A Huge List of Unique Marketing Ideas for Small Business

For big businesses, marketing is a breeze. There’s a large advertising budget to dip into, making it easy to get noticed both online and out in the world. However, for small businesses, marketing isn’t so easy. It’s difficult to compete with larger brands and it’s hard to market with just a small budget. Luckily, there are still a number of tactics you can apply.

business-ideasOne of the biggest challenges that many small businesses face, is coming up with new an innovative strategies to market their business on a limited budget. With that in mind we started reflecting on some of the strategies we have done over the years – some are typical, some are out of the box and unique. We also spoke with a group of local Chicago entrepreneurs to see what they had done to stand out in their industry.

List Of Unique Small Business Marketing Ideas

  1. Local SEO – Google’s 3-pack local results appear for at least 93% of Google searches having local intent. Around 50% of consumers who use smartphone to do a local search will visit a local store within a day. Do your SEO research. No matter what products or services you’re offering, you need to apply SEO best practices. This is the only way you’ll show up in organic search results. When your search engine result placement (SERP) is good, you’ll get more visitors to your website. For most companies, more visitors means more conversions to actual customers.
  2. Targeted Geographic PPC – If you’re running a PPC campaign and not targeting based on geographic location, you could be wasting money. Benefits of geographic PPC targeting include; easy to setup, better control over budgets, easy to analyze, and lower CPC costs.
  3. Facebook Ads – Facebook ads, when done correctly can be an extremely inexpensive (compared to Google Adwords) way to target user types and personas. Be smart about your Facebook ad demographics. You can spend $50 a month to reach a small number of people in a broad audience, or you can spend half that amount to reach more people in your niche audience. In the end, you need quality reach; quantity isn’t nearly as important. Play around with demographics and figure out how to reach the most amount of people in your audience for the least amount of money. Then, when you’ve got your audience down pat and they seem to be engaging with you ad, consider increasing your ad budget by a few dollars.
  4. Twitter Ads – If your audience is on Twitter you should be investing time and resources into engaging with them. Twitter ads can help close abandoned sales opportunities, generate quick leads, and build your Twitter following.
  5. LinkedIn Ads – LinkedIn ads can be an effective way to advertise to an audience who is searching for business information or searching for a new career opportunity.
  6. Content Marketing – Content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders.
  7. Infographics – When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
  8. Online Games – We all play online and mobile games – whether we admit it or not – and almost all games have a social aspect to them. So why not use them to market your business. Much like you use your business name to create your social network, use the same strategy when creating a profile for whichever game your playing.
  9. Google Images – Many times users will search for an image or chart to add to their blog – most will go to Google Images and search. Optimizing your images can give them a better chance of showing up in Google Images and is a great way to not only get your business in front of users, but can be a great link building strategy if a blog uses your image.
  10. Conference Participation – This can come in two forms – going to a conference and networking, or following a conference hashtag in real time on Twitter and participating or adding value to the community.
  11. Local Networking Events – Don’t ignore your community, which is where a lot of your clients are waiting for your type of business. Attend area networking events and make sure to introduce yourself to others. If possible, try to present at some of these events, too. Whenever someone is in the need of your product or service, you’ll be the first person they think of. You can also think of small ways to get more exposure in your community, like creating bookmarks with your logo to leave at the library.
  12. Partnerships – Partnering with businesses that offer services or products that complement your offerings can have a huge impact on sales. When you work with other business owners, you can tap into their client base without spending any money. You don’t need to become pals with your direct competitor, but you can make connections with people in related businesses. Also make sure to trade coupons, fliers, and website links to further cross-promotion.
  13. Employee Marketing – your employees can be your best marketers. Ask them to utilize their social networks to help market your business – even make it fun by offering prizes or bonuses each month to the most effective strategies.
  14. CRO – Conversion rate optimization can have huge benefits, not only on sales, but on user experience and even Google Rankings. There are many tools that can help you increase your conversion rate, and according to Venture Beat, they are worth it, as the average ROI on CRO tools is 223%.
  15. Better Website Design – Gone are the days that you could use a cheap website builder or put up a poorly designed website and expect it to work for your business. Small Businesses cite their website as one of the most important marketing tactics they have, yet few spend the time or resources making it great.
  16. Giveaways – Everyone loves free stuff. Giveaways are a great way to get free PR, as well as use the promotion to capture email addresses and other contact information that can be used in other marketing channels.
  17. Tablet Marketing – Companies such as ours (OnSpot Social) can help you use tablets in all areas of your business to capture potential client information.
  18. Industry Conferences – Conferences can be a great way to network with other companies within your industry and build relationships.
  19. Non-Industry Conferences – We all go to industry conferences, but why? For some businesses it may be because their clients attend, but for most, their clients are not in the same industry – so why not start attending the conferences your clients are actually at.
  20. Q&A Websites – Providing detailed answers can help you position your business as a leader for those searching for answers to their questions.
  21. Chamber of Commerce – Get involved with your local chamber of commerce. Many larger cities have a Chamber of Commerce in each neighborhood that you can join.
  22. Customer Referrals – It is much cheaper to obtain, and easier to close a referral / warm lead. Treat your current customers great, and they will be happy to refer you business. Ask your current customers for referrals and setup a referral program to reward both your customers and the people they point in your direction. This is one of the quickest ways to get brand new clients for free.
  23. Content Creation – Creating great content should be at the core of every small business strategy.  Content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders.  According to Neil Patel, people who succeed at becoming leaders in the world of content marketing experience drastically more site growth than their competitors. Remember, quality and depth beats quantity and generalities.
  24. Email Marketing – E-mail marketing reigns supreme, so if there’s no other method you’re currently using, start there.
    1. Email marketing averages an ROI of $38 for every $1 spent. Why is e-mail marketing so effective?
    2. According to a study by ExactTarget, 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email.
  25. Charitable Giving – Giving back makes your employees happy, gets you free exposure, and positions your brand or small business in a favorable light within your local community. A study by cause marketing firm Cone LLC announced that an astounding 94 percent of consumers would switch brands if one carried a cause and another did not.
  26. Check out HelpAReporter.com. On HelpAReporter.com reporters post queries that they need experts to respond to. If you respond and they use your advice or feedback, you’ll get a free shout-out in their piece. While many opportunities are with smaller media outlets, there are some that are for big media, too. Either way, this is a great way to create buzz and even contribute to your SEO strategy.
  27. Loyalty Programs – According to Forbes, keeping an existing customer is seven times less expensive than acquiring a new one. Even with that stat, loyalty programs aren’t solely for existing customers. They’re the tipping point for many curious prospects. If we knew we could get back a portion of every dollar we spend, we would. All things being equal, even the most meager punch card program gives consumers a reason to choose one coffee shop over another.
  28. Free Online Seminars and Webinars – Webinars and seminars help you reach and engage a very specific target group. They give you the opportunity to continue to reach your target group when the broadcast is over, since each webinar can also be watched afterwards – and can be optimized for the search engines. Webinars enable you to utilize polls, chats and calls to action, or to show your viewers PowerPoint slides or videos. The more interactive your webinar is, the greater the impact of your message will be.
  29. Create Product How-to Videos – According to DMB Adobe, online shoppers who view demo videos are 1.81x more likely to purchase than non-viewers, not to mention a study by Animoto shows that 4x as many customer would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. This is your opportunity to use videos to not only help people use your product as intended, but even show them additional uses for it.  Thanks to video’s ability to quickly explain ideas and concepts in a visual format, it’s no surprise that this medium is being used more and more.
  30. Competitive Analysis – Diving into what your competitors are doing can help inspire new marketing strategies. The key is to use their strategies as inspiration only, and not as something to copy – as you never know if they are actually working for your competition.
  31. Participate on Twitter – A few tips; Quality over quantity, and use hashtags, and use images – view more data-driven tips on this Twitter Cheat Sheet.
  32. Participate on Facebook – A few tips; Quality over quantity, ask questions, use images.
  33. Google Places Page – This is a key driver for ranking in Google’s local results. Make sure you fill in all the information, and link to it from your website.
  34. Dig Into Your Analytics – Understanding what users are doing on your website, where they are coming from, and which marketing strategies are providing the highest ROI is key for growing your business and investing marketing dollars in things that work.
  35. Learn About Your Customers – This sounds like an easy concept, but few businesses go beyond the transaction. If you truly want to build loyalty and provide you users value both online and off, you need to know what makes them tic and whats important to them.
  36. Send Free Products To Influencers – Give away free items to key influencers in your industry. You don’t have to hand out your best products, but you can give away freebies to attract new customers.  Make sure to give away an item that people will enjoy, not something they’ll immediately throw out or lose.
  37. Know Your Purpose – Make sure to always have your elevator pitch memorized. Your elevator pitch should take between six and eight seconds to recite, and it should clearly communicate why you do what you do, what it is you sell or do, and how you do it – in that order.  According to Simon SinekYour Why is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do.
  38. Create Coupons – Offer coupons! According to ConstantContact.com, people will go out of their way to use a coupon. That means that even if they’ve never heard of your company before, they’re likely to purchase something simply because they have a way to save. You can also give coupons to current customers. When you offer a discount on their next purchase or order, they’re likely to return to give you more business.
  39. Sponsor A Local Sports Team – Sponsor a local organization or sports team. This won’t cost a lot of money and it could result in a lot of exposure for your business. Be sure to pick an organization with the same audience as your business.
  40. Create Your Own Event – Plan your own event! This is a great way to meet new people and to get potential customers into your shop or eatery. Make it an irresistible event, like an open bar with complimentary snacks, to make sure the room is packed. Or, make it a reservations-only event, so you know exactly what your turnout will be ahead of time.
  41. Podcasting – With podcast listeners spending an average of 4 hours and 10 minutes weekly on an average of 5 different podcasts (Edison Research), consider starting your own podcast for your small business. Yes, it can be difficult to get listeners at first, but it could lead to a very broad reach.
    1. If you have a B2B company, interview other business owners. People love talking about themselves and you’ll make new connections through the process.
    2. If you have a B2C company, consider interviewing certain standout customers.
  42. Offer Free Advice – Be helpful and don’t be afraid of giving some advice away for free. For example, if you run a marketing business, offer some free advice to companies that look like they’re struggling. You’re not replacing their need for a marketer by suggesting how they improve their Tweets or Blog posts. Since you start out by providing sound advice, they’re likely to go to you when they decide it’s time to hire a pro.
  43. Animated Gifs – According to the NY Times study on Gifs, more than 23 million GIFs are posted to Tumblr every day, Facebook Messenger sees more than five million, and two million each month on Slack, animated Gifs are a great way to market your small business. They can be used to showcase a product, tell a story, explain a process, etc.
  44. Quizzes – Quizzes are a fun and exciting way to not only engage with your users, but collect email addresses and contact information. On average, quizzes receive a 50% opt-in rate and half of all people who finish a quiz will enter an email address.
  45. Buyers Guides – Buyers guides can be a great way to help guide your users to  your product, without overselling it. Make sure your buyers guides are complete and tell all sides of the story – don’t make them all about you.
  46. Scavenger Hunts – This is a unique and fun way to get users into your store and get them thinking about your business and the fun they had while on your scavenger hunt. It is also a great way to work with other businesses and build relationships.
  47. Newsletters – Newsletters are still considered to a great way to grow or maintain relationships, even during times when people aren’t actively making purchasing decisions. According to data by Nielsen Norman Group, when asked to opt-in to receive updates from a company, only 10% elected to do so through Facebook, while 90% chose to receive email newsletters.
  48. Live Streaming – Live video is great for engagement. According to Mediakix, on average, Facebook users spend three times as long watching a Facebook Live video as they do watching a video that isn’t live.
  49. Industry Templates – Creating templates that your users or even competitors can use to help them with their business is a great way to build relationships. For example, if you are a home improvement contractor, you can create templates for your clients to fill out and collect job requirements.
  50. College Scholarships – This is a great way to get some publicity, build links for SEO, and even recruit college graduates. Find local colleges in your area and create a scholarship for them to give to their students. The colleges or high schools will usually have an page on their website to list these, and most will link back to your website.
  51. Handwritten Notes – Handwritten notes are one of the last personalization tactics -they go a long way when everyone is writing emails. Write thank you notes to clients, or use them to reach out to other businesses and build relationships – either way, they will get noticed.
  52. Publish Customer Success Stories – Success stories are perfect for building trust with potential clients – or what is referred to as “Social Proof”.  For each story create a narrative that includes who the client was, what their challenges were, and how you helped them solve their problems.
  53. Press Release – Press releases can be a great content asset when used correctly. The key to press releases is that you have to have something that is truly newsworthy. If you think you do, then reach out to your local media outlets first and see if they find your news valuable enough to cover. If they do, then chances are you will get good results using a press release syndication services such as PR Newswire.
  54. Wearable Advertising – This can be the most fun of all the small business marketing tactics. If you’re going to create wearable advertising such as t-shirts or hats, make sure they are high-quality or else people won’t wear them. Use your logo on them, as well as a fun saying or quote that relates to your company – don’t just make a wearable billboard, the goal is to get people to enjoy wearing them.
  55. Wrap Your Vehicle – Wrapping your vehicle can be an effective marketing and brand building tactic – especially if you drive alot for your business. If you are going to wrap your vehicle, make sure you get a professional to do it.
  56. Interview Your Customers – This can be a great way to learn more about your customers. Make sure you plan the questions in advance, make them personal to the person you’re interviewing, and above all have fun. If your customers own a small business as well, they will most likely share the interview on their social media profiles, or a link to it on their website – which is great for SEO.
  57. Create A VIP Program –  Creating a VIP or customer loyalty program is a great way to increase client retention. According to Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute, 68% of consumers expect loyalty points for spending time in store and repeat visits, and 82% of consumers switch stores to take advantage of weekly specials.
  58. Fun Product Photography – Having professional product photography is key to help position your products and look professional, but when using social networks to market your products, fun product photography will get noticed and shared more often.
  59. Take a Competitor To Lunch – Your competition is not your enemy. Getting to know them can open up doors for collaboration and increased sales. Take a competitor to lunch or grab a coffee and learn more about them.
  60. Send Coffee or Donuts To A Local Business – Everyone likes donuts. Sending them to a local business with a fun message on the box, may be just the thing that gets them to buy from you. Not to mention, they will most likely post all about it on their social media profiles.
  61. Free Samples Outside Your Business’s Front Door – If you own a small restaurant or coffee shop, stand out in front and give away free samples to entice users to come in for a refreshing beverage. Living in a big city, we see this all the time, most notably by a local tea shop called David’s Tea. On hot days they offer free shots of flavored iced tea, and on cold days they offer free shots of hot tea – and it gets people in the door.
  62. Photo Contests – Photo contests can be a great way to have your users do the marketing for your small business. For example, if you are a clothing store:
    1. Create a custom hashtag for social media.
    2. Have your users take photos of themselves wearing your clothes.
    3. Have them tag the photo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
    4. The photo with the most likes or shares wins a free gift card.
  63. Deal Websites – There are a ton of deal websites on the web, such as Groupon, Living Social, or Slick Deals. These can be a great way to get some quick sales and recognition for your small business. Just make sure that whatever you offer at a huge discount can be fulfilled or the publicity may take a turn for the worse.
  64. Gather Client Data And Create Data Visualizations – Having industry specific information that nobody else has  is a great way to position your small business as a thought leader.
    1. Simply create a questionnaire, and ask anyone who comes into your store to complete it – you may need to give them an incentive to do it, but the information is priceless.
    2. Once you have a good number of completed questionnaires, create a well designed infographic with the compiled data and publish it on your website.
    3. Reach out to local media outlets and businesses to let them know about the local study.
  65. Ask The Industry-Experts Post – This is a great way to create relationships with other industry experts. Simply create a custom questionnaire and reach out to other experts in your field – they may be your competition, but this is a good thing.  Once you’ve received the answers back, create a blog post, publish it on your website, and reach back out to everyone who provided answers and let them know the post is live. They will most likely link to it or share it on their social media accounts which gets you added exposure inside of their network of followers.
  66. Create Comparison Guides – A 2013 study by Louis Alfieri published on Educational Psychologist suggested that case comparison activities commonly led to greater learning outcomes over other forms of learning. With that said, comparison guides are a great way to reach buyers when they are close to making a decision. Remember, the comparison guide needs to be honest and unbiased – don’t highlight all your benefits, and all the competition’s weaknesses.
  67. Create Local City Guides – Local city guides are a great way to build links for SEO and help clients who may be new to the area. For example if you are a local IT company, you can create a local city guide that includes all the great places around your town or city that offers free wifi hotspots.
  68. Create SlideShare Presentations – Most social media marketers are focused on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. But are they missing the boat? Out of all of the social platforms out there, SlideShare is the most overlooked and underutilized. What is Slideshare? Founded in 2006, Slideshare is a top destination for professional content. With over 18 million uploads in 40 content categories, 70 million professionals use SlideShare to learn about any topic quickly from subject matter experts.
  69. Ebooks – Creating shorter consumable e-books about topics related to your small business is a great way to help educate users.  E-books can be used to grow email lists by offering them for free in exchange for the users contact information. They can also be used as an additional revenue source for your small business – consumer e-books are projected to generate nearly 20 billion U.S. dollars in revenue by 2018.
  70. Guest Posts – When done correctly guest posts are a powerful way to position your company as a thought leader, increase exposure and brand building, increase reach and awareness, and help your SEO.  If you plan on using guest posting in your marketing strategy – make sure your creating value for the website that your guest posting on; make sure the website is high-quality; and include links to other high-value websites within your post, not just to your own website.
  71. Whitepapers – The benefits of creating white papers include, lead generation, building trust and credibility, becoming a though leader, and “priming the pump” for future sales. To be successful, the white paper you create for your small business must capture and keep the attention and interest of your reader, and it must make him want to take the next step in the buying process.
  72. Memes –  According to Sprout Social, meme is an image, video, phrase or some combination of a visual and bolded, capitalized text that is virally shared across social media networks and blogs. They typically have a somewhat hidden meaning that speaks about a popular culture reference. Memes are meant to be funny and most importantly, a piece of satire.
  73. Make Someone Laugh With Industry Comics – Creating industry-specific comics can be a great way to get mentioned in a local media publication. Custom comics, much like using memes, are usually a short lived, and because they rely on humor can be a hit, or a huge flop.
  74. Create Unique Business Cards – In the digital age of networking and communication, you might think using a business card is outdated. While it’s true that we don’t use them functionally the same way we used to, they still serve as an extension of your business’s identity. A few tips about designing your unique business card include:
    1. Treating your business card like a marketing tool, and using it in a purposeful way.
    2.  Using the back of the card as extra real estate for an image or brand statement.
    3. Keeping it simple and focused.
  75. Local Workshops – Using local workshops can be a great way to help users use your products and build long lasting relationships with your customers. The company that does this flawlessly is Apple. They have free classes where users can go and learn how to use their products.
  76. Comment Participation – Do not create comment spam or do this on a mass scale! When creating comments for blog posts that others have written, make them inclusive and show the person that you actually read their article and have an intelligent comment about it – add value!

In Conclusion

When marketing a small business, every single dollar counts. Investments have to pay off quickly; the ROI has to be practically immediate. Savvy business owners and marketers can find a way to market any brand for any budget, even if it’s under $100 per month. Believe it or not, some freelancers even find a way to market themselves for free in the beginning. Thanks to available-to-all marketing platforms like social media, plus clever SEO techniques, it’s possible to help your business gain some traction even when you’re working with pennies.