Everyone loves an underdog story.
This is why I genuinely love seeing small businesses succeed online. SMB success, underdog story–it’s one and the same. One of my favorite examples is my favorite whisky bar in Amsterdam called J.D. Williams Whisky Bar.
Table of Contents
Root, Root For the Home Team
Okay, I’m not from Amsterdam. But small businesses face the same hurdles all over the world–namely goliath corporations gobbling them up. No corporate world bashing intended but they do have quite the appetite.
That’s why you need to put your game face on just like this small but savvy bar tucked away in Amsterdam. If you look them up online, you’ll find that they have a well-branded, cohesive:
- Instagram account
- An active Facebook account
- Brand voice
- Smart paid marketing
- Smart SEO (multi-lingual, etc)
Small businesses like J.D. Williams have unique advantages and challenges with digital marketing. You’re small and thus don’t have a huge budget, but because you are small you can speak directly to your audience and find your best customer that allows you to continue to build your business.
After all–as privacy policies focused on data utilization and storage become increasingly stringent–I absolutely agree that community building and organic engagement are vital pieces of any successful digital strategy.
That shared interest is your specific industry–and by extension–your brand.
Aside from more organic engagement with your audience, you get to be scrappy in your marketing and leverage channels like Local SEO, in-person events, and much more.
After all, why not? Don’t settle for second best. Find your USPs (unique selling proposition) and use them!
We all run out of marketing ideas sometimes and need some inspiration. And sometimes it’s fun to brainstorm as many ideas as you can to get the creative juices flowing.
Here are 31 digital marketing ideas for small businesses that have worked over nearly a decade running two digital companies. Pick the ones that you think might work for you, and put them into action!
1) Build links to your website (SEO)
SEO is driven by links from other websites to your website. By building more authoritative links back to your website, whether through high-quality directories, better business bureaus, or business partners you’ll be better able to rank in the search engines for the keywords that matter to your business.
2) Gather email addresses of customers
Email addresses are the currency of the web. With an email address, you can do many things, which we’ll cover down below. But it all starts with getting that email address. Whether that’s through Stripe, a physical sheet of paper at a physical store, or required sign-in or sign-up to your store, get that email and get permission to contact each.
3) Start a weekly newsletter to local customers
As a marketer, I am constantly amazed at how many businesses do not do even basic email marketing. Commit to emailing your above-mentioned email list at least once a week, offering a discount or something of value to them.
4) Offer discounts for check-ins on Yelp and Facebook
Guess what? People still check in on Yelp and Facebook. This is a great way to do local marketing. Have them show you that they just checked in on their social media app of choice and give them a specified discount.
5) Write five keyword-targeted blog posts
Search engine optimization works, and it’s often driven by content. Go do some keyword research and write five blog posts targeted towards those keywords, then spend as much time promoting them as you did writing.
6) Use Buffer to schedule consistent social media content
Buffer is a free tool (also with paid options) that allows you to schedule content across all of your social media accounts. Because your audience will come to expect it, consistency is key. Use Buffer to be more consistent.
7) Reward your repeat customers
8) Get more reviews on Yelp
Yelp is the most used tool for restaurant recommendations and reviews, so ask your customers to leave you a review of their time at your restaurant. Providing them with an amazing experience and asking for a review is a major win and an excellent way to get new customers in the door–as long as your service was up to snuff!
9) Buy ads to target your email list on Facebook
Remember that email list you started building in step 2? You can upload those email addresses to Facebook and retarget them there to bring them back to your business. Specific agencies specialize in running such campaigns.
10) Promote tweets in your local area
Depending on your audience, promoting tweets in your local area or on hashtags specific to your area can be great for business, and still relatively cheap. Twitter is alive and well!
11) Offer discounts for giving you an email address
There are many ways to get emails, and incentivizing people is one of the most effective ways to do it. Think about this – get them to sign up using a landing page, send them a discount code to use with their next purchase via a MailChimp triggered email, then drop them into your weekly drip.
12) Create an Instagram account
Instagram is still one of the fastest growing social networks, and every business can be visual. It’s where your customers are, especially if you have a younger audience, so be where they are.
13) Create a TikTok account
Everything I just said above applies here–maybe more. If you are of a Millenial-ish age–like me–TikTok can take some time to figure out but it is an incredibly powerful way to engage your audience.
14) Create a Pinterest account
Pinterest was a Silicon Valley darling back in 20111/2012 when its growth exploded. They now boast over 475 million users, so you can be sure there’s an audience there for your business. Start off by creating a Pinterest account, creating a few boards from doing some keyword research, and go from there.
15) Promote pins on Pinterest
Pinterest allows you to promote pins to followers and new audiences. If you’re an online business, especially in a B2C niche, this might be something to explore.
16) Write an ebook
eBooks are a great way to show your authority and knowledge of a topic, and if you are a fast writer then it doesn’t have to take that long to write a great ebook! Get your outline in place, do your writing, pass it off to a great editor, then publish and promote (and don’t forget to do a bit of pre-promotion to get reviews ahead of time). And remember that email list? This is another great way to get more email addresses.
17) Put a Facebook retargeting pixel on your website
Sometimes people come to our websites, look around, and then leave never to be seen again. If you have the Facebook retargeting pixel on your site, you can then serve them super targeted ads and bring them back to your website to complete their purchase. You can also retarget them on Facebook.
Note: This strategy is going to change dramatically as privacy issues become a central focus in marketing.
18) Sync profile photos across social media accounts
Consistency across social media is important. If you have different profile photos across your business accounts, go streamline them. Make it a front-facing, well-lit photo–if you can. The easier you are to recognize, the more people who have already come across you in the past will trust you.
19) Do keyword research for your website
SEO is super important to online businesses or businesses who promote themselves online (read: everyone). So, learn how to do keyword research and then create pages on your site for those keywords and build some links to get them ranking. If you want some help with that, here are some superstars to lead the way.
20) Write new website copy to increase conversions
I bet you’d love to make more money from the eyeballs or customers you’ve already earned. Rewriting your website copy to focus it on conversion and driving people to that goal is a great way to do it.
21) Update your website’s imagery
The internet is visual. Keep it fresh! Having eye-catching imagery (especially video) on your website can help your customers feel more at ease and they will convert better as well. And help improve your bounce rate.
22) Check Search Console and redirect 404s
If you operate a website for your business, you need to have Search Console verified for your domain. Navigate to Crawl Errors and find the URLs that are currently 404 on your site and redirect them to the right place.
23) Promote blog posts to website users on Facebook
We’ve already talked about many ways to promote things on Facebook. Sometimes your users have a longer conversion time and need to see your content often, especially if it’s a higher price item. Promote your blog posts directly to these audiences and watch the revenue come in.
24) Pitch a guest post or three
If you are a writer and your audience is a blogging one, or reads blogs, then make connections with blog owners in your niche and offer to write content directly for their audience. You get in front of a new audience as well as likely get some new links back to your website. Read more on guest posting best practices here.
25) Sign up to HARO and contact journalists
Help A Reporter Out is a great way to connect with journalists writing about things you know about. Even if it’s not directly related to your business, getting your name out there can be a great way to increase your online exposure.
26) Re-optimize website pages for keyword research
You’ve already learned a bit about keyword research in this article, so another way to increase your traffic is to go back and find keywords that might convert better than your currently targeted keywords and re-optimize your existing pages for those terms. HitTail is a great way to find long tail keywords that you rank for and convert well, which you can improve your rankings for.
27) Interlink social media accounts and your website
Search engines are giving a slight rankings boost to known entities, and this is often done by connecting multiple properties owned by the same business or person to one another. If you’ve ever seen a box on the side of a search result for a branded query and their social media profiles, this is why that is happening. So go link all your profiles together.
28) Claim your Google My Business listings
If you run a physical business, you need Local SEO to help you grow your business by getting your listing in the map pack for important searches in your area. One of the things they do is make sure that your Google My Business profile is claimed, set up, and optimized properly.
29) Use Moz Local/Yext to clean up your business’s online citations
Another major element of Local SEO is ensuring that all of your business mentions online have the same Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) consistently. Use one of the available tools online to help you do this.
30) Pitch a conference
If public speaking is not one of your biggest fears in life, then pitching and speaking at a conference can be a great marketing tactic for your business, especially on the supplier side.
31) Create a slide presentation and post on SlideShare
SlideShare, owned by LinkedIn, is a fantastic place to show off your beautiful and helpful slide presentations. Post your above-mentioned conference presentations and get some friends and colleagues to share it to get on the trending homepage. SlideShare is fantastic for B2B purposes.
32) Get out and talk with your customers
The best way to know what to do for your customers online is to speak with them, so get outside or active on online forums and learn from them, then go give them that!
33) Serve ads to your competitor’s customers
Are you a local business? Did you know that you can create ads around a specific general location? Why not then create an ad that shows to the people who are currently eating at your competitor’s restaurant, or whatever your business is?
34) Advertise around related businesses
Do you own an ice cream shop? You know that everyone at the Mexican restaurant next door is drinking margaritas and eating salty food while staring at their phones. Why not serve an ad around that restaurant that advertises your ice cream shop?
35) Create a video course
Online video is blowing up as a format that people love to consume. YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine. Did you know that? You can tell many stories better on video than in text or in image format. And getting started with video can be pretty simple with just an iPhone and a tripod.
You can even monetize the courses for an additional source of income:
36) Go to conferences
The best place to meet like-minded people in person is at conferences. It doesn’t matter if it is a small local conference or your industry’s biggest annual conference. Be there and meet people, have a presence.
37) Sponsor a sports team
If you’re a local business, like a car dealership, sponsor your daughter’s baseball team. You’re supporting a good cause and getting directly in front of your ideal audience.
38) Ask your customers what questions they have
Then create marketing materials speaking directly to these needs. Use their questions and pains in ads, in blog posts, and all over. Speak to what your customers are feeling and you’ll get more of them.
What do you think? How have you been marketing your small business?
Ready to find a marketing pro to help you grow your biz?