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14 Small Business Marketing Strategies

Small business marketing helps small entrepreneurs establish a foothold in their niche and build enough online and offline presence to attract, develop, and maintain strong customer relationships.

As a small business owner wearing many hats, the idea of also playing the role of a marketer might seem daunting at first. But the good news, you don't need large investments and years of expertise to do it successfully.

The best practices we'll discuss below will help you get your business off the ground on a budget and with no expert-level knowledge required.

What you will learn

Marketing tactics small business owners can implement to attract new customers

How to encourage word-of-mouth marketing through influencer, affiliate, and referral marketing.

A list of marketing tools and how they can help implement your strategy.

What is small business marketing?

Small business marketing involves the marketing tactics necessary to attract new customers and build brand awareness using any available resource.

Although the employed strategy may vary depending on the company, small business marketing is key to gaining recognition within a given niche, differentiating a business from its competitors, and building a loyal customer base.

However, a well-implemented small business marketing strategy does involve completing a series of prerequisites, like establishing your company's target audience and brand identity.

These elements are the foundation of your strategy and will be useful in your overall marketing efforts.

14 marketing strategies for small businesses

An effective marketing strategy doesn't always require corporation-level budgets and access to on-hand experts. The tactics we'll discuss will help you build a strong online presence without significant financial investments.

We'll first discuss how to establish the foundation of your marketing efforts and then discuss the specifics.

1. Define who your ideal customer is

As a small business owner, customer profiles are a key first step to a solid marketing strategy.

This represents an in-depth description of your ideal customer's interests, needs, and preferences, based on data-backed market research like demographic and psychographic evaluations.

Trying to appeal to all consumers within a specific niche won't work.

It would spread your marketing efforts too thin and your brand would have trouble resonating with the target audience and differentiating itself from the competition.

You need to dive into the specifics and identify multiple audience segments within a given niche, see how they differ from one another, and determine which audience segment best fits your brand.

Here's how Blue Bottle Coffee narrowed down its customer profile and uses it in its branding.

Undoubtedly, there are millions of coffee drinkers around the world.

But few prioritize ethically sourced artisanal products or prefer going to specialty stores over grabbing whatever they find at the supermarket—that's the audience segment Blue Bottle Coffee targets.

The company's branding successfully aligns with its target audience's interests and desires. For instance, the web copy and imagery emphasize Blue Bottle Coffee's high-quality ethically sourced coffee beans.

To identify your ideal customer and implement a similar strategy, make sure to ask yourself the following questions:  

  • What's the age range your customers belong to, and what's the predominant gender?
  • What income range do they fit into?
  • What values do your customers believe in that align with your brand?
  • What drives your customers to make a purchase?
  • This will give you a good idea of what your ideal customers would look like. You can also add more questions to get more specific.

Also, make sure to conduct surveys and customer interviews and check web traffic analytics from Google Analytics once you start to attract clientele.

This helps you enrich your personas with concrete evidence of your audience's behavior, needs, and interests.

2. Differentiate your brand

Besides helping you align with your target customer, your branding is a key to differentiating your business from competitors.

That's where your brand's Unique Value Proposition (UVP) comes in.

The UVP is a clear statement that describes your product or service's main advantages, how it appeals to your audience's pain points, and how it stands out from the competition.

Here's how Lush Cosmetics, a UK-based cosmetics with a focus on ethical hand-made products, implements its UVP.  

Lush Cosmetics clearly highlights its emphasis on ethical practices all throughout its website and makes it part of the company's brand identity through its visuals and copy.  

This helps the company stand out from its competitors and resonate with a specific audience segment conscious about the environment and workers' rights.

Lush Cosmetics also actively participates in numerous animal rights as well as social and environmental protection campaigns, which further reinforces that effect.

When crafting your UVP make sure it:

  • Clearly explain how your products or services address your target customer's pain points.
  • Highlights how your company is different from your competition — not better.
  • Align your beliefs and values with the audience's.

3. Pick a marketing platform you can dominate

A solid social media marketing strategy is key to increasing brand awareness and reaching new potential customers.

But that doesn't mean you should be active on all available social media platforms simultaneously — especially as a small business. It would only dilute your efforts and hinder your strategy's return on investment.

If your products target regular consumers, for example, LinkedIn simply won't work, as its user base is primarily made up of other businesses. TikTok or Instagram would be a better choice.

You need to pick the social media platforms where the bulk of your audience is most likely active and determine what marketing strategy works best across these social media channels.

For instance, Stryve Biltong uses Instagram as its primary marketing channel.

Since 60% of Instagram's user base consists of 18 to 34-year-olds, the platform is the perfect place for Stryve Biltong's target audience — young adults who are health-conscious and interested in fitness.

Instagram's focus on visuals helps the company highlight its products through high-resolution imagery and videos, making them more appealing.

Let's review some other social media platforms worth considering and the social media strategy that works best for each.

Evaluate TikTok

TikTok is also an excellent social media platform if you target younger audiences — 69.3% of its user base consists of 18 to 34 year olds.

Of course, short-form videos dominate the network, but that doesn't mean your content should hit TV commercial quality standards.

65% of TikTok users say that professional-grade videos look out of place on the platform.

Authenticity is key here — think behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, viral challenges, or sharing user-generated content (UGC).

These help humanize your brand, boost engagement, and foster a strong connection with your audience.

For instance, GoPro's TikTok account strictly focuses on UGC.

Evaluate LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the leading B2B social network and 50.6% of its audience is aged between 25 and 34 years old.

Unlike B2C, the B2B sales cycle is longer and more logic-driven.

Establishing yourself as an industry leader through educational content — and not overly-promotional posts — is key to earning the audience's trust.

Sharing industry-specific insights and news through informative posts should be the go-to strategy here.

Pipedrive's LinkedIn account frequently posts industry-specific tips and in-depth case studies.

Although a large number of its posts also spotlight Pipedrive's products, they do so in an educational manner — they go into detail about what issues Pipedrive fixed, how it fixed them, and what results its clients achieved with the platform.

Evaluate WhatsApp

Similar to email marketing campaigns, WhatsApp strategies feel more personal and are ideal for personalized marketing messages.

WhatsApp is also excellent for handling customer service requests.

Most notably, there's the Channels feature — a one-way broadcasting tool that allows you to engage with your community through texts, videos, images, polls, and more.

This feature is perfect for establishing a loyal community and keeping existing customers in the loop with company-related updates, promotions, and discounts.

PlayStation's channel regularly engages with the audience through polls and often shares video game-related memes to resonate and establish a stronger connection with its members.

It also frequently posts updates regarding upcoming games.

4. Build an email list

A well-implemented email marketing strategy helps generate more sales in two ways.

First, email marketing helps persuade prospects who may not be ready yet to make a purchase — but have shown an interest in your business — to convert later down the road.

For example, informative newsletters or discount codes may be just enough to nudge prospects to purchase.

Second, emails are useful to keep existing customers in the loop and encourage further purchases through personalized product recommendations and product-related tips or updates.

Either way, you'll first need to incentivize prospects to give out their email addresses. Here's how Beardbrand encourages email signups on its website:

The copy clearly states the benefits of signing up and offers a brief overview of the newsletter's contents, which gives prospects a further incentive to type in their details.

You could also persuade users to sign up through discount codes or e-books in exchange for their details.

Notice how the sign-up form only includes three form fields — it asks for just enough information without overwhelming prospects with too many details.

Beardbrand asks for the customer's first and last name to send out personalized emails.

You can implement similar forms on your website's footers, checkout pages, and so on.

You should also consider email segmentation.

This process divides your email list into multiple groups based on criteria like behavior, interests, or demographics.

Email segmentation allows you to create multiple smaller email campaigns tailored to each separate audience group, which can lead to more conversions.

5. Make short (and long-form) videos

Due to their viral potential, short-form videos are excellent for boosting brand awareness and reaching new prospects.

Meanwhile, long-form videos help keep these new prospects interested in your company and establish yourself as an industry expert through more informative, in-depth content.

Employing both video content formats in your marketing initiatives helps build a loyal customer base.

Here's how Nomad Capitalist applies this strategy on his YouTube channel:

This short-form video briefly explains why crypto investors should consider a second passport.

The content is straight-to-point and offers viewers just enough information to encourage them to learn more about the topic.

That's where the long-form content comes in.

The YouTube Short links to a 22-minute video covering the topic in detail and educates viewers about why they should get a second citizenship, what passports to pick, and other best practices.

Once viewers are familiar with the topic, they can sign up for the company's services on Nomad Capitalist's website.

As such, Nomad Capitalist built a solid sales funnel — the short-form content attracts attention and sparks the viewer's curiosity, the long-form video earns the viewer's trust through large amounts of useful information, and the website nudges the viewer to convert.

This tactic also works for other formats, like tutorials, how-to guides, or video story-telling.

For instance, Beardbrand's YouTube channel uses short and long-form videos for before/after transformation-type content.

These videos are more entertaining than informative, but they do an excellent job of hinting at what the company's products are capable of, and simultaneously keep viewers engaged.

6. Do SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps raise brand awareness and drive more website traffic.

SEO involves optimizing your website's pages to appear higher on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Although there are numerous SEO tactics, content marketing is particularly powerful for small businesses.

Search engines value helpful content above anything else.

In-depth blog posts covering your areas of expertise tell search engines that your website is authoritative and rank it higher in the SERP.

Here's how Asian Beauty Essentials, a cosmetics brand, uses content marketing strategies to rank high in organic search results:

Although an eCommerce store, Asian Beauty Essentials features a comprehensive blog that covers all sorts of beauty-related topics.

The blog posts are not purely made to please the algorithm; they also educate the target audience about skincare routines and makeup tips through informative content.

They also help draw in new potential customers by appealing to visitors who look up actionable information covering these topics — not necessarily products.

Here's a snippet of one of Asian Beauty Essentials' blog posts featured on the first page of the search engine results:

To increase your chances of having your blogs reach the top spots of organic search results, make sure to adhere to the following SEO best practices:

Conduct keyword research

Identify search terms your target audience uses when looking up information related to your niche and determine their search intent.

Create and optimize content

Use the identified keywords to create optimized content that offers genuine and helpful information. Structure your content into sub-headings, include internal links, and prioritize readability.

Include relevant visuals

Visuals in your blogs help improve the reading experience and lead to higher dwell times and lower bounce rates — which are direct ranking factors.

They also give you the opportunity to include keywords in your image alt text.

If you run a physical business, there's also local SEO to consider.  This process optimizes your online presence to rank higher in local search results.  

Although a blog covering local topics helps, there are a few local SEO-specific best practices you need to follow. Let's go through some of the essentials:

Claim your Google Business Profile

Create a GMB account and include all the required information.

Optimize your website for local SEO

Identify local keywords relevant to your business and create dedicated pages for these search terms. Set up a contact page, add local schema to your website, and ensure your website is mobile-friendly.

Create NAP (Name, address, Phone Number) citations

Check local business directories and ensure your company's name, address, and phone number are consistent across all listings. Include the same details on your website.

A dedicated SEO platform like Surfer can help you perform SEO tasks without needing the expertise or knowledge.

From keyword research to writing optimized content with AI assistance, Surfer's SEO tools help small businesses reach their potential on search result pages.

7. Try paid advertising platforms

SEO and social media marketing can take a while until you see results.

However, running paid advertisements on platforms like Google, Meta, or TikTok is an excellent strategy to support your ongoing organic marketing efforts and place your business in front of a large pool of potential customers as soon as possible.

The main advantage of most paid advertising platforms is that you can select the audiences your ads reach based on target demographics, interests, location, or even social media pages your audience frequently engages with.

For example, Pura Vida Bracelets mainly runs its ad campaigns on Instagram and Facebook.

The platforms' emphasis on visuals helps the company showcase its products in the best possible light, while their audience targeting tools ensure the ads reach people interested in fashion, travel, and social causes.

Regardless of the paid advertising platform you pick, continuously perform A/B tests to ensure your ads are as effective as possible.

This process tests multiple variations of the same ad to identify which version brings the best results in terms of click-throughs, impressions, conversions, and more.

Google Adwords, TikTok, and Meta have built-in A/B testing capabilities.

8. Optimize Google Business Profile

Although we briefly touched on the topic, an optimized Google Business Profile is key to ranking high on local search results and Google Maps.

Here's what a fully optimized account looks like:

The listing includes all the necessary details a potential customer may find useful — from opening hours to areas of operations, contact details, photos, and so on.

The more details you include in your Google Business Profile, the higher the chances of having search engines rank your company high in local listings.

As such, make sure to include all the required details when claiming your account, along with high-quality photos and videos of your business — don't leave any boxes unchecked.

Also, the details you include must match the information displayed on your business website and other business directories.

This lets Google verify your business's legitimacy.

Remember to update your profile consistently with new photos and respond to customer reviews.

This helps maintain high positions in local search listings, and customers are much more likely to visit a business that's visibly active online.

9. Don't neglect offline marketing strategies

Although old-school, a well-placed billboard can get local businesses just as much visibility as occupying the top spots of organic search listings.

Other marketing tactics like flyers, posters, and newspaper or magazine advertisements are still highly effective at spreading brand awareness in your local area too.

Most importantly, try to get involved in local events.

This is an excellent way to establish a foothold in your area and have your business become a household name — just like what Stumptown Coffee Roasters does.

Stumptown regularly sponsors events around its local areas to increase visibility and generate more impact in the community.

The company also partners with other local businesses, like music shops and bookstores, whose communities align with Stumptown's values.

Stumptown also successfully blends offline with online marketing strategies.

The business actively uses social media to promote its sponsored events and attract more participants, while partnering with other physical businesses helps put the company in front of similar local audiences.

10. Partner with local influencers

69% of consumers trust product recommendations from influencers over any other type of promotional marketing materials.

Partnering with local influencers that share similar values and audiences can significantly boost trust, awareness, and ultimately increase sales.

For instance, the beauty brand Glossier uses this marketing strategy to its full potential.

The brand mainly partners with micro-influencers (personalities with 10,000 to 100,000 followers), which is a significant factor in the brand's success.

Although micro-influencers have considerably smaller follower counts than more prominent social media personalities, their follower bases are generally tightly knit and loyal.

As such, micro-influencers are perceived as more trustworthy and their social media posts experience higher engagement levels.

This makes their audiences much more receptive to brand collaborations, which in turn, encourages brand awareness through word of mouth.

Case in point, 70% of Glossier's online sales come from peer-to-peer referrals.

Another advantage of working with micro-influencers is that they are more cost-effective compared to macro-influencers. Some will create content in exchange for a free product sample, while others accept payments on a pay-per-post model.

In any case, finding influencers with similar audiences to yours is what's most important here.

Look up potential partnerships via hashtags relevant to your niche on social media platforms.

Dedicated influencer discovery tools also help determine an influencer's follower base authenticity — some personalities purchase fake followers to trick brands into partnerships.

11. Build a referral program

Similarly, a referral program can also encourage word-of-mouth marketing.

For instance, Harry's popularity skyrocketed through a well-implemented referral strategy.

The company offered existing subscribers a $5 discount for each friend they managed to bring into the company via referral links, while new customers also got the same discount.

This strategy contributed to 77% of the company's total email signups during pre-launch.

Its tiered referral system also helped Harry's build a loyal customer base — the more people customers referred, the higher the rewards they received over time.

This encouraged subscribers to become actively involved in attracting new customers.

Spreading the word about your referral program across all your marketing channels is key — it brings awareness to your customer base and gets the ball rolling.

12. Highlight customer testimonials and credentials

In contrast to regular reviews, testimonials are usually solicited by the company and offer more detailed explanations as to how the business helped address a specific customer’s issues.

This helps give prospects the extra reassurance they may need before completing a conversion.

For example, each of The Matian Firm's testimonials highlights a particular problem the company solved and how they did it.

This gives prospects a better idea of the law firm's expertise and helps them determine whether their issues can be resolved as well.

The customers' names and areas act as additional social proof, demonstrating that these testimonials come from genuine people — if possible, including pictures of your customers is also a good idea.

It's recommended to place testimonials in your homepage's below-the-fold section or on a dedicated testimonials page to give visitors some time to warm up to your company and ensure your testimonials have maximum impact.

Otherwise, you may risk coming across as pushy and drive prospects away.

You can also highlight testimonials in promotional email campaigns and occasionally share them on social media — it shows followers you care about customer feedback and simultaneously puts your product or service in a positive light.

As for gathering testimonials, post-purchase surveys or feedback forms are highly effective. Customer interviews or asking customers for testimonials in person or via email also works.

13. Invite affiliates

Affiliate marketing works similarly to referral programs — you rely on other parties to bring in new customers through incentives.

The key difference is that affiliate marketing targets other businesses deemed authoritative within your niche, like blogs, publishers, and influencers — not existing customers.

An affiliate's job is to mention your products or services in their marketing materials and drive their audience to your website via affiliate links.

These marketing materials mostly take the form of product reviews and comparisons, mentions in listicle-type posts, social media endorsements, and so on.

Affiliates then receive commissions for the sales generated through their marketing channels.

Here's how Ruggable handles its affiliate program:

Ruggable gives its affiliates up to 6% commission of sales generated through their efforts, along with other perks like exclusive deals.

Most notably, the company gives its affiliates the resources necessary to promote their products more effectively, like access to Ruggable's full product catalog and in-house affiliate teams.

Just like with referral programs, it's important to incentivize affiliates to bring in as many customers as possible.

Competitive commission rates are a must. Although rates differ from industry to industry, the average commission rate sits at 5% to 30%.

Providing access to your online marketing tool stack is also highly recommended — it helps affiliates promote your products or services more effectively and drive more sales.

In any case, working with the right affiliates is most important here. Like with influencers, your affiliates must share an audience that aligns with your target market. This ensures their content reaches as many potential customers as possible.

14. Use marketing tools

A proper online marketing strategy involves a lot of work—keyword research, writing relevant content, finding the right influencers and affiliates, managing social media accounts, and so on.

The good news is that plenty of marketing tools help you with just that.

These software solutions offer the features necessary to streamline your marketing activities and save you money on hiring additional employees.

For instance, platforms like Surfer handle SEO tasks, from keyword research to content optimization, enabling businesses to rank higher in search results without needing an SEO expert.

Social media management tools like Buffer allow scheduling posts and analyzing engagement, simplifying social media strategies.

Canva provides easy-to-use templates for creating professional visuals, negating the need for a graphic designer.

Email marketing platforms like ConvertKit automate email campaigns, including A/B testing and audience segmentation, ensuring effective customer communication.

Referral programs and affiliate marketing can be managed through tools like ReferralCandy, which integrate seamlessly with eCommerce platforms.

7 small business marketing tools

These tools offer intuitive interfaces and often come with tutorials and support, making it easy for business owners to implement sophisticated marketing strategies on their own.

Let's briefly explain the small business marketing tools that will help you implement marketing campaigns.

Google Search Console [for website [performance]

Google Search Console helps you identify ranking opportunities and fix any potential issues that may impact your website's SEO — anything from search traffic reports to insights about your website's performance and usability.

The platform's traffic analytics capabilities also help you uncover key details about your website visitors.

You can identify the countries they come from, the devices they use, and what search queries led them to your website.

Its performance and usability reports highlight any website errors. For instance, the platform can identify 404 error pages and whether your web copy is too small to read or if clickable elements are too close to each other.

Google Search Console is free of charge.

Google Analytics [to track visitors]

Google Analytics goes into more detail in the traffic analytics department.

The platform reveals what pages attract the most visitors, how much time users spend on each specific page, what traffic sources they come from, and so on.

Google Analytics also gives you in-depth insights regarding your target audience. Its reports help uncover your audience's demographics and main interests.

Google Analytics is also free to use.

Canva [for design]

Canva is a graphics design tool that allows you to build visuals for all of your marketing needs — from graphics for your blogs and social media posts to logos, website layouts, and even visuals for print advertising.

The platform gives you access to a broad library of ready-made templates, while its AI-powered tools help you streamline the video/photo editing process.

There's a free plan available, while paid packages start at $15 per user per month.

Surfer [for SEO]

Surfer is an SEO tool that helps your blogs reach the top spots of the organic search results.

The platform's keyword research tool allows you to uncover high-volume keywords related to a specific topic.

You can then create articles yourself or, you can let Surfer handle all the writing for you.

The platform's AI-powered writer generates SEO-optimized headings, outlines, and complete blog posts.

Here's an example of SEO mistakes that small businesses make.

Surfer can also help you identify low-hanging opportunities in existing pages, and walk you through how to improve them.

Pricing starts at $89 per month with a 14-day free trial available.

Buffer [for social media]

Buffer is an all-in-one social media management solution that helps keep track of your social media accounts.

You can schedule social media posts through a drag-and-drop interface, while the platform's analytics will reveal insights regarding their engagement and impressions, as well as hashtag and audience reports.

Buffer also integrates natively with Shopify to compare social media and Shopify performance side-by-side.

There's a free version available, while paid plans start at $6 per month.

ConvertKit  [for emails]

ConvertKit packs sales and email features into a powerful marketing tool.

The platform allows you to set up customizable landing pages with built-in email capture forms and checkout processes.

As for email marketing, ConvertKit includes A/B testing — you can test multiple subject lines and see which ones bring you better open rates.

The platform also lets you set up and schedule email campaigns through customizable templates.

Additionally, CovertKit runs a Sponsored Network program that helps you find affiliate partners.

There's a free plan available, while paid packages start at $15 per month.

ReferralCandy [for referrals]

ReferralCandy allows you to build referral programs and promote them via emails, your website, and social media accounts.

The platform natively integrates with Shopify, WooCommerce, MailChimp, Magento, and BigCommerce — you can run your referral program as well as its email marketing campaign within the same platform.

Pricing starts at $59 per month.

Key takeaways

  • Defining customer personas and your brand's UVP are key first steps for a successful small business marketing strategy.
  • Leverage SEO content and social media marketing tactics to build brand awareness and attract more traffic. Paid advertising campaigns help boost these efforts.
  • Focus your social media marketing strategies on a few networks for the best possible results. Pick platforms where most of our audience is most likely active and adjust your tactics based on what content works best on your chosen network.
  • Short and long-form videos are excellent ways to attract new potential customers and maintain their interest in your company.
  • Use local SEO strategies and set up a fully optimized GMB profile to build a local presence. Offline marketing tactics also help here.
  • Work with influencers and affiliates to promote your company to a large audience. Leverage your existing customers and implement a referral program to attract new prospects.
  • Use email marketing and audience segmentation to keep customers in the loop and encourage further purchases.
  • Use dedicated marketing tools to streamline your efforts and bring better results.

Conclusion

Although implementing the tactics mentioned above may initially seem overwhelming, take everything one step at a time.

First, identify your ideal customer and define your brand's UVP. Then pick the appropriate network for your social media marketing strategy. After that, you can expand on your website, set up a blog, and focus on SEO.

From there, you can launch your email marketing campaigns, collect and showcase your testimonials, work on a referral program, and so on.  

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