8 Marketing Ideas for Small Business — Easy, Creative and Inexpensive!

Written by
Reviewed by Matt Pelkey
• 9 minute read
Fashion business women setting up photoshoot for her items

Marketing is important for businesses of all sizes, but many small business owners don’t know where to start — or think they don’t have room in their budget. While you probably don’t have the marketing budget the big brands have, there are some cheap, effective marketing strategies you can use to grow your business.

Small business marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. You can craft your marketing plan step by step. Start with an idea of what you’d like to accomplish with your marketing campaign — maybe you want to announce the opening of a new business, bring in new customers or promote a new product. Depending on your goals, you can choose your marketing tactics and the correct marketing channels.

The good news is that you can accomplish most of this without spending too much money, though you will need to invest some time. Here are some cost-effective marketing ideas for small businesses.

1. Build a Website

Customers expect your company to have a website, yet 37% of small businesses don’t. Not only does a website lend credibility to your business, it’s a great source of information and a space for you to promote products, events and establish yourself as an industry expert.

There are a ton of platforms out there that can help you create a great online space for your business — some costing as little as $6 a month. Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress and GoDaddy are just a few examples.

2. Create a Google Business Profile

When you search for a company on Google or Google Maps, you’ll likely see their Google My Business page. It’s a free tool that allows you to control how your business appears on Google. It’s especially useful for local businesses who want to appear higher in the search results. You can optimize yours to show phone numbers, address, hours of operation, product pages and more.

3. Create Social Media Accounts

It can be hard to stand out on social media, but it can help you build trust and relationships with your target market. Being present on the big social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok or LinkedIn can help your customers find you and build brand awareness. Decide which social media channels make sense for your business and sign up. Make sure to use consistent branding across all your platforms.

4. Define Your Social Media Strategy

Social media marketing is one of the most versatile and cost-effective digital marketing tools available. Social media posts are great for content marketing, but other online marketing tactics can help you with your marketing goals as well.

  • Do a giveaway. You can build brand awareness and reach new potential customers by hosting a social media competition. Decide on a prize and have users follow your account plus like and share your posts to enter.
  • Share helpful content. Drive users to your website by posting useful content like blogs, infographics or video tutorials. You can also promote new products, sales or any news about your business.
  • Engage with your online community. Building a community online can help you build brand loyalty. Using hashtags, replying to comments, answering questions and being an active voice in your space are all great ways to engage your target audience.

5. Social Media Advertising

You don’t need to put money into social media to have a successful social media marketing campaign, but it is one of the cheaper ways you can advertise your business. Even better? It can be pretty impactful, with 26% of social media users saying they tend to buy from brands they see advertised.

Facebook ads and other paid social media posts often allow you to set a budget — so you won’t over spend. You pay as little as $1 a day to boost a post, though the more you spend the more people are likely to see and engage with your post.

As for influencer marketing, you don’t need to find someone with a million followers. Is there someone in your town whom people go to for recommendations? Is there someone in your industry or your client’s industry whom people listen to? See if you can strike a deal with them, you can send them a free product or offer a free service in exchange for their referral on their platforms.

6. Pay Attention to SEO

Search engine optimization is the science of making search engines, like Google or Bing, rank your website higher in the search results. If a potential customer searches for “bike shops in Brooklyn” and you run a bike shop in Brooklyn, you want to be on that first page of results. A study found that only 0.63% of users click on results from the second page.

While there are professionals you can hire to optimize your site, you can tackle some of the basics for free.

  • Localize your SEO. If you’re a local business, you can add location-based words to the titles and headings of the landing pages and content on your website.
  • Write helpful content. Whether it’s on a blog or a landing page, make sure you’re writing helpful content that answers the user’s question — you can try doing a quick search to see who’s competing with you for the top spots in the results and what they’re doing.
  • Establish expertise. Search engines give preference to content that comes from credible sources. If you’ve got awards, certifications, degrees, or any other documentation that demonstrates your expertise, make sure it’s listed on your site.

7. Start Email Marketing

Email marketing is still one of the best marketing strategies you can use to engage your customer base. Sending coupons, sale alerts and other promotional content can entice customers to shop with you. An email newsletter can keep you top of mind so when they need your services, you’re the first business they think of.

However you choose to use email, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  • Craft your subject lines carefully. Emails can really only be effective if they’re opened. Your subject lines should make users want to read the email.
  • Don’t forget to include a call to action. A call to action encourages your audience to take the next step. It could be reading the blog in your newsletter, visiting your ecommerce site to “shop now” before the sale ends, or signing up for your webinar or podcast.
  • Manage your email lists. Don’t just throw your whole audience on one big email list. Separating them into smaller target audiences can help you craft emails tailored to each of their needs or wants.
  • Use templates. You don’t need to be a designer to create professional looking emails. Sites like Constant Contact and MailChimp will not only let you upload and segment your email lists, but they also provide templates you can use to create branded emails.

8. Ask For Customer Referrals

You may not think of customer referrals as marketing, but word of mouth has always been a powerful tool for growing businesses. Customer testimonials and high-quality reviews can help your business gain an edge over the competition.

A customer referral program can help boost your marketing efforts. You can offer a reward to those who refer new customers, such as free swag, discounts or a free product.

Favorite Ideas for Small Business Marketing From the Experts

Create Sticky Customers.

“Studies show it costs 4 to 10 times more to gain a new customer than it does to keep an existing one, so don’t forget to allocate some of your marketing budget to the people who already like you and know about your business.

“Talk to your current customers about other products and services you offer. The key is to provide value as many different ways as possible so you can remain their go-to choice whenever they need something you offer. Creating a sticky customer is a bit different than typical customer retention. While you don’t “lock in” a customer to your services, you do get them invested in multiple parts of your business that makes it a little more difficult for them to jump ship and switch to your competitor.”

Tovah Coldham
Community and Content Marketing Manager, Promo by Slidely

Tovah Coldham is the Community and Content Marketing Manager at Slidely, a visual content creation platform and creator, Promo by Slidely. When she’s not writing about video marketing or curating content for social, you can find her reading, practicing yoga, or running with her dog.

Get Into Guerrilla Marketing

“A bit more of a unique idea could be to use something called guerilla marketing. It uses low-cost, high-impact tactics to spread the word about your brand. Some examples of guerilla marketing are flash mobs, stunts, street art or viral videos.

“The key to effectively using guerilla marketing is to be creative, memorable and relevant to your target audience. Think about your brand values and make sure your tactics align with them.”

William Hogsett
CEO, Seota Digital Marketing

Bill Hogsett is the CEO of Seota Digital Marketing with over 10 years of experience in the digital marketing field, and extensive Fortune 500 consulting experience. He leverages his skills in business and technology to positively impact the lives of mid-market and small business owners.

Get Involved with Your Community

“One of the first places you should look for marketing opportunities when launching a small business is your local chamber of commerce or similar organization. These groups are specifically designed to promote local businesses and leverage their power to help these businesses achieve levels of publicity that wouldn’t normally be possible for small businesses. They have a wealth of resources available, from networking opportunities that could lead to cross-promotion, to direct advertising for their members, to local events, sales, and festivals that can feature your business prominently. It’s an excellent place to start, even for entirely online businesses, and even for B2B businesses.”

Kyle MacDonald
Director of Operations, Force by Mojio

Kyle leads the Marketing squad at Mojio and is responsible for branding, events, product marketing, public relations and everything in between. He loves jamming with designers and storytellers to bring our brand to life, but as a true team player you can catch him dipping his toes in product development and customer service.

Leverage Social Media

“Small businesses do not have the luxury of a large marketing budget, and therefore, need to be creative and resourceful in their approach. As a founder of a virtual coffee hub business, I understand this topic pretty thoroughly.

“One unique and cost-effective marketing strategy that could easily be implemented by a small business is leveraging social media platforms. Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives and has transformed the way we communicate and interact with each other. As a small business, it is important to establish a strong social media presence to increase brand awareness and drive sales. Community is the key to keeping a strong demographic of customers.

“To stand out in the crowded social media space, you need to create high-quality content that is visually appealing and engaging. This could be in the form of photos, videos or infographics. While organic reach on social media is declining, paid advertising can help you reach a targeted audience and drive conversions. Start with a small budget and test different ad formats to see what works best for your business.

“Overall, social media is a powerful tool that small businesses can leverage to increase brand awareness and drive sales. By creating high-quality content and using paid advertising, you can create a cost-effective marketing strategy that delivers results.”

Alex Mastin
CEO and Founder, Home Grounds

After years of exploring the world as a traveling barista, Alex created an incredible coffee brewing community by turning his passion into a business. Now, he provides verified input on coffee beans, recipes, gear and more.

This content is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as financial, investment or legal advice.