While brainstorming ideas for our own marketing strategy, we figured we'd compile the ultimate list of marketing & sales tactics for small businesses. Many of these will bring you results, but some won't. The key thing is to know who your customers are, what they want, where to find them, who they listen to, and what they care about. If you build a relationship with the right people, they will all buy eventually!
Ways to increase your online footprint.
These days, you can't effectively market yourself very easily without a website. When someone wants to check you out, the first thing they do is jump on your website.
Luckily you can easily do this all by yourself using a number of website builders:
Make sure your website is designed super-obviously to guide users towards a particular action that you want them to take eg. send you an email or call you.
Also, make sure your website’s SEO is set up properly. It will take several months to start ranking on Google search results but it will really pay off. There are countless great SEO checklists and extensions that you can use to optimize your site. A couple of my favorites are:
Create a Facebook page so you can communicate with your audience on Facebook. Nearly everyone is on there so it pays to start with a Facebook page. Add your friends & family and share updates and relevant content with your target customers.
Make sure you have a link set up to go to your website.
Make sure you also have a link to your Facebook page from your website so that your customers can easily join your audience.
Create an Instagram profile so you can communicate with your audience on Instagram. If your business has a visual aspect then this is especially important. Add your friends & family and share updates and relevant content with your target customers.
Make sure you have a link in your bio set up to go to your website.
Make sure you also have a link to your Instagram profile from your website so that your customers can easily join your audience on Instagram.
Create a LinkedIn business page so you can communicate with your audience on LinkedIn. If you are a B2B business then this should be one of your top priorities. LinkedIn is basically "Facebook for capitalists" and is great for building a B2B business' reputation. Add your friends & family and share updates and relevant content to your target customers.
Make sure you have a link set up to go to your website from your LinkedIn company page.
Make sure you also have a link to your LinkedIn company page from your website so that your customers can easily join your audience on LinkedIn.
Create a Pinterest profile so you can build your audience on Pinterest. Pin videos and images of your products and your business. Pinterest is a visual discovery engine so it's amazing for companies that are based on a highly skilled craft.
Make sure you have a link set up to go to your website from your Pinterest page.
Also, make sure you also have a link to your Pinterest page from your website so that your customers can easily join your audience on Pinterest.
Create a Twitter account so you can build your audience on Twitter. Twitter is the most mature social network and probably the purest in the sense that you can connect and converse with almost anyone.
Make sure you have a link set up to go to your website from your Twitter page.
Also, make sure you also have a link to your Twitter account from your website so that your customers can easily join your audience on Twitter.
For New Zealand Businesses only!
While its glory days are probably past, TradeMe still attracts enormous traffic that's highly relevant to your business. Top listings on TradeMe Services have hundreds of thousands of views. If you create a TradeMe Services Listing be sure to have as many friends, family and customers give you a review as possible, the impact of reviews is exponential.
Facebook marketplace is free to list and generates enormous attention to your business as they use AI to show relevant listings to people based on what they are interested in.
The most powerful form of marketing is social proof. Customers place enormous trust in stories from other people who were in the same situation and overcame it using a certain product.
You will likely send 1000s of emails every year. Turn this into an opportunity for your contacts to easily navigate to your website and social media accounts.
Also called Google My Business. Make sure your business shows up better in local search queries and map-based searches by creating a Google Local profile.
Most towns have a Business Association with their own directory. It often costs very little to become a member and be included in their directory.
Ways to advertise online
Email is probably the most underrated marketing tool. Email marketing has the highest potential for engagement and traffic to your site than any other method. If you consistently create thoughtful and entertaining weekly/monthly newsletters you will have a great chance of getting good results.
Be sure to read some guides on how to succeed with email marketing:
Facebook and Instagram ads are a great way to build brand recognition and grow your audience. Unlike search advertising, social media ads are interruption adverts so don't be too pushy or salesy, rather try to offer something that would resonate with your target audience.
Probably the first paid advertising tool you should use. Search traffic is super valuable as there is a high level of intent behind those visitor's actions. Bing ads are basically the same as Google ads but 33% cheaper!
A tool that we have yet to try but will be implementing soon. LinkedIn is a Business focused platform and Ads on LinkedIn are highly effective at attracting B2B customers.
Smaller advertising platforms can give you better-priced results if you know your audience well!
Another form of interruption marketing. Be mindful that your viewer is being forced to watch your ad instead of the video they want to watch. So keep it super short, positive and helpful if possible.
These are a real hassle to set up and they have really low genuine click-through rates (most clicks are accidental). However, they can be a useful way to build brand recognition.
Ways to directly interact with your target customers online
One of the most effective tactics when used in a thoughtful and polite way. Also, one of the most hated and ineffective tactics when you carelessly spam thousands of email addresses.
The key here is RELEVANCY. Spam emails suck because the sender doesn't give two hoots about who you are or what you need, they have no feeling toward all the people who don't fit the offer and are having their time wasted.
However, cold emails can be really appreciated if the sender has taken the time to understand who they are talking to, what they need, what they want, and what they care about.
Here's an example that I use with reasonable success:
RECIPIENT BUSINESS a good fit for our
Sorry for the cold email, I just want to take a moment to tell you about us, we are a
COMPANY_TYPE that helps
While looking for companies that would benefit from our product, I came across yours on
SOME PLACE THEY ADVERTISE.
THOUGHTFUL MESSAGE ABOUT THE COMPANY AND WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT THEM
We can offer a better
BENEFIT THEY CARE ABOUT because of
We can also offer a better
BENEFIT THEY CARE ABOUT because of
If you think we might be a good fit for
RECIPIENT BUSINESS, you can learn more at
Wish you the best,
Schedule a follow-up email one week after your initial email if you don't get an answer.
Use the same basic format as the email template above but make it less formal. There's nothing wrong with directly seeking out customers, just be polite, keep it personalized, and have a good reason to break the ice so that it's in their best interest to read your message.
Your competitor's customers can be a great resource. Firstly, they have a need for your product and could become your customers if you can win them over. Secondly, if they tell you why they aren't using your business, it can give you great feedback about how to improve. The founders of TwitchTV used this tactic to discover which value propositions they should focus on most.
Online techniques to grow your brand's reputation and audience
In today's world, this is the single most important thing you should be doing other than improving your product/service and directly interacting with customers. Great branding is one of the few ways to secure sustainable higher margins in the long run. A trusted and recognized reputation has a multiplier effect on profitability.
Videos are the most engaging form of content. It takes a lot of work, practice, and skill, but a series of regular, helpful videos that are useful to your customers will do wonders for growing your audience and help cement your position as a subject matter expert.
Blogs are the most proven way to generate long-term search traffic to your website.
Competitions on Facebook are one of the best attention-hacks I've ever seen.
Like blogging and video creation, starting a podcast is one of those content marketing strategies that start slowly but grow exponentially in the long run.
I'm no expert on this technique but it's extremely effective if you have a great product, but a small advertising budget. This way you can influence your customers directly via people that they listen to.
If you know somebody who has an audience that overlaps yours, help them out by offering to make a guest post. It's a win-win, they do less work, their audience gets a new interesting article to read, and you get to attract fans from a new set of people who may not have known about you before.
Provide value by answering questions and giving additional insight. Don't pitch yourself or ask for followers, people will naturally check you out if they like what you have to say!
to your customers on social media platforms i.e. Monitor Twitter hashtags that are important to your industry/market to see what opportunities you have to create value and to engage.
Cement your position as a subject matter expert and create goodwill towards yourself by helping people in your target audience.
Same as the tactic above. You will cement your position as a subject matter expert and create goodwill towards yourself.
Find as many relevant online review platforms as you can and do whatever it takes to get friends, family, and customers to place reviews on them. Nine out of 10 consumers trust online reviews just as much as they do personal recommendations.
Make life easy for reporters! Contact media outlets and ask to be added to their list of expert speakers for topics that you are a subject matter expert on.
Same idea as writing a guest blog post. If you know somebody who has an audience that overlaps yours, help them out by offering to be a guest speaker. It's a win-win, the podcaster's audience gets a new interesting speaker, and you get to attract fans from a new set of people who may not have known about you before.
Your audience should be interested in your product or you're doing it wrong. Share product updates to show that you're still improving and use it as an opportunity to educate newcomers about what you do.
This will increase the chances of people wanting to connect with you.
There are a myriad of online forum sites for special interest groups and communities. Find questions relating to your niche and answer them to the best of your ability. Either make it clear that you have a great product in that space or pretend to be a bystander recommending your product.
Some of the best online forums are:
Build long-term brand recognition and exposure by sharing your professional photos with the world.
Get customers to share their purchases on social media in exchange for a special reward.
Check review and "Top 10" sites by your topic in Google. Reach out with an email or via Facebook to ask to add your site to the article.
Micro-influencers are people with between 1000 and 100,000 followers on social media and considered to be subject matter experts on their particular interest. These smaller influencers come across as more genuine and tend to generate greater engagement. Influencers with 1000 followers generated 85% higher engegement than those with 100,000 followers.
Based on the Pareto-principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, 20% of your customers should generate around 80% of your business. Your best customers often want to spend more, they just need an opportunity to do so. Create a VIP group for them, and give them your best possible service in exchange for product feedback & community contribution.
Quite an effective technique that drastically reduces churn on email sign-ups. Create a series of emails scheduled to be sent one-after-another to keep reminding your customer who you are and what you can do for them. Persistence works if the customer is a great fit but slow to make up their mind.
Offline techniques to grow your brand's reputation and audience
Perhaps not the most effective technique, but every bit works and it could work well for one-person side-hustles like tutoring or cleaning. You can find these in almost any supermarket.
Same as above, if your target audience is a lower-socioeconomic demographic then these could work well.
If you know your customers attend a certain place regularly then why not place some leaflets under their windshields?
Make sure your place of business is super visible for passers-by to see!
Does your target audience love a particular bar or restaurant? Do they attend certain events or shop at particular stores? If so, see if the owner will be willing to help out a local business by letting you put a poster up. I've seen some cafes allow customers to pin their business cards on a wall, it's a great way to help out local businesses and show that you care about them.
QR codes are one of those technologies that took a long time to gain momentum despite enormous usefulness. They aren't going anywhere and they are a really great way to create a seamless experience between the real world and the virtual one.
Potentially expensive but they work well for putting your name out there as the place to go for a particular thing.
Offline ways to advertise your business
I have no experience doing this but I'm sure it works for local companies and industries that have been around a long time.
Same as above, radio in no way is dead. Sometimes it's just easier to listen to the radio than podcasts or streaming services.
Offline ways to directly engage with potential customers
Cold calling is brutal but can provide excellent results if done properly. You must work to qualify leads before calling them as it's rude to call someone who clearly does not need what you're selling. Try to make it as personalized as possible.
Introduce yourself properly Some decent manners go a long way
Research, compliment them and give a specific reason for calling Give a specific reason for calling. For example, you read an article, noticed a friend using a product of theirs, drove by their store, saw their post on social media, etc.
Ask for permission
Ask open-ended questions You are not trying to sell, you are a matchmaker trying to find out if this lead is a great match for your product/service.
Think of it more as a user research interview. Example questions are:
AREA OF EXPERTISE?
GOAL THAT YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE ACHIEVES?
GOAL THAT YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE ACHIEVES?
Summarize with a qualification or disqualification If they are not a good fit, tell them as soon as you realize it and thank them for their time.
Set up the next step Try to create a real appointment, and send a short recap email to show you actually listened to them. Otherwise, offer to send an email with more information.
Example cold calling script:
NAME, my name is
YOUR NAME, how are you?
NAME, I came across your company
THEIR COMPANY NAME on
WHERE YOU FOUND THEM and I love
SOMETHING GENUINE AND PERSONALIZED.
NAME, the reason I'm calling is I work for a company called
COMPANY NAME and we specialize in
AREA OF EXPERTISE.
If this isn't a bad time I'd love to ask you a few questions to see if our
PRODUCT/SERVICE would be a good match for your business?
Ask open-ended questions to discover how strong their need is.
NAME, based on what you said, it does sound like we'd be a good fit for you, what do you think?
So the best next step is to
CLEAR NEXT STEP.
A great way to build a community around your area of expertise and build relationships with potential customers.
Take advantage of the high school popularity effect. The coolest people in high-school were the ones that threw the biggest parties and did the coolest things. Get yourself noticed by organizing a great event, being the organizer will build a perception of importance and prestige.
As a kid, my rugby team once got drink-bottles sponsored by a local business. That was enough for me to think they were cool and recommend them to others.
You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll get the opportunity to give them out! However, try to connect on LinkedIn first if you can, it will make it much easier to stay in touch.
Offer lucrative deals to all your employees for signing up a customer
If you are going after a particular person who is the decision-maker for a big deal, find out what events they will attend and try to get close to them.
Offline ways to grow your brand's reputation and support
Let people know that you are available to talk at events as a subject matter expert. If you're not well known or have little experience doing so, write down a few talks you could do, practice them, and record some videos to send to event organizers.
Make sure you have something newsworthy or just manufacture something newsworthy.
For small businesses, in-person events are one of the most productivity-saving ways of reaching customers, as you are able to reach many people at once.
Most awards are completely made-up and subjective but that doesn't stop people from believing in them! Create an award for yourself if you want.
Give back to the community and help out the next generation while cementing yourself as an expert.
Same as the tactic above, give back to the community and help out the next generation while cementing yourself as an expert. As an added bonus you can also use it as an opportunity to find future hires.
The more people wearing your brand, the cooler you are perceived to be. If you're short on cash, make one t-shirt and get all your friends to take a photo wearing it.
Great opportunity to scout for hires and general networking.
Charities are often great promoters and tend to struggle financially. If you can offer them an excellent product at a premium price they will happily use it in exchange for promotions and testimonials.
Make a stall if you have the cash. Or use a guerilla tactic, find a spot and talk to customers as if you were part of the convention, or ‘recommend’ your product to potential customers while acting as a regular attendee.
Help people out for free but make sure they know what you do. Leave them with your business card or contact details.
If your customers value a fun brand reputation, go to parties or festivals they attend and do something fun with them.
The same principle as T-shirts. The more people see them, the more curiosity you will generate. Reddit used this tactic with good results in their early days.
Put your brand on objects that your customer will see all the time, eg. fridge magnets, notepads, mugs, drink-bottles.
Turn every event into a networking event! Good business people do this by nature, take full advantage of any excuse to talk about what you do.
Or even better lend the books out to your customers for free.
Slogans help cement a memorable perception of your company in people's minds. For example, Nike’s “Just do it” phrase.
Ways to grow your place in the hearts and minds of existing customers
They use your product and almost certainly know others who will. Reward them for their referral and you both win!
If your company is new or has a smaller client-base this is an excellent way to stand out and build long-term loyalty. Also, Christmas cards are a ton of fun to do while still promoting your business.
Over-deliver on everything that you do and people will tell all their friends and family. Zappos, (the online shoe company), has great customer service that emphasizes helping the customer no-matter-what. One of the founders tested it by asking a friend to call and ask them to order pizza for him, and they did!
Mascots help make brands more relatable, especially to younger audiences.
Similar to building an email list, build an SMS list to message when you have really special offers
Coffee places are great at this. Give your customers vouchers after spending a certain amount.
Some creative ways to attract attention to yourself
If they are not a competitor, combine some of your marketing efforts. You can both benefit from combined traffic.
Or any other challenge for that matter. You will both win from the attention it brings.
See if you can pull off fun or entertaining challenges using your product, this will entertain people and at the same time, educate them about your product.
Do something that people can’t help but talk about. Richard Branson and Red Bull are both legends at this, remember Felix Baumgartner and his jump from the edge of space?
If you're small and unheard of, first take your story to bloggers and small local news outlets. Once those articles are published, take your story to bigger outlets and reference the smaller articles as proof that you matter. Keep doing this until you can't get any further up.
Organize a time to visit them, buy their product, and interview them about their business. This creates loyalty in them, helps them out with promotion, and grows your reputation as a great company.
If you are a smaller company, take advantage of the momentum and network effects of bigger brands by integrating with them as a third-party service or tool.
Instead of having half a dozen backers you now have hundreds of people that want you to succeed! Only do this if you actually want to raise capital!
Are there any causes that your target audience strongly believes in? People love a story and supporting a courageous champion. Find an 'enemy', to build a struggle story against.
Can your product be pitched as a challenge? Online learning companies often do a 30-day challenge to make customers see their product as a way to achieve a personal goal. Think of the desired state that your customers seek and figure out a way to turn it into a group challenge.
Lurk on online forums and communities and look for opportunities to pitch your product or services. Sometimes getting traction is so hard that it's forgivable to pretend to be a bystander recommending your product. Don't commit identity fraud or anything dodgy.
Eyewear company Specsavers have an epic tagline of 'Should have gone to Specsavers'. They sponsor referees at sporting events and I think it's hilarious. Does your product prevent anything disastrous? If so, you can turn it into a fun "Should have used X" campaign.
I can't wait to use this tactic one day. Boxing promoters are the absolute masters of this. Contact one of your rivals and secretly arrange to have a public feud between yourselves. Let it get as ridiculous as you want, people LOVE controversy and it will create massive amounts of free attention!
Convert more 'on the fence' customers by reducing doubt and lowering barriers to entry
Nearly all restaurants do this on slow days of the week. Use a loss-making promotion to bring in customers who will go on to spend more once they are there.
Offer an expert ‘audit’ of how they are currently doing the thing you specialize in.
Increase people's net-motivation to do something by reducing the downside.
When your company is in its early days, a tactic that works well is to offer to do a full setup. This helps customers see the full benefit even if no-one else is using it and they can get up and running instantly.
We hope this helped you come up with your own ideas for advertising your business.