Facebook, Google, and local listing sites

Claiming your business on local listing sites like Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Google is free and easy to do. Monitoring these pages gives you greater control over the way people perceive you. It also makes it possible for you to see and respond to customer reviews. A study from Yelp found that 93% of people compare businesses on their platform before making a decision. This suggests that investing in your presence makes an impact on your reputation and sales.

7. Organize live classes or webinars

Use live classes or webinars to educate your audience and engage directly with customers. If you choose this strategy, make sure you have a clear call to action at the end of each lesson so people know how they can learn more about what you offer.

8. Launch email marketing

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with your customers, and it also serves as a sales channel. By growing your email list and reaching customers directly in their inboxes, you can have more frequent and personalized communication. You’d also be in good company if you decide to ramp up your email marketing efforts: 64% of small businesses use email marketing to reach customers.

9. Share your distribution channels

You can post great content to social platforms and offer impressive customer service, but it won’t matter if your buyers don't see it. Share links to social channels on your website homepage, in email communications, and on in-store marketing collateral at brick-and-mortar locations.

10. Offer coupons

Give people a compelling reason to do business with you by introducing coupon codes and promotions for first-time customers. This is an easy way to entice new clients into trying your products or services at reduced prices. Additionally, you can offer coupons for repeat visits or for regular customers to show your appreciation.

11. Create a loyalty program

Through a loyalty program, customers get a benefit from each purchase they make from your business. This encourages them to come back and buy again. Research shows that 75% of consumers will favor a brand if there’s a loyalty program, so it’s in your best interest to offer one to increase customer retention.

12. Use polls and surveys

Find out how much people like your business or product by asking for their feedback. Host polls on social media or embed feedback forms in your email marketing campaigns. Let them choose what they want to see from you, like a special promotion or a new flavor for an item.

13. Invest in digital ads

Many small businesses find that digital advertising works well for them because they don't have the budget for expensive marketing campaigns. It’s important to do your research here because some options require more budget than others. For example, using Google Search Ads, you can set a budget cap and pay only when people click on your sponsored listing. If you work with a third-party delivery platform, many offer similar targeted ad capabilities that bring your brand to the top of screens for browsing customers and operate with the same type of pay-per-click (PPC) model.

14. Host a contest

Offering a chance to get something for free is a quick route to generating buzz on social media or gaining foot traffic for a promotion. Give away a prize, discount, or coupon in exchange for your audience’s information or engagement. Nearly half of users share the contests they participate in. That number increases if you incentivize them to recruit people to earn more entries.

15. Identify influencers

Influencers can promote your products or services to their following in the form of sponsored posts and content creation. For example, if you own a bakery and want to promote gluten-free cookies, you might reach out to a creator who runs a successful gluten-free blog and offer compensation and/or product in exchange for posting on their feed. If the influencer agrees to link back to your website, this will also boost your SEO efforts.

16. Invite employees to contribute

Welcoming your employees to share and be a part of the conversation can add a new level of depth to your marketing. You can do this in many ways: celebrate new hires, allow employees to give your customers a look behind the scenes with a live video on Instagram, or create posts highlighting their favorite products.

17. Encourage happy customers to share their thoughts

Getting customers to share their experiences can be a great way to spread the word in your area. Create lines of communication with your customers, and ask people to share what they love about your business online. Whether your customers are leaving reviews on online aggregators or through a third-party delivery platform you're partnering with, it's important to read and respond.

18. Participate in community events

Taking part in events will get your brand out there and establish you as a helpful business that’s in touch with the community. During these events, you could give away samples, do a demonstration, or offer an incentive to order from you. Do what you think will serve your people best.

19. Partner with local businesses

Connect with complementary businesses and promote one another. This helps boost traffic while creating goodwill with other business owners. It also gives you exposure to a new customer base who might not have come across you organically.

20. Leverage public relations

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing information from your business to the public. Leveraging PR and connecting with journalists is an effective way to tell the story of your organization or launch a new offer. Any links back to your site from journalists will be SEO wins.

21. Add third-party delivery

Attracting more customers can be a challenge, but it’s key to keeping your business running. Using a third-party delivery partner serves as a great way to expand your reach and engage with customers through a new channel. Some providers even offer built-in marketing solutions that can help with a wide range of goals—from boosting visibility and increasing sales to driving repeat business from customers.

Ready to implement a marketing plan for your small business?

Here’s what you can do today to get the ball rolling. Define your target audience and decide how to reach them. Then determine the budget you’re willing to allocate (if any) and choose one or 2 ideas from this list to leverage in your business. From here, you can measure your success to find ways to optimize campaigns.

Frequently asked questions

Want to know more about marketing your small business? Check out these common questions and answers.

  • Small businesses can benefit from a wide range of marketing channels and strategies. However, the most effective campaigns are those that align well with your business. For example, your goal may be to:

    • Get new customers
    • Retain current customers
    • Increase sales
    • Boost brand awareness

    Knowing what you’re aiming for will help you determine what will work best for you and allow you to maximize your marketing budget.

  • Small businesses should focus on one or 2 marketing channels at a time. Expand your efforts and campaigns once you find what works. Finding the right marketing tools can also help you streamline the process.

  • First, work to understand your operational costs, so you know how much you can afford to spend. Then research the channels you’re considering to see what aligns with your budget. Taking these steps will empower you to put money in the right place, based on your goals.

  • Digital marketing—including social media, email newsletters, and writing guest posts for local bloggers—and working with a third-party delivery partner are excellent ways to expand your local reach.

    Alternatively, you can go the more traditional route with newspapers, radio stations, and television ads. That can be effective if you know that your target customers still engage with those types of media, but it can require more budget.

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