Marketing Ideas for Small Business: The Ultimate Guide

small business owner happy with her marketing

To thrive in the modern business world its important to understand how to market your small business. A recent survey shows establishing customer relationships through marketing and advertising is the second biggest concern amongst independent business owners after increasing revenue.

For many small businesses, marketing is a do-it-yourself endeavor. Research shows 46 percent of small business owners handle all of the marketing on their own – and it’s a time-consuming process.

To help, Fivestars has created a comprehensive guide that focuses on marketing ideas for small businesses.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Download our free small business customer loyalty success guide to learn how to drive customers back 2x more.

Why marketing is so important for SMBs

Marketing your brand and product is essential for the success of your business. Through marketing you:

  • Introduce your products and brand to customers

Driving interests in your products through marketing is critical to generating more revenue for your company. Effective marketing also spreads brand awareness and brings in new customers and loyal customers.

  • Improve customer retention

Good marketing also increases customer retention. Consistent marketing to your existing customers base can keep satisfaction levels high and profits rolling in.

  • Build a reputation

Through marketing, you shape the way customers see your business. You build a reputation that customers can trust. In doing so, customers see your business as an asset to the community and a place they choose to do business with.

  • Encourage competition

As you focus on how to market a small business, you’ll differentiate yourself from competitors. You’ll share price points, product benefits and testimonials that shape the way competitors respond.

Marketing tactics every business can use

Are you wondering specifically how to market a small business? Finding creative ways to market your business can be challenging especially for those with limited resources, but we have a list of marketing tactics that every business can use. Take a look:

  • Set up a loyalty program

One of the best ways to market your business is to show customers what sets your business apart. Having a great loyalty program can differentiate your business from the crowd.

Plus, consumers are 80 percent more likely to shop at a store that has a loyalty program, according to research from Technology Advice.

Structure your loyalty program so customers get a gift fairly early in the process, and give them a chance to earn bigger products as they collect more points. The redemption process should be simple too, without any customer hassle.

On the business end, you should look for a loyalty program that works alongside your point-of-sale system, helps you collect customer data and offers simple ways to communicate with your members, like text messaging.

Pro Tip: Look for a loyalty program that lets you schedule and segment promotions. The ability to schedule a promotion and send it at a later date is a great time saver, and segmenting your list allows you to send tailored promotions to special groups like new customers or VIPs.

  • Host an event or class

Market your business by hosting an event or a class, like wine tasting, cooking classes or retirement workshops. You can make the event as simple or as elaborate as you’d like, but it should offer customers some valuable advice.

Promote the event through in-store signage, give customers a flier when they checkout, talk about the event on social media and consider inviting customers through direct mail or email too.

Pro Tip: Create an event on Facebook to advertise it. You can invite people through Facebook, and in return, your fans can RSVP and find out more details. Here’s how to create an event on Facebook.

  • Team up with a local charity

Small businesses invest in their community, often by partnering with local non-profits. In fact, ninety percent of small businesses donate to local charities. By doing so, you not only help local residents, you also market your business.

When you sponsor a baseball team, volunteer during the 5k pet walk or collect canned goods for the local food shelf, you show your customers that you care about the area.

Research shows 33 percent of consumers seek out businesses that are doing social good.

  • Create unique business cards

Business cards are an essential piece of marketing material, but dull, white business cards aren’t going to cut it.

Eighty-eight percent of business cards get thrown away in less than a week, but vibrant, colored business cards are kept on average ten times longer than plain white cards, according to Adobe.

It’s time to spice up your business cards. Consider adding your picture to the card, make sure your logo is in color and consider printing on cardstock that’s clear or thicker than usual.

  • Attend trade shows

Trade shows put your product or service in front of interested customers.

Research shows 49 percent of customers that attend a trade show plan to buy a product they were introduced to, and 81 percent of visitors remember products they learned about, according to Statista. In other words, you can increase both your sales and product recognition by attending trade shows.

Pro Tip: To find trade shows that focus on your industry, check out listing sites like or

  • Run frequent promotions

Customers love a good deal, and if they’re saving some money at your store you can bet they’re sharing that news with friends and family.

Word of mouth is still the highest ranked source of trustworthiness, according to Nielsen, so offering a coupon, running a sale or giving products away with a minimum purchase helps you market your business.

Pro Tip: To help create unique promotions, check out this article, 12 Months of Promotion Ideas Fit for Any Business.

  • Join local networking groups

Get connected and spread the word about your business by joining local networking groups like the local chamber of commerce or business association.

The purpose of local groups like these is to support one another. The people that you meet will likely end up as customers at some point, or refer customers to you in an effort to help small businesses thrive.

Local groups also participate in events, which also present opportunities for you to market your business to new customers.

  • Generate website traffic

Eighty-one percent of customers conduct research online before making a purchase, according to Ad Week. Your website might be the first thing a potential customer sees, so it’s important that your website is fresh, informative and mobile-friendly.

Understanding how to market a small business online means utilizing your website. Here are some ways to drive traffic to your site and store:

  • Add your store logo and website to your email signature
  • Write a guest blog post and include links to your website
  • Post website links on social media
  • Put a link to your website on your social profiles
  • Offer coupons on your website that are redeemable in store

Download our free small business customer loyalty success guide to learn how to drive customers back 2x more.

How to market a small business with social media 

To market your business in the modern era, a social media presence is critical. Sixty-five percent of American adults use social media, which is nearly a tenfold jump in the last decade, according to Pew Research. Given this trend, every brand should use social channels to reach out to new and existing customers.

If you’re unsure how to market a small business on social media, here are several tips to get started:

  • Host a contest or a giveaway

Get your customers involved by hosting a contest or a giveaway on social media. Seventy percent of companies are using social contests or games to promote their business online.

You can ask customers to participate by submitting photos, writing essays or sharing the contest with others.

Contests not only boost engagement, but they can also help you collect customer data. Have customers provide their name and email address to enter the contest and use it to send messages straight to their inbox later on.

Here’s a great example of a giveaway from a small chocolate shop:

marketing idea for a small business on facebook

Pro Tip: Each social site has rules about running contests, so brush up on those before launching anything. To make sure you don’t break the rules, you can use tools like Wishpond or Rafflecopter to help create, launch and monitor your social contest.

  • Start a reoccurring post

Create a reoccurring segment that your customers can learn from and look forward to. Create a topic that’s connected to your business, but that’s broad enough to sustain for a long period of time. Try something like #TipTuesday, or #MeetOurCustomers.

Ulta Beauty shares makeup advice through its reoccurring post, #TipTuesday.

small business marketing idea for a nail salon on facebook

  • Encourage referrals

Ask your customers to refer your business to a friend on social media and reward both parties with loyalty points. Make sure that the number of loyalty points given results in some sort of coupon or incentive to buy. It’s an easy way to attract customers and market both your business and its loyalty program.

Here’s a great example from a spa on Twitter:

Publicity tools to market your small business

Every business needs publicity, but it’s not always easy to get. To help, consider using these tools to get some free (or almost free) press.

Get your business mentioned in the press by connecting with journalists through HARO, or Help a Reporter Out. Journalists post queries on the site, looking for specific sources to help with articles or various assignments. You can respond to queries for free. If you’re selected, the journalist reaches out for a quote and typically includes a link back to your business in the article.

If you’re looking for a celebrity endorsement or review, give Contact a Celebrity a try. You can research a huge database of celebrities, get their contact information and reach out to them. Site managers can help you with the process too. It costs $47 for 30 days.

Write an article that showcases your expertise and share it with Thousands of publishers search EZine for fresh content they can use in their newsletters. If selected, your content will be shared with a whole new audience. You can include a short blurb about yourself and your business too.

  • Online business directories

Online business directories are the modern day phone book. When a customer searches for a business online, you want your name, address and phone number to pop up. To do so, you should fill out business profiles on several online directories. Here’s a list of the most popular sites to start with:


Learning how to market a small business is a necessity, and in this digital age the options are more diverse than ever. Since so many business owners wear the marketing hat for their company, it’s important not get overwhelmed. Implement the ideas listed above at your own pace, and before you know it you’ll be a well-oiled marketing machine.



Lisa Furgison
About the Author
Lisa Furgison

Lisa is a writer at Fivestars, a freelance journalist, and co-owner of a media company, McEwen's Media.

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