Competing with the big dogs may seem overwhelming, but remember that there are some advantages to marketing for small business. When you make a decision, you can implement it right then and there. No need to have a board meeting or run it through a chain of supervisors. What does this mean for your marketing efforts? You get to have fun and be creative. With a host of small business tools at your disposal, the sky is the limit.
Here are 10 creative ideas you can use for marketing your small business.
1. Create a fictional persona
What do Tony the Tiger, Aunt Jemima and the Geico Gecko have in common? They’re all fictional characters made up to market a brand. The brands each icon represents have become massive, but that doesn’t mean you have to be big to have a big personality. If you think it’s right for your brand, create a fictional persona to be your spokesperson.
2. Run a contest
Larger businesses run contests all the time, but do you know how much red tape they have through? As a small business, your marketing team or person has a major advantage here. Just be sure to follow the rules of your state and country, and if you have any questions, consult a lawyer.
3. Encourage check-ins
If you have a local business, check-ins are like gold; maybe even platinum. “Hey, Martha’s at XYZ Coffeehouse. Let’s go meet her there!” Or, “I haven’t been there in a while. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.” Whether on Facebook or Foursquare, check-ins are like billboard advertising, word-of-mouth and a recommendation all rolled in to one free marketing effort.
4. Get creative with QR codes
Do you manufacture a product? If so, you may want to consider printing QR codes on the packaging. You can also add QR codes to things like postcards and fliers. Just keep in mind that someone will only scan a QR code if they think they’re going to get something out of the deal. So coupons, recipes and contest entries are all good ideas.
5. Create a viral video
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Can you have a viral video before it goes viral? Technically, not, but you can use humor, cuteness or shock value to help it along. Celebrity endorsements or cameos also help, but it’s not always easy to land such things on a small business marketing budget.
6. Announce an offer to a celebrity.
Want to get a celebrity involved in your marketing campaign without paying him or her? There’s a way to do it, and it’s called newsjacking. Here’s how it works. Monitor the news for any story that you can even remotely relate back to your business. Let’s say you own and operate a vegan restaurant, and you read that a celeb is trying a 30-day vegan challenge (a la Beyonce and Jay-Z). Write a press release inviting the celeb (or celeb couple) for a free meal. They may or may not take you up on it, but there’s a chance someone will find your offer newsworthy.
7. Run customer of the month promos
Employee of the month campaigns are great for morale, but what about boosting the morale of your customers? When customers know you’re acknowledging their greatness, they are much more likely to frequent your business and to recommend your services to their friends.
8. Fun customer satisfaction surveys
Want to learn how to become a better small business marketer? It’s easy. Just ask your customers what you’re doing right (and what you’re doing wrong). Always offer an incentive for them to take their own time to let you know how you’re doing. Contests and drawings usually work well. And don’t be stodgy about it. Use real talk and your customers are likely to be more honest with you.
9. Create an exclusive buyer’s club
This one works really well if you manufacture your own goods, but it can work for other shops and even service providers. The key is to create an environment that makes customers feel like they’ve joined a club just by purchasing your product. Ask them to upload images of them using it and consider giving your loyal fans and followers.
10. Send text updates
There’s a fine line between convenient and intrusive here, and you want to be sure not to cross it. Be sure to keep those updates useful and use them sparingly. If you’re having a really big sale, your customers will probably want to know. Send one text and walk away. If they’re interested, they’ll stop by. If they deleted your text, it was for a reason. Maybe they’re out of town or don’t have the disposable income at the moment. Don’t be a pest, and they’ll let you keep texting until they’re finally interested.