Let’s face it: marketing is hard. And for small businesses, it can be even harder.

But it doesn’t have to be. In this post, I’ll go over some of my favorite, budget-friendly methods for marketing a small business.

11 Innovative Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Marketing for small businesses is unique in that they typically don’t have the manpower and budget typically associated with major brands.

But money isn’t everything, and there are plenty of ways to effectively market even the smallest business.

Now, you’ve likely come across the basics – run online contests, create customer loyalty programs, etc. – so I’ve tried to cover some of the strategies you may not have thought of (with a few old standbys throw in).

Let’s get started.

1. Content Marketing

Want to one-up the big guns? Focus on great content.

Content (is king, obviously), and it’s one of the best ways to engage new and existing customers and prospects as well as boost your site in the rankings.

Good content is one of the biggest on-page ranking factors when it comes to SEO, and it’s one that every business can take equal advantage of. Moz identifies good content as:

  • Supplying a demand, and
  • Linkable

So even if you don’t have the funds hire the best copywriters in your space, you can accomplish those two things. Focus on what you know – you’re the expert, right? So show your audience that.

Try to produce list posts, top 10s, industry best practices, and tip collections for best results.

2. Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Video Marketing (Look Into Live Streaming!)

Technically, this could be considered part of your content marketing. But it’s so good we had to give it it’s own space.

Video marketing is absolutely huge right now, and for good reason – overall, video grows revenue 49% faster than non-video content, and 52% of marketers have cited video as the type of content with the best return on investment (ROI).

You can use video to aid your efforts throughout every stage of the sales funnel – from brand awareness, welcome videos all the way through to conversions.

One of the most popular formats right now is live streaming, which allows you to broadcast a video in real time to your audience. It’s an incredibly effective way to engage and connect, and reach your target viewers organically.

Another great aspect of using video is that it’s another means to reach a broad audience without breaking the bank. Because at the end of the day, you don’t really need fancy equipment or graphics, you just need an emotional connection.

3. Repurpose Your Content

Budgeting rule #1: don’t let anything go to waste. That absolutely included your content.

Once you’ve crafted that perfect blog post or filmed your masterpiece, don’t stop there.

Repurpose your blogs into videos, infographics, and Slideshare presentations. Have a great list of tips post? Turn each one into a social media post.

Need some ideas on how to repurpose? I have 92 of ‘em here.

4. Enter Business Award Competitions

Building a reputation for yourself takes time, especially for a small business.

So give your credibility a needed boost by entering some business competitions.

Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Collect Awards

Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Collect Awards

It’s a win/win, really. Obviously, actually winning the award is the best case scenario. But even if you don’t, you’ll still gain recognition and publicity.

To find the best competitions to enter, do some research into your niche and what’s offered. They can be general business awards, or relate specifically to your field.

For ideas, check out this list

5. Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses Network – Anywhere and Everywhere

No one really likes networking.

For many, it’s ques up awkward, sales-y conversation and stuffy events.

But consider this: maybe we’re just doing it wrong. Kathy Caprino wrote a great article on Forbes about how to connect, not just network, and it’s worth a read.

Because at the end of the day, networking is a necessary evil, especially for businesses who can’t pour thousands into advertising budgets.

You can network at events specifically designed for it, industry workshops, even your Chamber of Commerce. Beyond that, you can network over lunch or with the person you bumped into on the street, as long as you can prove your value.

The bottom line is this: You stand a better chance of making a killer impression in person, rather than over the noise of the internet.

When in doubt, practice. Perfect your pitch and your value proposition, turn on the charm, and voila: you’re in business.

6. Promote Your Social Proof

Social proof is kind of like herd mentality. It works using the principle that people will follow the crowd.

If we see a group of people enjoying a certain thing, we want to get in on it too.

When it comes to marketing, social proof is invaluable. It’s way to capture the attention of a wide audience using the evidence of just a few. For a small business, consider using the following:

  • Testimonials – having a strategy designed to collect testimonials is a great way to utilize social proof. Because they come from your clients, not your brand, people will be more likely to view them as credible
  • Ratings – anytime you receive a 5-star review, promote it wherever possible – your website, social ads, etc.
  • Badges and Awards – remember those business awards you’re signing up for? When you win, display your badge on all of your marketing materials to further your credibility
  • Social shares – if your articles are receiving significant comments or shares, it’s a good idea to display the number with your share buttons. Be cautious though – you don’t want to display low numbers, so make sure you’re consistently receiving a hefty number before you turn your share numbers on
Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Use Social Proof (courtesy of FitBit)

Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Use Social Proof (courtesy of FitBit)

7. Promote the Personal Connection

Here’s where small businesses have the biggest advantage: they can offer a level of personal care that many major brands can’t.

Something about a small business brings a sense of attention and connection, while bigger brands have to work a little harder in that respect.

So capitalize on it. Use your social channels to really listen to your audience, and respond promptly with actionable advice or answers to concerns.

Encourage your audience to interact, and set up multiple channels for the to do so – email, social, even phone and text – and highlight the fact that your customers have easy access to a real person when they have problems or concerns.

8. Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Think Local

Smaller businesses don’t have the same reach as some of the more major, national brands.

But that can be an advantage if you know how to spin it. Local communities are some of the most dedicated around, so make sure you’re inserting yourself into your local scene – attend events, sponsor Little League teams, and host local events to solidify your standing.

You’ll also want to think in terms of local SEO. That means incorporating the following:

  • Incorporating location-based keywords in your content, title tags, descriptions, social profiles, etc.
  • Claiming your Google My Business listing
  • Building citations and registering with online directories
  • Use schema.org
  • Etc.

For more on how to construct your local SEO strategy, watch the video below.

9. Offer Your Expertise, Everywhere

By now, you should have your own marketing channels up and running. But that doesn’t mean you should be a stranger on other people’s.

Make it a point to join groups and online communities relevant to your industry and actively participate.

Comment when you think someone shared something worthwhile and answer questions that other members ask. Offer up your own opinion on trending subjects, and give just enough advice to convince others that you’re an expert in your niche.

By participating in forums and other communities, you’ll be able to showcase your expertise and gain the trust of other members. Once they view you as an expert (and someone not solely after self-promotion), they’ll be more likely to come to you for business solutions in the future.

10. Look for Guest Posting Opportunities

Guest posting is a great way to increase your reach and establish your expertise.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re running a small business and barely have time to put together posts on your own site, let alone craft posts for other sites.

But hear me out. When looking for guest blogging opportunities, you’re likely targeting well-established sites with a good-sized following.

By posting on the site, you and your brand will be exposed to a much larger audience. You’ll likely include links to your own site, which could have a positive effect on your traffic. And overall, you stand to collect a much bigger return on investment.

Sold? Great. Now the real work begins.

Your first job is finding a place to post. Luckily, you’ll find many top blogs are happy to accept guest blogs (if you’re a marketer, find a big list of opportunities here). Otherwise, it’s a matter of searching them out, finding the proper contact info, and making your pitch.

Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Guest Post on Popular Blogs

Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses: Guest Post on Popular Blogs

11. Marketing Ideas for Small Business: Use Your Competitors

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

The blessing and curse of online marketing is that there are so many businesses out there trying to accomplish the same thing.

Coming up with a brand new idea can seem almost impossible. But innovating and improving that idea? Very possible.

Luckily, there are plenty of tools designed to aid in your spy work. Use them to find the content that’s been most effective for your competitors, and look for ways you can improve it.

One way to do it is using what I like to call the selector system. Using a tool like SEMRush, find the content that ranks the highest for a few of your competitors. Then, look into each to see which top-ranking content has the least amount of links, and hone in on that one.

Then it’s just a matter of taking the idea and making it better. The beauty of the method is that the post is already likely to succeed and even outperform your competitor’s due to the low amount of links it originally received. By improving it a little and promoting it properly to similar blogs, you stand to capture significantly more links.

Wrapping Up Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Here’s the thing: the number of ways to market your small businesses is limited only by your creativity.

There’s opportunity everywhere to prove the value of your brand. Your job? Don’t let any of those opportunities go to waste.