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?

Brighton SEO – Fully loaded

Having never managed to get a ticket for Brighton SEO, (this year they all went in 13 minutes), I was genuinely pleased to see a spare one being offered on Twitter the day before.

Jumping on the bandwagon and introducing myself to Janak, I was happy to receive it by email and the staff on the door, at Brighton SEO, were only too pleased to change the name on arrival. Great! I was in!

There were a few people with sore heads from networking parties the night before, but it was fantastic to mingle and meet so many like-minded people who understood what you were was talking about. The first presentation, on AI and structured data, was given by Raj Nijjer, who confirmed what many of us anticipated will be the way forward with voice search. It was great to have insight confirmed by a specialist such as Raj.

Purna Virji explained how our cameras were the new search and Will Cecil spoke about the challenges of developing an SEO data strategy from the frontline. From there I jumped to the power of simple Python scripts to automate SEO checks and then across to Content being data driven and measurement with GTM by Marcus Tober and Tom Bennet. Julia Ogden, Content Director at Zazzle Media, completed this session with a great 8 step checklist including Facebook Insights, ComScore, YouGov profiles and Global Web Index.

The afternoon was consumed with paid search and paid social. Picking up useful info on how to get more quality leads from a PPC campaign by Jennifer Holt and Ned Poulter’s great tips on the true potential of social media advertising. This was no surprise as we had already experienced how powerful social advertising had become with our clients.

It wasn’t just SEO though – tips for optimizing e-commerce platforms, artificial intelligence, fake news, PR, PPC, lean marketing – well, there was enough for three days with 9 rooms in action throughout the day and many people so keen to absorb the advice and information that, for some seminars, even the floor space was filled.

Identifying what is more likely to work, and what doesn’t, before you spent a lot of time and effort, is phenomenally useful and with literally thousands of SEO tactics that can be deployed, those tested techniques were like nuggets of gold.

At Fine Marketing, we have always emphasised that, before you apply any marketing or SEO tactics, they need to be alighted towards your client’s business needs and objectives. This industry is moving faster than ever; you need to make the most out of expertise, identify what works, track the impact, ensure your tech is right to gain the best value and, try to stay ahead of the curve.

The conference was certainly fully-loaded, packed with great seminars and a vast range of information that had been tried and tested, ooh and measured! Thank you, Brighton SEO.

Worthing better business show 2017

It was a great experience to be part of Worthing and Adur’s Better Business Show earlier this month. The exhibition enjoyed a real buzz throughout the day, and we were always busy talking to people about their digital marketing needs and website design.

2017 was the first year we had exhibited at the Worthing business show and, not knowing quite what to expect, we were delighted to be joined by our colleagues from Kenads Printers in Worthing.

The day was very well organised by the Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce whose experienced team did a magnificent job. Hundreds of business people attended, and we found everyone very friendly.

Visitors packed in to listen to Keynote Speakers, Gill Fielding, Darren Gearing and Shaa Wasmund, all of whom are very successful entrepreneurs who imparted valuable information to their audiences.

On our stand, we welcomed the opportunity to speak to potential new customers and discovered a diverse range of needs within the marketing spectrum. We are still following up a few of our contacts and hope others will become new clients which we can support with our range of digital services.

If you did miss us at the Worthing & Adur Business show and would like further information, please contact us on 01403 292 120.

Excellent feedback from new Dementia Friendly Worthing Website

Fine Marketing took on the challenge in September to design and develop a new website for Worthing’s Dementia Action Alliance. We worked with members of the steering group, and in particular carers of people with dementia, to find out how they could best benefit.

The most important objective was to make the website a central source of information so that people could be signposted to care services, support, advice, activities, wellbeing and health services, mainly local but some, particularly research, assistive technology and helplines were national.

The site was needed as a resource for the community and local businesses, a constant source of information not just for people living with dementia and their carers, but for everyone working and living in the Worthing area.

Dementia affects every workplace but remains a hidden issue, therefore, increasing employers and employees’ awareness and understanding, through Dementia Friends information sessions was second, and important objective goal in the website’s development.

Gathering all these strands together, designing the site, so it easy navigated, readable and written in a clear and understanding tone, was quite a task to complete with a deadline of fewer than ten weeks from start to finish. The website was launched together with social media channels early in December.

The cost of the development was helped by a grant from West Sussex County Council Members’ Big Society Fund. A spokesperson for the council said ‘It is hoped that the website will become a widely used community resource for residents and carers in the Worthing area alongside its social media channels – Facebook via DementiaFriendlyWorthing and Twitter @DFWorthing.’

As we appreciate the nature of the care sector, have an understanding of dementia and are always keen to make a difference, as well as an impact and we have been overwhelmed with positive feedback.

‘This is brilliant and I am sure will be a very useful resource that will continue to grow and help residents and carers find the information they need.’ Cllr Bob Smytherman

‘I think it’s a smashing looking website and very easy to use; the links work extremely well. I wish all websites were this easy to navigate and looked so fresh!’ Dawn Fairbrother, Dementia Action Alliance Coordinator and CrISP Facilitator, Alzheimers’ Society.

‘What a brilliant job: the website looks so good! I’m sure many people’s lives will be improved as a result of your hard work so thank you very much.’ Lynda Basford, Carer.

‘It looks really good and is very clear and straight-forward to navigate.’ Bill Demel, Community Development Director, Guild Care.

‘Fantabulous! This is so good and effortless to use.’ Maureen Bacon, Carer.

‘It’s very good. Lovely and straightforward, lots of information and very professional’. Tim Wilkins, Alzheimers Society.

Search engine optimisation for SMES

The world is full of entrepreneurs and Sussex certainly has its fair share. We have the most innovative and creative traders right here on our doorstep some with actual shop-fronts and others with online shop-fronts. How to you drive customers to your website? Should you be looking at search engine optimisation (SEO)?

What is SEO?

Start with the basics

How functional is your website? Is it easy to negotiate, does it engage your customers, does it use a good clean code? At this point, most people would give me one of those incredulous looks, the kind that says ‘I haven’t looked lately’ or ‘I don’t know’ or, ‘I’ve left it to the someone else to do.’

So we take a look, discussing the need for clear titles, headings and content that, should ideally be fresh, but generally hasn’t been updated in the last couple of years. It is a real challenge to run your own business and, to play marketer, in addition to running a business can be quite demanding and often the one thing that is left over until some spare time is found.

We look at the site from the point of view of the customer, if it is visually pleasing to the target market, can they locate what they are looking for quickly, purchase online or fill in a form for more details. Do remember, when looking at the site, check it out on your mobile phone – is it responsive or, are you pinching and stretching to reveal the content?

How long does your site take to load? Ideally, it should load in under 4 seconds but 3 seconds is the figure that most website designers try and aim towards.

Link building

You have probably heard that search engines establish your trustworthiness by the number of links to your site. With all the changes on how Google sets their algorithms, it is hardly surprising that smaller businesses struggle to keep up.

The links that Google is interested in are the quality links from authoritative sites and this takes time and effort. The old methods of spamming links, known as black-hat tactics, can be detected by Google and in-turn, you will find your business has a penalty. A Google penalty is not something you want to incur.

Think of link building as a relationship. Something you have to work on and much more like traditional PR.


Do you know what your keywords are? What words are your customers typing into Google to find you? Use these words or synonyms within your content to ensure your pages reflect what your customers are seeking.

Remember that it is important to optimize your website for user experience but you don’t actually have to write the exact search terms as your content should be written well enough that the search engines can direct people using different phrases to your site.

Search engines have wised-up to practices such as keyword stuffing, they prefer to rate a well-focused page with clear titles, headings, and sub-headings.


A sitemap is an essential navigation tool which technically lists all of your pages. This is essential if you have a large site with lots of content and this will play an important part in your overall rankings.

Using analytics and webmaster tools

In addition to the obvious, Google Analytics, both Bing and Google webmaster tools can provide valuable insights into the source of your website traffic. They can reveal how people and search engines navigate around your site, what works and what doesn’t work.

Websites need constant attention, performance can be measured, improved and refreshed. Google’s tools are free to use and can give you some excellent feedback.

New branding, print and social marketing

Jackie Lyon, a qualified Reiki practitioner, spoke to us about branding her new business venture and needed help engaging with prospective customers.

Fine Marketing spent time with her to understand her business, what she had in mind for her name, brand colours and logo and discussed a number of options for marketing the start-up. We researched other Reiki practitioners in the UK and abroad, to give us a better insight into the kind of customers that they were likely to attract, their marketing methods and their visuals.

We held a brain-storming session which resulted in Jackie settling on the name Reiki Relaxation to extend her target market to those less familiar with Reiki healing but whom may be seeking relaxing therapies to enhance wellbeing and encourage the body’s natural healing process.

Having drafted some ideas using deep pinks and soft blues as well as a range of soft pinks and warm salmon hues we found that none conveyed the energy of the actual healing. Candles and Buddhas, often used in Reiki therapy, were equally uninspiring for what began as a Japanese spiritual healing art. Rei comes from the Japanese word ‘Universal Life’ and ‘Ki’ means energy so we suggested using a font which had Egyptian roots as they were believers in an eternal life. We then developed this idea using the life cycle of a butterfly and fresh foliage to show rejuvenation and healing. Combining these in a striking combination of deep blues, mauves and sea greens had just the right effect and Jackie was extremely taken with the ideas behind our artwork.

Having established the brand, logo and colours, we designed and printed business cards, posters and flyers using a quality stock and branded Reiki Relaxation’s Facebook page to complete the picture.

‘I have been really pleased with the thought processes and research that Fine Marketing has given to my new business. I have actually felt that this has been a journey which was meant to be and I have enjoyed working with Julia as she has many different ideas. Having started my business in Newhaven, I am now looking at stretching my boundaries and opening in Eastbourne. I feel I know a lot more about marketing that I did when I started and that whenever I need some advice, they are always at the end of a phone on or email.’ Jackie Lyon, Reiki Relaxation.

PPPP Pick up a penguin in real time!

Well, we were expecting an update and here it is. Google has finally confirmed, on 23 September, that the Penguin update has been rolled out in all languages and is now part of their core algorithm.

Google last updated Penguin in 2014 when, at that time, it would have affected less than 1% of UK and US searches. That was still 12 billion queries according to Adam Stetzer. The first update was back in 2012 when Penguin was out to catch sites spamming search results, these were particularly the ones who used schemes to increase links in order to manipulate search rankings.

So, what is Penguin? Simply explained, it is a hunter which goes in search of inorganic links, those that have been created, bought or placed, to improve a website’s search rankings.

You can read all about it first hand on Google’s blog post and it is good to know that Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time. This means changes will be faster and will take effect when a page has been recrawled and reindexed.

This does free up webmasters to create brilliant websites and we have to remember that Penguin is just one of over 200 signals that Google used to determine your rank.

It is very important that your SEO is effective and your site is crawlable. Keyword research ensures the right words are on the page and used within good content. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing and link schemes, these now decrease rankings and violate Google’s existing quality guidelines.

The new Penguin will devalue spam by adjusting a site’s ranking based on the number of spam signals so if you have been tempted to try black hat practices, we would advise against them.

If you do need help with your SEO and content creation, please do get in touch.