11 Smart (and Inexpensive) Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

PointofSale branches of digital marketing graphic Marketing ideas for small business


Marketing for a small business can do wonders — it can help you increase revenue, reach new customers, and develop strong partnerships. Whether you’re opening a new business or looking to increase sales at your existing business, implementing a marketing strategy is critical to the long-term success of your company.

As a business owner, you’re handling a variety of different tasks in your day-to-day operations — from managing staff to monitoring inventory and sales — marketing is often put on the back burner. However, to attract new customers, your business needs to be visible, and that comes from marketing. Fortunately, there are lots of useful and practical marketing tools at your fingertips. Here are 11 simple, low-budget marketing ideas for small business.

1. Grow Your Social Media Audience

Creating a profile or business page on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and countless others are free. Hence, the most significant investment for this marketing tactic is your time. To optimize your efforts, focus on social media platforms that best target your customers. For instance, if you own a restaurant and want to promote your weekday early bird dinner special, you’ll want to share a post about it on Facebook where 62 percent of the 65 and older crowd have a profile — only 10 percent of that demographic are on Instagram.

You need to reach your customers where they spend their time, and in our digital society, that means social media. Make sure to post frequently, be creative, and be authentic. Another great way to enhance your content is to encourage your customers to leave reviews or tag your business in posts or pictures sharing their experience. These platforms help your brand make a personal connection with your audience.

2. Get Listed on Business Directories

Another excellent free resource is business directories. Business directories are an online list of businesses either at a national level, local level, or within a specific niche or industry. For example, every small business should create a free business profile on Google My Business or the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but only service-related businesses would list their business on a directory like Thumbtack.

The most important thing to remember when listing your business on these directory websites is to make sure your business information is consistent across the board. The information you’ll want to include is:

  • Business name, address, phone number
  • Business hours
  • A link to your website and or social media accounts
  • A company description
  • A description of your products and services
  • Images or video of your storefront or day-to-day operations that gives searchers visual insight into your company

Lastly, using these free resources helps increase your online presence and search visibility when people are looking for businesses like yours.

3. Build a Business Website

Every local business should have a website, even if you don’t actually sell products online. For the cost of a cup of coffee per day, a website is a great, inexpensive way to boost your online presence. Some of the information you’ll want to include on your site are:

  • Location, business hours, and phone number
  • An ‘About us’ page that lets readers know how your business came to be, or the rich history and traditions you’re keeping alive if you’re a generational business
  • Page(s) that describe your products or services
  • Exclusive deals or promotions that you’re currently running
  • Last but not least, don’t forget to include rich imagery, engaging videos, and smart copy that will appeal to your target market

Keep in mind that although you may not have an e-commerce (online ordering, or online appointment booking) feature presently, at some point, you may want to expand operations online. Make sure your web hosting service and website theme can accommodate this feature now — and save yourself a ton of time in the future.

PointofSale business owner creating website Marketing ideas for small business

4. Maximize Your Content

So, what do all of the three previous ideas have in common? That’s right, content. In today’s digitally charged world, content marketing is king. People are natural consumers of content. They read it, watch it, listen to it, share it, and if enough of them engage in this trifecta of content consumption, it goes viral.

By sharing information about your business, the products you sell, and your professional point of view, you open up a new level of engagement between you and your customers (or potential customers). Use different formats to deliver your message. For example, you can start a blog on your website and write about topics that are relevant to your industry and relatable to your customer base. You can then share the link to your blog post on social media to help drive traffic to your website. You can create short how-to video clips and post them on your YouTube channel, website, and social media accounts.

From writing and video to images and podcasts, there are numerous genres of content to explore and a variety of platforms you can leverage to increase your brand’s visibility.

5. Ad Campaigns

Some small business owners might feel intimidated when it comes to creating ad campaigns to promote their business. Ad campaigns may seem pricey and tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, but luckily for you, things are not as complex (or expensive) as they seem.

There are four major ad types you’ll want to consider when it comes to creating your campaigns, and those are:

Paid Search

Paid search marketing provides businesses the opportunity to advertise within the sponsored listings of a search engine results page (SERP) or a partner site by paying each time the ad is clicked (pay-per-click) or when the ad is displayed.

Paid Social Media

Paying for ads on social media platforms can help you cast a wider net and reach more of your target customers. You can define your audience by location, age, interests, behaviors, and a range of other factors.

Display Ads

Display ads are those boxes on websites, usually at the top, bottom, or sides of the webpage that are used for advertising. These types of ads appear on distinct sections of the site that are specifically reserved for paid advertising and are aimed at generating quick conversions.

Native Advertising

Native advertising is the use of paid ads that match the look, feel, and function of the media platform on which they appear. These ads are more often found on social media feeds, or as recommended content on a webpage. Unlike display ads, native ads don’t look like ads. They look like part of the editorial flow of the page.

The great thing about these platforms is that you can set and stick to a budget. You can spend as much or as little of your marketing budget as you’d like. Additionally, there are a ton of online resources that will help you get started with ad campaign basics, so you feel more comfortable with the concept.

See Also: See Also: SEO for Restaurants: Little Things That Make a Big Impact

6. Email Marketing

Email marketing is like the grandfather of direct marketing for the digital age — and it’s far from dead. Connecting with customers and prospects is very important, especially if you want to stay on the top of their mind when it comes time to make a purchasing decision.

You can use your point of sale (POS) system to collect email addresses from your customers at the point of purchase. Most POS systems will integrate with third-party email marketing services like MailChimp or Constant Contact that will help you segment your email list to create personalized campaigns. Sending out newsletters is another way to personalize your content and make the subscriber feel connected to your business.

7. Contests

Everyone likes a little competition, but more importantly, they love the prize that comes with winning. Running a contest is an excellent opportunity to collect contact information and build a buzz around your business. For example, you can host an online contest for a chance to win a service or a popular product you sell.

If hosting an online contest isn’t your cup of tea, you can always host a business card drawing. Customers can drop their business card in a jar that sits on the checkout counter, and when the raffle date rolls around, you can stage a small event around the drawing.

Whatever type of contest you decide to initiate, don’t forget to promote it on social media sites and announce the winner.

See Also: See Also: Multichannel Retailing: An Effective Marketing Concept

8. Business Cards

Business cards are a tried and true sales and marketing tactic, and as the saying goes, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Just because you’re not at a networking event, doesn’t mean you can’t let people know about your business when the opportunity arises — and business cards are a great way to do that.

Make sure your card has a professional design that catches attention. Do something out of the ordinary or make it multifunctional to encourage people to pick it up for a closer look. For instance, if you own a bookstore, you can design your business card to also function as a bookmark. Be sure the card mentions the benefits of your products and services, and you can even include a special deal or coupon if they present the card when purchasing from your business.

9. Coupons

Speaking of coupons, we’ve all tried new places because we have a coupon, right? Coupons are a great way to attract new customers to your business. Additionally, they also help encourage customer loyalty and show appreciation to existing customers. In fact, 82 percent of shoppers redeem a digital coupon within a week or less. How’s that for repeat business?

10. Brand Your Vehicle

If you own an automobile, you may want to think about branding your vehicle. For a few hundred dollars, you can wrap a portion of your vehicle or use the rear window for brand decals. If you want to go all in and spend a little more, you can wrap your entire vehicle to optimize your mobile billboard. Every time you get in your car and drive around, you are spreading brand awareness.

You can even take it a step further and print bumper stickers to give out to employees or existing customers to spread brand awareness.

11. Local News Outlets

Sending press releases to local magazines, newspapers, and radio stations, are another great way to get your name out there. If you’re having a special event, a new product launch, or just a heartfelt story about your business, employees or customers, you can put together a small write up about it and send it to the local media outlets to encourage them to cover the story. Pitching to the press is a quick, cheap, and easy marketing tactic to use and get some local foot traffic in the door.

The Wrap Up

You don’t need a big marketing budget or fancy marketing tools to promote your business. You just need to know how to strategically use the money you have and get the most bang for your buck. Now that you have these 11 cost-effective marketing ideas for small business and some examples of how you can implement them, are you ready to get started?

About the Author

Caroline Crofton

As an English major at North Carolina State University, Caroline is also the marketing intern for Shift4 Payments. She is leveraging her previous experience in the retail and hospitality industries to create engaging content for small business owners.