Small Business Marketing:
19 Ideas to Attract Best Customers
Written by Priscilla Tan
Overwhelmed — is this how you feel when you create your small business marketing plan?
You’re hunting for fresh marketing ideas for the bajillionth time, but the blog posts you found on Google are the same as always.
They’re loaded with the Whys, the Whats — but never the Hows.
There are no clear steps.
There's only... fluff.
Here’s where it gets better.
You don’t need to figure out this overwhelming system on your own.
You certainly don’t need to break your budget to implement those fluffy, ‘high-level’ marketing strategies you’ve been reading about.
But what you do need to succeed in your business?
A sustainable plan — filled with tried and trusted steps — that you, a marketer in the making (yes, you!), can apply in your business right away.
Table of Contents
START HERE: Create a Dead Simple Small Business Marketing Plan
A marketing plan puts your strategies into action and nudges you to achieve your goals. Even a simple one-paged plan is enough to get you started!
To begin, create your vision and mission statement. Yep, there’s a difference between these two.
Next, conduct a SWOT analysis to assess your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Now, identify your target customers.
Interview at least 5 customers with questions like:
- Where are the from?
- How old are they?
- What’s their gender?
- What’s their job and industry?
- What social media channels do they use?
- Conducting User Interviews: How to do it Right
- 20 Questions to Ask When Creating Buyer Personas [Free Template]
Gather those answers up and look for similar themes:
Tip: don’t have customers? Conduct research online.
Next, analyze your competitors with these 57 questions.
And create your goals using the SMART approach:
BAD: “I want to promote my small business.”
GOOD: “I want 100 new subscribers every week. To achieve this, I will promote my lead magnet on Facebook ads with a weekly budget of $10/day, and monitor my number of subscribers on MailChimp.”
Once you’re done, identify your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) using the framework below.
Finally, determine the marketing strategies you’ll implement in your business (you’ll learn them in this blog post).
As you go through the 19 strategies below, bear in mind your budget and how you’ll measure the results.
In a nutshell, your small business marketing plan will have these details:
- Vision + Mission Statement
- SWOT Analysis
- Target Customers / Customer Persona
- Competitor Analysis
- Smart Goals
- Marketing Strategies (a.k.a your action plan)
Heads-up: Are you creating your marketing plan on good ol’ Google Docs? Create it on Canva instead. Here are several FREE templates for you to choose from.
Pick a few and test them. Monitor the results and see which brings the highest return on investment (ROI).
This will determine your best strategies.
Idea #1. Choose Your Social Media Soulmates
Based on the customer interviews you conducted (explained above), which social media channels are mentioned the most?
Those are your soulmate channels, because that’s where your target customers are at.
If your customers picked Facebook, join Facebook groups and/or start Facebook advertising.
Tip: Only start advertising on Facebook if your post is already getting healthy engagement organically.
Facebook groups are a great way to display expertise and find new customers.
Just getting your feet wet? Join groups instead of going through the hassle of creating one.
Focus on those with zero spam and where your target customers are hanging out.
Look through the description before you click ‘+ Join group’. Spot a set of community rules? That’s a sign of a high-quality group.
Are your target customers hanging out on Instagram? If so, apply GaryVee’s $1.80 Instagram strategy to build your audience organically.
Alternatively, you can also build an ad campaign for just $5 a day. Note: Instagram ads are created on Facebook.
If your customers are on LinkedIn, optimize your profile with relevant keywords and connect with the right people.
What about Google Ads?
Idea #2. Roll Out Your Digital Welcome Mat & Watch it Converts
Your website is the digital welcome mat to your business. It gives customers a peek into what it’s like to work with you.
To start right fast, create a brandable domain name.
Next, select a website builder.
Shopify is fantastic if you sell products online.
It costs at least $100 to build a website.
Can’t afford web hosting? There’s a way to get it for free.
Several companies (like Exabytes) offer sponsorship programs for small businesses. Submit an application to give it a go.
Now… there’s no guarantee they’ll accept your application, but it’s still worth applying given how much money you could save!
Note: if you’re successful you may be required to pay for your domain name (usually below $30) and put the web hosting company’s banner on your website in exchange.
And finally, a high-converting website isn’t just about great design. It’s also about great copy that speaks to your customers.
Start with customer research to nail their voice and pain points. Then, conduct keyword research and write your copy.
Idea #3. Set Up this FREE Tool to Read Minds
Google Analytics is the next best thing to telepathy.
This FREE tool provides important data on your current and potential customers. It’s almost as if you can read their minds.
Sign up for an account to start learning about your users behavior. It gives you insights (e.g. bounce rate, conversion rate) and helps you make informed decisions in your business.
- Google Analytics for Beginners [FREE course by Google]
Idea #4: Boost SEO With This 5-Minute Hack
Ever wonder, “How can I market my small business for free?”
Look no further. Google My Business is another FREE tool that lets you manage how your business looks like on Google Search and Maps.
It also boosts your online presence and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — definitely do this first if you’re getting started.
Idea #5. Charm Your Way Into Your Customers' Inbox
Your next email could determine your next sale.
Email marketing has an ROI of up to 4400%, and is unarguably direct and personal.
It’s the best way to attract and retain customers.
To begin, select your email marketing tool.
Low budget? Pick 1 of the 12 best free tools here and sign up for an account.
Next, create a pop-up form and embed it on your website:
Lead magnets attract new subscribers powerfully.
Run a sportswear small business? Your lead magnet could be a free infographic on strength workouts.
Run a law practice? It could be a free 30-minute consultation.
Set up an automation email and include a link back to it.
Say, your lead magnet is an ebook.
Upload a PDF copy on your website. Then, include its URL link in the automated email you just created.
This way, subscribers automatically receive it after they opt in to your pop-up form. Like this:
Promote your lead magnet. This can be a new blog post, a Facebook ad:
Or even your email signature:
Stay in touch with your subscribers even after you’ve emailed them your lead magnet.
Nurture them in a drip campaign (e.g. a blog post every week) to build trust, provide incredible value, and ultimately convert them into paying customers.
Idea #6. Build a Virtual Hub Your Customers Love
Your blog is a virtual hub that puts a spotlight on your customers.
Rather than churning out mediocre posts by random… educate your customers and show (not tell) why they should pick you and not your competitors.
It’s the most effective way to compel them to buy from you in the long run.
Ask yourself these questions to create high-quality content:
- What pain points are your customers experiencing right now?
- What questions do they have that aren’t found on your competitor blogs?
Visit your competitors’ blogs and read the comments to better understand their frustration.
Use free tools like Answer The Public to discover the questions they ask on Google and Bing:
Use Google Autocomplete:
Scroll down and take note of ‘People also ask’ and Searches related to’. These phrases tell you what’s bugging them.
Monitor your results in Google Analytics to find your best-performing posts. This tells you the type of content your audiences want.
Now… what if the content well in your blog dries up?
Try these 5 fast ways to create content.
Or… repurpose and reimagine them.
For example, turn your old posts into infographics on Canva. Post them on social media to engage with your customers.
Turn them into videos! Lumen5 is a free video creation tool that creates videos in minutes.
Idea #7. Get Insanely Well-Connected Without Ever Feeling Awkward
Awkwardness stems from a lack of preparation.
Keep it under control with these powerful networking strategies.
First, rewrite your elevator pitch (using one of these approaches) to start a conversation and make a strong impression:
- Find your “Why?”, or
- Share your impact
Why? example: “I’m a copywriter because I love helping business owners increase sales using words!”
Impact example: “I’m a life coach who helps high-achieving women build profitable businesses.”
Here’s the second networking tip, especially if you’re a service provider. If your clients hang out at conferences, offer to help.
Most conferences are on Twitter with their unique hash tags. Get into the feeds and tweet you’re offering help for free.
For example, a web designer could tweet:
Here’s the last networking tip.
Is your dream client (or someone you really want to work with) speaking on stage?
Snap a quick pic of them.
Email or tag them on social media. This is a fantastic way — especially if you’re a shy introvert — to get noticed and start a conversation.
Idea #8. Stay on Top of Mind With Your Retro Cards
Do you collect business cards, but often leave them in a corner because they’re… well, useless?
Stop! These retro cards aren’t as useless as you think. 😉
Use one of these apps right here to start scanning and syncing those contacts on your smartphone.
It’s a fuss-free way to set reminders to stay in touch with your customers and business partners and stay on top of their minds.
Idea #9. Get on Stage (Or Do THIS if You Have Butterflies)
Paid or unpaid, speaking engagements are effective ways to build your presence.
To begin, look for events that invite communities to speak.
Can’t find any? Ask for intros in your social circles.
- Email a client who’s had multiple of speaking engagements.
- Call a relative or an old friend who organizes conferences.
- Heck, even ask your favorite hairdresser — he might know someone!
Reach out to them with a video clip of yourself (e.g. vlog, pitching a presentation) and a script like this:
Subject Line: Speaking opportunities – know any?
“Hi [Person’s Name],
These days, I’m exploring marketing ideas to get the word out about my business.
Speaking at events is one of them, which is why I’m reaching out to you. 🙂
Do you know anyone who’s looking to speak about [insert expertise]?
I’d be happy to talk about [List topic ideas in bullet points].
I’ve attached a video clip of myself for them to assess my style.
I’d really appreciate your help. Thanks so much!
😵 What if you aren’t ready for speaking gigs?
Start small, like guest on podcasts (more in #11).
Or… get in front of a mic to ask a question during an event’s Q&A session.
Introduce yourself and ask a question that positions you as an expert.
It’s an excellent way to get people to reach out to you (instead of the other way round) after a panel ends.
Idea #10. Want to Guest Post? Follow this NY Times Best-Selling Author's #1 Tip Instead
Want to get more eyeballs on your blog post?
Syndicate your content. It’s far more effective than writing guest posts.
Published a fantastic post on your blog? Send it to a relevant publication and ask if they’d like to republish it.
For example, if you run a career coaching business and recently wrote a post about elevator pitches, contact publications like The Muse, Forbes, Inc Magazine, or CNBC Make It.
Start a spreadsheet and fill it with the publications you want to write for. Locate their email addresses on their Contact page (or use tools like Hunter) and email a short pitch.
Editors lead insanely busy lives. Check in 1-2 times.
If you still haven’t heard back from them, assume they’re not interested. Move on to the next publication, or… grab their attention on Twitter.
Idea #11. Get Booked!
Rather than start a podcast from scratch and compete with 700,000 podcasts across the world…
Get yourself booked on podcasts instead. Pitch yourself to podcasts your target customers frequently listen to.
For example, if you own a small gym business and your target customers are health conscious people, you want to guest on — you guessed it — health and fitness podcasts.
Start a spreadsheet of potential podcasts. Brainstorm for fresh, intriguing topics that haven’t been covered before.
Idea #12. Score Free Press in Just 7 Minutes a Day
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a free tool that emails you relevant media enquiries and gets you press for your small business.
Is PR one of your small business marketing goals? Sign up for an account in their basic subscription package.
Next, update your account. Select your industry preferences and check off specific lists you want to join (e.g. Business and Finance, High Tech).
You’ll receive an email that looks like this:
Each email you receive will always start with HARO in the subject line.
Go through the media opportunities. When you spot an ideal inquiry, reply to the email listed with your pitch.
Idea #13. Cut Marketing Costs by Being Everyone's BFFs
Partner with complementary service providers (i.e. non-competitive businesses) that serve your target customers.
It’s a cost-effective way to find new customers and cut marketing costs.
- A copywriting agency + a web design boutique
- A travel agency + an insurance company
- A car dealer + an auto parts retailer
Take note of these tips as you search for a company to partner with. Once the partnership is confirmed, announce it.
Idea #14. Get Customers To Do Your Work
Your best customers are fans of what you do.
They’re happy to help you spread the word and refer you new customers — especially when they get an incentive, to boot.
Get clear with the benefits of referrals and make a fantastic offer they won’t refuse.
Then, create a series of automated referral emails in your email marketing tool (review #5) to spread the word!
Idea #15. Be a Host/Hostess & Kill It in Social Media
Want to kill it in social media? Host a challenge to find new leads.
Just look at what happened to ConvertKit.
This email marketing company hosted a landing page challenge with cash prizes and subscription plans up for grabs.
The results: over 8,000 participants signed up for it with their email addresses.
This form of gated content (similar to lead magnet in #5) helps build qualified leads for your business — in ConvertKit’s case, it’s creators like YouTubers and musicians.
Your action: think about your goals and brainstorm for a challenge that commands attention. Bonus points if it spotlights you as an expert in your industry.
Idea #16. Host a Different Kind of Fanmeet
Hosting events in person gives you the rare opportunity to talk to your customers face-to-face.
It’s a different kind of fanmeet that lets you know them inside out and showcase your expertise front and center. 😊
To begin, plan the scope of your event.
- What does it cover?
- What are the key takeaways?
- Who is it for?
- How many participants are you targeting?
Here’s an example:
Next, find a venue to host your workshop. Pay close attention to the terms and conditions if you’re renting.
What if you don’t have a budget for your venue?
Request for a barter arrangement to secure the venue for free. Co-working space is a great option, if you share similar audiences.
Here are 3 examples of a barter arrangement:
1. Promote the venue owner’s company on your social media channels and newsletters.
2. Offer their employees or members free tickets or discounts to your event.
3. Offer them a slot of time to speak at your event. All companies have products or services to promote. Get clear about their expectations and work from there.
Next, promote your event to drive registration. Here are 3 marketing event ideas for your small business (more here):
2. Send niche publications a special discount. Encourage these publications to share it in their newsletters and social media channels.
This helps you better understand participants' goals and structure your event accordingly.
3. Invite companies — that share similar values as your business — as sponsors. Send them free tickets and display their company logos in exchange for their sponsorship.
Prefer online events? Lack of resources? Host a webinar instead. 🙂
Idea #17. Give Back & Watch it Pay Off
Now your turn to give back as a sponsor. It’s your chance to create an image of success and authority for your business.
To start off, visit event listing sites like Eventbrite, Peatix, and Facebook Events.
Choose a category relevant to your business. You can usually find it around the search and filters fields:
Go through the events and select those your target customers would attend.
Here are 3 examples:
If you run a baking supply store, sponsor a baking competition.
Own a tackle shop? Sponsor a fishing exhibition.
Run a yoga apparel store? Sponsor a meditation retreat.
Select events that are at least a month away. This gives you ample time to prepare your presentation slides if needed.
Locate the organizer’s contact info in their profile page. Ask if they’re looking for sponsors.
Consider these questions before you agree to sponsor:
- What kind of exposure are you getting?
- What do they require from you?
- Does it align with the goals in your small business marketing plan?
- Would you get direct access to the audience?
Idea #18. Attract New Customers With This Effective Treat
Is your small business in a highly competitive or commoditized market? Does it involve a high lifetime value for customers?
Run a beauty & spa service? Grocery store? Furniture retailer?
Partner with coupon deal sites! It’s a cost-effective way to boost sales and maximize your presence in front of a crowd that’s always on the lookout for great deals.
Idea #19. Spread Stories that SELL
Case studies (a.k.a customers success stories) SELL because they provide social proof and show how your business could potentially solve their problems.
To begin, interview your best customers with experience-based questions.
Tip: the customers you interview should look like the people you want to attract.
Next, structure your case study. Here are 3 examples:
- Beginning > End
- Challenge > Solution > Benefits
- Background > Objective > Strategy > Execution > Results (with numbers!)
BAD: “Company A’s work is amazing.”
GOOD: “After working with Company A, sales increased by 157% compared to last year.”
After creating your case study, promote it.
Send it to a prospect after a cold-call. Email it to subscribers. Use it as a lead magnet.
And watch those sales comin’.
Now that You've Learned These 19 Small Business Marketing Strategies... What's Next?
You don’t need to be a marketing expert or hire agencies for their expensive small business marketing services to (re)build your plan.
As you give marketing another go, select a mix of online and offline marketing strategies that align with your goals and skills set.
Marketing is always evolving. Make testing a habit. Commit to your plan.
As you progress in your business, revisit your goals.
Measure the results. Observe what’s working best and what’s not. Take the necessary actions to refine them.
And most of all, have fun with it.
This way, you’ll not only dread marketing a little less, but also enjoy it and get the ROI you deserve.
Which of these 19 marketing ideas will you implement in your business today?
Featured image credit: mohamed_hassan via Pixabay
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