50 smart marketing ideas for small businesses

We are forever being asked for marketing ideas by small businesses and start-ups who don’t have money to waste and therefore, to compete on the same level, you have to be smarter.

Most small businesses will have partners and connections. We suggest a brainstorm with your nearest and dearest to come up with some inexpensive out-of-the-box marketing ideas. Ensure that they are tailor-made to your products or services and incorporate your values and key messages.

  1. Network at your local Chamber of Commerce or business networking group This is an old classic that works well for small businesses because there is a good chance it will yield dividends. Being a member of a networking group will give your business more credibility, you can find new partners and clients and it will open new opportunities.
  2. Sponsor a local sports team This makes you a valuable member of the community, builds awareness and, should you latch on to a winning team, you should reap the benefits.
  3. Create relevant content for your website or blog Content today, needs to be relevant because, if it’s not, no-one is going to read it. There is just too much out there. Make it fresh, engaging and helpful, it will increase valuable links to your site and attract leads and help convert them to new leads and eventually sales.
  4. Get your articles published in trade or local magazinesMake your article is interesting and, useful to their magazine readers, and it will only cost you the time to write it and submit it. It is more likely to be read than an advertisement which you will pay for.
  5. Evergreen contentCan you re-write previously published or blogged content? Bring it up to date?
  6. Re-use your content imaginativelyDo you have some really good articles that you could collate into an ebook? Use the information for a webinar, a podcast, a video? Or re-use it to gain new subscribers by offering it free in exchange for an email?Publishing articles online is a good method of creating quality backlinks to your website, will show skill in your particular field and will build your credibility.
  7. Run a workshop or speak at a seminar. Have you ever considered this? You will receive publicity from marketing the event and from the event itself. It will also give you a professional edge.
  8. Enter business awardsIf you win or, even if you come in the top three, there is the ongoing publicity, perhaps a trophy or badge, social media, recognition as a business and extra publicity to drive traffic to your website.
  9. Create your competition Can you offer a reasonable prize? Create your own promotions, social media campaigns and generate a buzz around your business to increase awareness?
  10. Host free events Local papers don’t often send out reporters these days. So you will have to tell the story or get someone to do this for you. You host the free event, invite VIPs, minor celebrities and even cute children in fancy dress. Your business gains the publicity – pre event, during and post. If there’s food or freebies involved, you can’t go far wrong.
  11. Join associations and use the provided resourcesCheck out other local networking events, online forums, exhibitions and public events. There’s plenty around and, the more people you meet – the more customers you will gain.
  12. Be a people person. Never stop networking, follow all leads and participate in conversations. Conversations are everyone from social media, in the corner shop, at your place of worship or on the football field. Don’t be afraid of the phone, internet, email or face-to-face meetings. Go for it!
  13. ReferralsReferrals and word of mouth are powerful. Build relationships with other professionals and businesses. Make sure who you would be comfortable referring your customers to and thank those that send referrals your way.
  14. Make sure you are where your competition is not. If you are the only major player – you will get more leads.
  15. Be everywhere. Venture beyond your website to other communication channelsHave a blog, a YouTube channel and podcast on iTunes in addition to your social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram). Use the channels appropriate to your customers build your credibility and brand awareness. Expand your horizons beyond your website to gain more traffic and leads.
  16. Listen to your customersYou can survey your customers through social media – listen to what they say for some for great ideas and free honest market research.
  17. Offer great customer service Delight your customers and they will return with more business.
  18. Speedy responsesHow fast does your competition respond? Can you can gain more business by simply responding quickly to enquiries or questions your customers may have?
  19. Send handwritten birthday or thank you cards To past and current clients, valued business partners and connections who have helped you. A low-cost and personal marketing idea which can provide a small businesses with an edge.
  20. Customer loyalty programmesCould you create a customer loyalty programme to encourage future purchases and referrals?
  21. Offer free consultations Offering free consultations are an excellent way to showcase your expertise and increase your client base.
  22. Signwriting your vehicles and using window decals If you have company vehicles do get them sign written? They don’t have to be fully wrapped but make sure your company logo, website, strapline and telephone number are bold enough to stand out. It has great impact.
  23. Testimonials and reviews Local SEO is improved by your customers reviewing your business on Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, LinkedIn, Facebook and other channels. Don’t underestimate the power of customer reviews.
  24. List your business in local business directories Google My Business and Bing Places are absolutely free for local businesses. Make sure your business is listed and that your entry is consistent – name; address; phone number, postcode, hours of business. Update your photographs and encourage reviews.
  25. Ask your customers for referralsOvercome any shyness and just ask. It’s simple.
  26. Answer questions on forumsIf you are reading forums or posts and find out that you can help people with free advice related to your products and services – do answer them.  You’ll gain their trust and show your expertise.
  27. Optimize your website for mobile. Your website must be mobile friendly. It has to download in under 3 seconds as people’s attention spans are short and they will no-longer pinch and squeeze to read. Call to actions must be on the home page – don’t hide them away.
  28. Special offers and couponsCustomers love special offers and discounts. A coupon or a special offer for a certain period of time, will attract new sales. Try adding them to coupon and deal sites as well as running them on social media.
  29. Charity donationsYou can donate a certain percentage of your sales to a charity or cause and make your customers feel like they’re doing a good turn by purchasing from you. Chose the right charity and they will boost awareness of your business and fundraising efforts online.
  30. Collect customer emails Email campaigns are an excellent way to stay in touch with your customers. Offer your customers an eBook, regular newsletter or a free report in exchange for their email address.
  31. Celebrate your company birthdayUse a significant company birthday to boost awareness with regular and new customers and the media. Use the opportunity to deliver a special message to your clients.
  32. Reputation is everythingDo you exceed your customer expectations and go the extra mile? If you do, this will certainly increase your customer base by word of mouth.
  33. Translate your websiteIf you are hoping to attract sales from abroad or, are targeting people living in the UK who may have language difficulties, think about translating your website which will help you build better relations with your clients.
  34. Information on products and servicesHow much do your potential customers know about your products and services? Do you have a brochure or leaflet or can you refer them to a blog or service page on your website to find out more?
  35. Voice mail and autorespondersDo you use them to let your customers know about special offers? It’s a very good way to get a message across when you are closed with no cost involved at all.
  36. Ideas from customersOne of the most obvious, but probably the least used is to talk to your customers and find out what they would like and value the most.
  37. Optimise for local searchIf you’re a business that relies on location – such as a café, you should make sure your website is optimized for local search.
  38. Update your websiteI wonder how many of you have changed the copy on your website recently? Google loves fresh quality content – so add some recent articles to improve your search prospects.
  39. Product samplesIf you have product samples – share them and attract the right kind of business customers.
  40. Partnerships work A number of non-competitive businesses can work together on a single much larger promotion/event/campaign for better value.
  41. Customer case studies Use customer case studies by telling their stories and sharing their experiences of your products or services, add substance and will help you get more customers.
  42. Brand promotionPrint your company logo on hats and T-shirts and other promotional products. Your clients and customers will be pleased to receive them and become your free brand promoters.
  43. Happy Birthday offers Give your customers a discount or special offer on their birthday as a gift. It does work.
  44. Set up a PPC campaign. With Google or Bing.
  45. Create infographics for your website. An infographic is a great way to building external links to your website and to drive traffic.
  46. Join groups on LinkedIn.LinkedIn has great groups – on every subject from cooking to accountancy. If you’re B2B you will find your audience on LinkedIn.
  47. Trade showsBook space at a trade show – reach new customers.
  48. Digital brochuresAre your brochures and customer newsletters on your website as downloads?
  49. Update your business cards
  50. Check your calls to action – do they stand out?