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A comprehensive guide to small business marketing

A comprehensive guide to small business marketing

In the ever-changing competitive landscape of modern business, small businesses face a unique set of challenges when it comes to standing out and reaching their target audience. While limited budgets and resources may seem like barriers to effective marketing, they also present opportunities for creativity and innovation.

This article will outline the fundamentals of small business marketing—what it is and how it differs from other types of marketing, providing valuable examples and setting out an actionable plan to help you get started. Including tips and ideas for marketing small businesses online and offline and why your marketing mix should be diverse, including both digital and traditional marketing strategies.

Create a website to build your online presence and foster your small business network. 

What is small business marketing?

Small business marketing is the tailored process of promoting products or services by businesses with fewer resources, making use of unique strategies to target audiences effectively. All small business marketing is based on the basic structure of the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.

Small businesses have less marketing muscle, yet more agility compared to bigger companies. While traditional corporate marketing often involves substantial budgets and extensive market research, small business marketing thrives on innovation and experimentation. Rather than adhering to rigid marketing plans, small businesses are free to test new ideas and adjust their strategies based on real-time feedback. 

Small business marketing also prioritizes personalized engagement over mass appeal. While large corporations aim to reach broad audiences using above-the-line advertising channels, like television commercials and billboards, small businesses focus on building intimate connections with their target customers. Below-the-line tactics, such as social media engagement, search engine marketing and community outreach, help small businesses deliver tailored messages that resonate with their customer base, fostering loyalty and trust.

the 4 ps of marketing

15 small business marketing types and ideas

Small business marketing encompasses a variety of strategies—both on and offline, all aimed at effectively reaching and engaging with target audiences to drive business growth.

01. Social media marketing 

Social media has become a pivotal platform for small businesses seeking to expand their reach and brand presence. As more social platforms and trends evolve, social media marketing remains a critical component of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. This is because 55% of customers worldwide discover brands via social media and regularly use it to research a brand when deciding whether to make a purchase.

Social media marketing strategically identifies, engages and captivates a target audience. Get the most out of your small business social media marketing by:

  • Defining goals and key metrics (engagement rates, click-throughs and follower growth)

  • Choosing the most appropriate platforms (those preferred by your target audience and that support the content you intend to share).

  • Posting share-worthy content and optimizing it for social media search.

  • Planning your content using a social media calendar, ensuring posts are staggered, consistent and aligned with relevant dates or events.

Small businesses can also take advantage of influencer marketing when promoting their offers on social media. Smaller creators with more engaged audiences often yield higher levels of trust and authenticity. These micro-influencers are ideal partners for small businesses seeking to establish genuine relationships with their target demographics. 

Another strong social media strategy is to use user-generated content (UGC). You can encourage customers to create and share content featuring your products or services on their social channels. Repurpose user-generated content for your marketing materials to save on content creation costs while leveraging authentic testimonials.

small business marketing via website and social

02. Paid advertising, targeted advertising, PPC (Google Ads)

Paid advertising, including targeted ads and PPC campaigns, helps small businesses reach their potential customers more efficiently. Also, platforms like Google Ads are more cost-effective, as you only pay when someone clicks your ad.

Paid advertising best practice:

  • Start with clear goals, for example, increasing website visits or sales.

  • Target your ads to specific demographics to reach the right audience.

  • Monitor your campaigns regularly and adjust them based on what's proving most effective.

Facebook ads for small business marketing

03. Email marketing

Email marketing is a trusty classic that continues to prove its indispensability, particularly for small businesses. Email marketing offers small businesses a cost-effective, targeted and measurable way to engage with their audience, build relationships and drive results. 

Email marketing tips:

  • Use segmentation to categorize subscribers based on their preferences, behaviors or demographics.

  • Personalize email campaigns. Go beyond addressing recipients by their first name—craft content that speaks directly to their interests and needs.

Tip: Use email marketing tools to create well-designed and personalized email campaigns. Use a business email address for a cohesive and professional look. 

email marketing for small business

04. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing involves partnering with affiliates who promote products or services in exchange for a sales commission, allowing small businesses to expand their reach without upfront costs.

Start by identifying reputable affiliates with audiences that align with your target market and provide them with compelling promotional materials and incentives. Regularly communicate with your affiliates to nurture the relationship and optimize performance.

05. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the silent hero of the digital world. According to a study by Backlinko, the first ten websites on Google's search results snag 86% of all organic clicks.

Optimizing your website and content for search engines increases brand visibility, making it easier for potential customers to find you when they’re searching for the products or services your company offers.

While there are plenty of SEO features to help small businesses boost their websites, the fundamental thinking behind any successful SEO strategy is:

  • Search engines love fresh, relevant content: Regular updates signal to Google that the site is active and up-to-date, boosting its ranking and making it easier for customers to find the small business.

  • Most searches start with a question and your blog can provide the answers: By creating content that addresses the needs and queries of your audience, you position your business as a helpful resource, increasing website ranking and building brand credibility.

06. Content marketing

At a time when so many brands are vying for attention, content marketing helps small businesses to engage audiences with stories they want to hear. Unlike traditional advertising, which often involves a significant upfront investment and escalating costs, effective content marketing allows small businesses to create impactful, engaging material with relatively modest resources.

You can start a blog to deep dive into topics and create infographics to make data more digestible. Try podcasts to give your brand a voice, testimonials to provide potential customers with proof of credibility, or offer interactive content your audience can engage with.

Invest time in creating evergreen content that remains relevant and valuable over time. This content can continue to attract organic traffic and engagement long after it's been published, reducing the need for ongoing content creation expenses.

content marketing strategy infographic

07. Video marketing

Video marketing allows small businesses to convey their brand message in a dynamic and engaging format that captivates audiences. With the widespread popularity of platforms like YouTube and TikTok, videos can reach a vast audience at minimal cost. 87% of marketers say video directly increased sales and helped generate leads.

Use a video maker to keep videos concise, attention-grabbing and optimized for mobile viewing. Utilize storytelling techniques to forge an emotional connection with viewers and showcase your brand’s USP. 

08. Online public relations and press releases

Small businesses can generate buzz, increase brand visibility and attract media attention by distributing press releases through online channels. This cost-effective strategy aids businesses to share their news, achievements and product launches directly with target audiences and relevant journalists.

Press releases in national media bring small businesses global visibility, while local media strengthens community ties.

You can explore various free or low-cost PR tools and services, such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out) or PR distribution platforms like PRLog, to secure media coverage and press mentions without hiring a PR agency.

09. Networking through trade events, professional networks and local marketing 

Before the world went digital, small businesses had to get out there, shake hands and become familiar faces in their communities. This approach still holds a ton of value today, with 83% of international brands crediting event marketing for increasing sales. Trade shows, professional networking events and local marketing activities are also great places to distribute business cards. Try adding qr codes onto relevant merchandise, as these events help get further exposure. 

10. Print advertising and print marketing

Traditional print advertising and marketing methods remain effective for small businesses today, here’s why:

  • Tangibility and permanence: A well-designed brochure or business card can stay with a potential customer for weeks, months or even years, reminding them of your brand.

  • Cut through the digital clutter: With an overwhelming amount of digital content, print materials grab attention in a less saturated space.

  • Builds credibility: Print provides a sense of legitimacy. High-quality materials can elevate the perception of your brand, showcasing professionalism.

How to make different types of print marketing materials work for your small business:

  • Brochures: Great for giving a comprehensive overview of a small business. Keep your content clear, concise and focused.

  • Business cards: Not just for contact information; business cards are representatives of your brand. Focus on clarity, relevance to your brand identity and durability when designing your business cards, ensuring that they effectively represent your brand and leave a positive impression on recipients.

  • Flyers and posters: Ideal for promotions or events. Make sure they include a clear call to action and distribute them in places your target audience frequents.

  • Catalogs: Perfect for showcasing a range of products. High-quality images and engaging descriptions can transform a simple catalog into a compelling sales tool.

For print marketing to contribute towards your overall strategy, they need to reflect your brand's personality and values. Invest in quality design and printing; unique, eye-catching materials can make a lasting impression.

Vistaprint business cards for small business marketing

11. Loyalty programs and discount coupons, promotional marketing

Rewarding customers for their continued support with loyalty programs and discount coupons helps small businesses cultivate long-term relationships and drive sales growth. 

Offer personalized rewards, promote exclusivity and leverage digital platforms for easy redemption. Regularly communicate with customers via various channels to keep them informed about upcoming promotions and exclusive offers, fostering strong customer engagement and customer loyalty

12. Community marketing: events, workshops, tutorials and donations

Organizing local events transforms your small business into an active member of the community. Whether a street fair, workshop, giveaway, charity fundraiser or local conference, events are golden opportunities to introduce your small business to potential customers, drawing them into the marketing funnel. They help put a face to your brand while building relationships that no digital ad can match. 

Don’t forget about virtual events—everything from webinars to Reels can be effective ways to engage with your audience. If you don’t fancy holding an event, you can still show your community that you actively give back by sponsoring a local team, making a donation towards a local cause or collaborating with other local businesses to raise funds. Or co-host events or workshops with other local or small businesses to share resources and split costs. This allows you to reach a broader audience while sharing the financial burden of hosting.

Try finding mutually beneficial partnerships with other small businesses, like exchanging goods or services. For example, a restaurant could offer catering services in exchange for marketing collateral from a local graphic designer.

13. Word of mouth and referral marketing

Harnessing the power of satisfied repeat customers to spread positive recommendations can significantly enhance brand credibility and attract new clientele. Encourage customers to refer friends and family by offering incentives or rewards for successful referrals.

But remember, the only way to truly maximize the benefits of referral marketing is to ensure that the reviews customers leave are positive. Prioritize delivering exceptional customer experience to increase the likelihood of positive word-of-mouth endorsements.

14. Direct mail marketing

Direct mail marketing remains one of the best tools for small businesses to attract new local customers. Highly effective for targeting specific neighborhoods and demographics, it offers a tangible and personalized approach that stands out in a digital world.

Experiment with different mail formats to create eye-catching and informative material. Track the effectiveness of your campaigns by including unique codes, UTM links or URLs for recipients to redeem offers, allowing you to measure ROI and refine your future mailings accordingly. 

15. Guerrilla marketing

Guerrilla marketing campaigns are about creating bold, creative and unconventional shareable moments that grab attention beyond your local area in a way traditional marketing can’t. Done right, the campaign can go viral, allowing small businesses to make a big impact without a huge marketing budget.

To ensure your guerrilla marketing campaign is a success, you need to:

  • Know your audience: Make sure it resonates with your target audience. What are they likely to find funny, surprising or engaging?

  • Be clear with your message: While creativity is important, don’t let your message get lost in the spectacle. Remember, the goal is to promote your business.

  • Think through the location: Choose a spot where you’ll get maximum visibility and your target audience is likely to be.

Small business marketing costs

Small business marketing costs can vary widely depending on the industry, demographic, geographic location and specific marketing strategies employed.

The exact percentage may vary depending on these factors:

  • Business goals

  • Industry competitiveness (more competitive sectors may require higher marketing expenditures)

  • Target market demographics

  • Competitor strategies (to be used for benchmarking)

It's essential for small businesses to carefully budget and prioritize their marketing expenses. By investing strategically in marketing activities that align with their objectives, small businesses can both maximize their return on investment and achieve sustainable growth.

Small business marketing examples

These small businesses built on Wix use effective marketing tools and ideas to connect with their customers. 


CICADA Goods who sells paraben-free, vegan candles effectively taps into ethical impulse buying. Understanding the psychology of selling, CICADA uses the feel-good feeling of earthy, clean ingredients and effectively markets her products to the right audience. What’s more, her products and brand perfectly align with the overall concept of ethical and clean products. For example, all CICADA products are hand poured and crafted in small batches in her Tucson-based studio and are packaged in wildflower seed paper—a biodegradable eco-paper made with post-consumer and post-industrial paper waste.

The brand also leverages holiday marketing ideas. Owner, Stacey McClure, says she always includes her best-seller Cactus blossom candle, “Memory Number 5” in all her curated holiday boxes. This adds a personal touch and shows she knows her product offering well, but also genuinely cares about her customers. What’s more, she hosts pop-up events like a “Valentines Sip and Shop Event” to gain brand exposure and develop meaningful relationships with shoppers.

Sol Cacao 

Founded by three brothers, Dominic, Nicholas and Daniel, Sol Cacao strives to create the finest quality of chocolate. The brothers are involved at every level and have a thorough understanding of each detail—including the manufacturing process, from growing the cacao pods to the actual crafting of the chocolate bars.

They are clearly aware of their best selling products and know both their products and their clients. The brand found co-branding opportunities with other small businesses like their collaboration with Russ and Daughters, a New York culinary and cultural icon, by adding their chocolate into baked goods. They also joined DoorDash’s Accelerator for Local Goods with tens of other local businesses to make their product offering more available.

Sol Cacao has booths at various exhibitions and pop ups, they also hold workshops and tutorials on the history of cacao and chocolate making.

How to get started with small business marketing

Embarking on your small business marketing journey can be both exciting and overwhelming. We've outlined practical steps to kick start your efforts and help you navigate this process with confidence.

Create a marketing plan

A marketing plan serves as a roadmap for small businesses, guiding marketing efforts and ensuring strategic alignment with overarching business objectives. It provides clear direction and focus, helping to allocate resources efficiently and set measurable objectives. A good marketing plan should also track progress, ensure brand consistency and adapt to market conditions.

Use a marketing plan template to create your marketing plan, making sure to cover these bases:

  • Clear goals: Define specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) objectives, such as increasing brand awareness or driving sales.

  • Strategies: Outline the tactics and channels you'll use to achieve your goals, such as social media marketing, email campaigns or content creation.

  • Budget and timeline: Establish a realistic marketing budget and timeline to ensure efficient resource allocation and timely execution.

  • Performance measurement: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) to track campaign success and evaluate return on investment (ROI).

Research your target audience and know your target market

Understanding your target audience is essential for effective marketing. Here's what to consider:

  • Customer demographics: Identify the age, gender, income and other relevant characteristics of your target audience. Understanding specifics about the Gen Alpha or Gen Z consumer can help you narrow in on specific tactics or approaches to communicate effectively. 

  • Behavioral insights: Understanding purchase behavior, preferences and pain points allows small businesses to tailor marketing strategies.

  • Geographic location: Determine potential customers’ location to target markets geographically.

For your small business marketing to be successful, stay updated on industry marketing trends, competitor strategies and consumer preferences to adapt your marketing accordingly.

Set your marketing KPIs

Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you to achieve your business objectives, for instance:

  • Website traffic: Total visits to your website, showing online brand interest and awareness.

  • Conversion rate: Percentage of website visitors completing a desired action, indicating website effectiveness.

  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC): Average cost to acquire a new customer, revealing marketing efficiency.

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV): Total revenue from a customer, assessing customer value.

  • Social media engagement: Likes, shares, comments and followers on social media, measuring audience interaction.

  • Email open and click-through rates: Percentage of email recipients opening and clicking links, gauging email campaign success.

  • Customer retention rate: Percentage of returning customers, showing loyalty and satisfaction levels.

  • Return on Investment (ROI): Ratio of marketing campaign net profit to cost, revealing its profitability.

  • Lead generation rate: Number of leads generated, indicating success in attracting potential customers using lead generation strategies.

  • Brand awareness metrics: Measures of brand recognition, such as mentions and search volume, indicating brand visibility.

Ensure your KPIs are realistic and achievable, avoiding broad or vague metrics. For example, instead of simply saying, Drive traffic to your website,” use a more specific, attainable and time-bound KPI, like increasing website traffic by 20% in the next quarter through targeted SEO and content marketing. 

product sales. for small business marketing

Build your brand identity

Build a cohesive brand identity that makes your small business memorable and differentiates you from other businesses, helping you to stand out in the crowd of competitors. 

Clearly define your brand's essence by articulating its core values, mission and unique selling proposition. Understanding what sets your business apart and what it stands for is crucial for creating a strong foundation that resonates with your audience.

Invest in creating cohesive, memorable and visually appealing brand assets, including logos, color schemes and typography that reflect your brand's personality. Consistency in design across all platforms helps reinforce brand recognition and credibility.

Develop a tone of voice that is distinctive of your brand that speaks to your intended audience. Whether it's friendly and conversational, authoritative and professional, or quirky and humorous, your tone of voice humanizes your brand and creates a deeper connection with your customers.

Authentic engagement with your audience is also vital for building a strong brand identity. Develop compelling storytelling narratives that resonate with your audience's emotions and values. Actively engage with your social media followers, respond to inquiries promptly and foster a sense of community through user-generated content and interactive campaigns.

Tip: Use a logo maker to design a strong logo that can be used across all branding collateral, both on and offline. 

Create a website

Having an online presence is a prerequisite for good business today. Think of a website as your digital storefront, a place where potential customers can visit, regardless of your business offering. 

A well-designed website instills trust and credibility in your brand. It gives the impression that your business is established and legitimate, which is particularly important for small businesses looking to compete with larger competitors.

And, of course, a website dramatically expands your business hours—your digital doors are always open for browsing, shopping and impulsive late-night purchases.

Learn how to make a website for your small business. Explore these customizable business website templates to help get started. 

Tip: Try an AI website builder to bring your small business marketing ideas to life.

small business website for barber shop

Consider partnering with other local or small businesses

Collaborate with other local or small businesses to expand your reach, build community connections, offer added value and make your marketing more cost-effective. Your small business network will become an invaluable asset that you can utilize to grow your own brand. Approach businesses that are aligned with or at a similar stage to yours, and maintain and nurture these mutually beneficial relationships over time.

VistaPrint is a partner of Wix.

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