Small Business Marketing Ideas That Can Make A Difference

October 26, 2021
Authored by:
Kyla Stewart
Featuring:

When it comes to small business marketing, owners often experience a paradox. There's the knowledge that marketing can help attract more customers and generate revenue. However, the idea of spending money to make money creates barriers, and many business owners feel that they lack the resources to invest in marketing.

Fortunately, not all small business marketing ideas require significant resources. Here's how you can devise a small business marketing strategy that works for your business and some effective ideas for inspiration.

How Much Should A Business Spend On Marketing?

One of the most common small business marketing questions entrepreneurs ask is how much their marketing budget should be. There's no magic number, as every business is different. However, the US Small Business Administration recommends allocating 7-8% of your gross revenue, assuming you have 10-12% margins. The Business Development Bank of Canada breaks that number down further, recommending 2-5% for B2B companies, and 10% for B2C companies.

You'll have to crunch the numbers to determine the right small business marketing budget for your unique organization. Consider taking a scalable approach by starting at 2% of your gross revenue and increasing the amount as your efforts pay off.

How to Create a Marketing Plan for Small Business

Developing a marketing plan for your small business provides guidance and structure for your efforts. This document will help you stay on track when:

  • Creating content for your target audience
  • Staying consistent with your brand and values
  • Trying to stay on budget
  • Measuring success

When determining how to create a marketing plan for your small business, consider the following categories:

  • Executive summary - this brief segment summarizes everything in the plan for a quick review as needed.
  • Mission statement - this portion outlines the key elements of your business, from what you value to what you hope to accomplish.
  • Goals - what do you hope to accomplish with your marketing efforts? Be specific with percentages and monetary values.
  • Target demographics - who is your ideal customer? Include details like their age, location, lifestyle, socioeconomic status, challenges, etc.
  • Offerings - outline your product and service offerings, your unique selling proposition (USP), and the value and benefits they offer.
  • SWOT - conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis to see where the opportunity lies and how the competition compares.
  • Channels - outline which marketing channels you plan on using and how you'll allocate resources. You can use this section to highlight which social media platforms you'll use, how much you'll spend on organic vs. paid advertising, etc. 
  • Financials - indicate your overall budget, pricing strategy, and how financials will be acquired and distributed. 
  • Execution plan - how will you put these goals and details into practice to reach your objectives?

Going through the exercise of creating a small business marketing plan is incredibly valuable, as it encourages business owners to think out the various aspects of the process. You can create your own marketing plan from scratch or get a free template online.

Effective Small Business Marketing Ideas

Marketing is a vast and varied business component that goes beyond promotional activities to encompass pricing, distribution, packaging, and more. Within promotional activities, there's a variety of channels where you can focus your efforts.

Here are the main small business marketing channels and how to capitalize on each.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing pertains to anything related to social content. As this channel is a powerful lead generator, social media marketing often overlaps with other digital marketing efforts.

Here's how to use social media marketing to find new customers and nourish existing relationships, often with minimal financial requirements.

Hold Contests

Social media algorithms are a beast that deters many small business owners from dedicating resources to fully exploring this opportunity. Holding contests and giveaways encourage sharing and engagement, which fuels the algorithm and increases your audience reach.

To hold an effective contest, consider working with other small businesses to create a follow loop. Take advantage of the algorithm boost when aspiring winners engage with your content to strategically drop a few promotional posts throughout your content calendar. Organic promotional posts don't typically perform well; this strategy lets them piggyback on high engagement content.

Go Live

Authenticity and transparency are everything in our digital era; consumers want to see the human side of a business. Going live offers several benefits on social media. This marketing strategy allows consumers to connect with the people behind the brand and passively learn more about your business. 

Going live on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, also sends followers an instant notification that directs them to your page. This feature is a great way to circumvent mindless scrolling and pull someone to your page.

Some ideas for what to do while live include:

  • Highlighting event features
  • Giving a behind-the-scenes look
  • Hosting a tutorial or learning session
  • Hosting an Ask-Me-Anything (AMA)

The best part of going live is that you can save and repurpose the content in other ways to optimize your ROI.

Cross-Post and Repurpose

There's no need to re-invent the wheel when creating content. While not all content works on every platform, there are ways to cross-post and reframe to get the most out of your marketing efforts.

For example, a TikTok video can be reposted as an Instagram Reel. An Instagram Reel can be turned into a Pinterest Idea. You can resize compelling graphics for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. When creating content, consider how you can use it across various platforms.

Partner with Influencers

Influencer marketing is growing exponentially with each passing year. Influencer marketing spend is expected to reach $13.8 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 2016— a 712% increase over five years. 

Influencers are natural marketers. They have the story-telling capabilities to form trusting relationships with followers, take magazine-ready photos, know the best app for editing makeup to selfies (learn more), and live and breathe hashtag research. 

Many entrepreneurs overlook influencer partnerships when exploring small business marketing ideas. However, micro and nano influencers with fewer than 50,000 followers (and sometimes less than 10,000) boast higher engagement rates than their macro counterparts. These influencers tend to be more affordable while still offering a great return on investment.

Inspire UGC

User-generated content (UGC) goes hand-in-hand with influencer marketing. The primary benefit of this small business marketing idea is that it's free! Many consumers want their posts and photos shared and enjoy working with brands willing to do so.

When curating UGC, the key thing to remember is to tell people how they can get discovered (usually by tagging your account and using a branded hashtag) and asking usage permission before reposting. Failure to ask permission can lead to costly copyright issues.

Partake in and Create Video Challenges

TikTok video challenges have revolutionized social media marketing. While consumers are having fun partaking in challenges and connecting with the online community, brands can capitalize on a low-cost, high-value marketing opportunity.

Chipotle set the stage for video challenges with the #GuacDance challenge, which not only reached 430 million views in under a week but also increased in-store avocado upsells by 68%. 

Show the fun side of your small business and piggyback on trends by partaking in video challenges. If you're feeling inspired, create your own video challenge and encourage customers to participate and share.

Email Marketing

There are several schools of thought regarding email marketing, which can lead to confusion for small business owners. When implemented correctly, email marketing can effectively nourish leads, engage customers, and encourage retention.

Create Value and Trust Through Consistency

One of the most common mistakes when developing a small business email marketing strategy is inconsistency. The less consistent you are with sending out content, the more likely you will end up in a spam folder. However, customers don't want to feel continuously sold to, and depending on your business, you might not have anything new to sell from one week to the next.

In addition to sending product and sale updates, use your email marketing campaigns to create value and trust. Refer to your customer demographics and explore their interests. Then, offer relevant information that ties back to your offering.

For example, if you own a hardware store, you can share easy DIY tips and project inspiration with links through to relevant sales pages. A gym or fitness center could send weekly recipes and information about warm-ups, training in the winter, etc.

The key is to provide information your prospects and customers find valuable and non-promotional. 

Use Segmentation and Email Flows

Hyper segmentation and automated email flows are a lifesaver for small business marketing budgets. While it takes resources to put these features in place, they're mostly self-sufficient after launch. Furthermore, they're effective for increasing sales and nourishing leads.

Implementing an automated email flow is possible in any email marketing platform. For example, you might create an email flow that teaches customers how to use your product after purchase. 

Hyper segmentation requires a more robust system that's a must-have for online stores and eCommerce businesses. This system captures data about the user and where they are in the customer journey to send relevant data-driven emails. If you've ever received an abandoned cart email from an online retailer, this is hyper segmentation in action.

Create a Win-Back Campaign

It's estimated that acquiring new customers costs five times as much as retaining existing customers. Use your powers of segmentation and automated flows to create a customer win-back campaign. This campaign should target existing customers who haven't purchased anything within the past 3-12 months.

Create a campaign that offers them a light discount for returning. If feasible for your business, create an automated flow that reminds them of the discount, then provide a deeper discount in a few weeks. Finalize the campaign for those who don't take the offer by letting them know you'll remove them from the list. This final approach creates a last-minute sense of scarcity and frees up paid email marketing space for customers who are worth the investment.

SEO and Content Marketing

Big brands spend thousands of dollars on SEO and content marketing each year, with dedicated agency efforts starting at $2500-5000 per month. This level of investment isn't feasible or worthwhile for most small businesses. However, there's plenty of achievable small business SEO tasks that make a difference.

Optimize Your Google My Business Page

One of the best things you can do for your small business is to claim your Google My Business page and optimize it to fit your goals. The GMB page will ensure your data is listed and correct on Google search, making you more likely to pop up in local SEO.

In other words, optimizing your GMB page could put you above the local competition when someone searches relevant terms on Google. Say you own a garage and offer basic car repairs. If you optimize your GMB page and the garage down the road doesn't, you'll pop up first when someone is looking to get their tires changed. Furthermore, you can post updates and deals about specific services to attract even more local customers.

Create SEO-Friendly Content

Creating SEO-friendly content doesn't have to be a costly, time-consuming effort. You can conduct basic keyword research online and follow SEO best practices to give your web content a boost. While it might not compete globally, it will help you stand out from the local competition.

You can also outsource this task to a virtual assistant or freelance writer to ensure you have fresh content available within the confines of a smaller budget.

Turn Blog Content into Other Collateral

As mentioned previously, repurposing content is the best way to get a higher ROI for your marketing spend. The same strategy applies to blog content.

Once you have some written content, repurpose it into other marketing materials. Pull quotes, headers, and facts from a post can be dropped into a social media graphic. This written content can become a script for a podcast episode, an outline of speaking points for a webinar you host, or going live on social media. Get creative and use your resources before investing in more.

Develop a Lead Magnet

Lead magnets are the bridge between social media marketing, content marketing, and email marketing. A lead magnet is an offering or freebie you give your potential customers in exchange for their email addresses. This offering could be anything from a discount to an eBook— as long as it holds value to the recipient.

Once your lead magnet is created, add links through social media and on your website. This offering should be synced with your email marketing program and, ideally, trigger an automated flow.

Other Effective Marketing Ideas

While internet marketing is the focal point for many small businesses and large brands, some non-internet ideas could prove effective. Here are a few small business marketing ideas that aren't dependent on the internet.

Create an Unboxing Experience

While creating a fun unboxing experience promotes social sharing and UGC content, it's not all about the likes and shares. Focusing on your packaging and the emotional reaction it creates will help you develop a deeper bond with your customers and trigger word-of-mouth marketing.

Everything from the color of your packaging to the texture creates an experience that should align with your brand. If you sell high-quality makeup products, packing them in nicer boxes with thick, textured wrapping paper creates a sense of excellence and luxury. If you sell eco-friendly products and promote sustainability, your packaging should reflect the same.

When devising your unboxing experience, consider adding a handwritten thank you note to every bag or box. This addition sparks a human connection based on decades of tradition and shows customers that they're appreciated.

Develop a Referral Program

Take a moment and consider Tesla as a brand. What comes to mind? What words do you associate with them? Then, guess how much they spend on marketing and advertising each year.

It's zero dollars.

In addition to powerful branding, Tesla has a robust referral program. Tesla drivers get rewards for encouraging their friends and colleagues to purchase a Tesla. These rewards come in the form of free charging time and the chance to win a new car.

Your small business may never be Tesla, but you can learn from this strategy. Develop a referral program that encourages your customers to come back and bring friends with them.

Go Guerilla

Guerilla marketing is a term that refers to low-budget, off-the-wall marketing stunts and efforts that draw a crowd. These efforts can range from pop-up events to publicity stunts. The idea is to get creative and do something different.

For example, your small business might decide to hold a flash mob at a community event, secretly coordinating a dance and performing to an unsuspecting crowd. You could start a treasure hunt around the area and get other businesses involved.

Social media marketing often overlaps with guerilla marketing. It can be used as a tool for people to share what they see or for your business to communicate relevant information. The difference here is that the main events aren't happening online.

Perfecting Your Small Business Marketing Strategy

Finding the right small business marketing ideas for your company is an ongoing process. What works for others may not work for you, and vice versa. Put success metrics in place and take the time to review your analytics and statistics to make data-driven decisions going forward.

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