How To Get the Most Value Out of Your Small Business Advertising

Sean Lund-Brown

Advertising your small business is essential to gain new and repeat customers. However, the costs for advertising can be minimal, with a big impact. It is all about using the right strategies to spend less money more efficiently. There are many different ways to advertise your small business without incurring high costs in our increasingly digital world. But don't forget some old advertising tactics are just as effective at drumming up business.

Let's explore tips and ideas on how to improve your advertising (and get the most value out of it). Some of these ideas are new tips, and others are tried and true methods of getting the most value from your small business advertising.

Hands-on tips to get the best value for your advertising

Generally, the most effective marketing plans rely on various strategies, including social media marketing, email marketing, in-store events, flash sales, and more. Take any chance to share your small business with your local community and beyond! The more you are exposed to potential customers, the more likely your business will convert them into paying customers.

The list below provides relatively low-cost (or free) ways to advertise your business. Remember that every business is different, and every strategy listed below might not be the best fit for your particular situation.

Start local

Being involved in the local community is a huge plus for most small businesses. This allows you to be visible and more well-known in the community. Furthermore, it is a positive for your local community.

Consider donations, food drives, volunteer work, or even sponsoring a local festival! Any of these ideas will make your small business more recognizable while providing a tangible benefit to your community.

Be supportive of the local youth

Don't forget to reach out to a local school. Schools are especially important if your business caters to kids or teens. Sponsor a little league baseball team, advertise on your local elementary school's newsletter, or start a book drive. You can support local children in the area in many ways and bring more eyes and dollars to your business in the process.

Give to charity organizations

Partnering with a charity that works in the community can be a positive way to gain an improved impact (and gain potential customers in the process). You can structure a partnership of this kind in many ways, including a portion of sales on a particular product, requesting donations at the time of purchase, and more.

If you are able, you can also create your own charity. Make it something that you are passionate about and fill a need in the community.

Get your name out there

Brand recognition is crucial when advertising for your small business. Consider what means of free (or low-cost) advertising are available to you within the community. T-shirts, stickers, pens, and magnets with your logo may be shown with pride around your community.

You could even decorate your car with your company's name and logo. If you are not comfortable with this look on your own car, some websites offer this as a service, including Carvertise and StickerRide. Be sure to include contact information where possible in your advertising.

Make your business inviting

Another potentially free means of marketing that is local is your own storefront. The more you can make your building or suite stand out, the more you might draw in potential customers traveling past.

Local art, music, and products outside might make your small business the place to be in town. An important consideration with local advertising is how your techniques will bring in new customers and impact your local community. These approaches can keep your small business in the hearts and minds of the people in your area.

Get involved with holiday festivities

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and Winter holidays are often times for communities to come together and rejoice. Back to school or the start of summer can also serve this purpose. Take these opportunities to get involved.

Consider hosting a trunk or treat activity, potluck dinner for the local community, or even setting off some fireworks near your business (if you have a safe area to do so and it is legal). Events like these can garner goodwill, and your customers may look forward to them all year.

Be careful not to alienate any portions of your customer base and make your celebrations open to all. When planning events like these, it is ok to start small. However, if you do your event annually, it will grow with time. Use your social media accounts, email list, and more to promote your event.

Digital tips to get the best value for your small business advertising

With our hands-on approach to advertising above, let's now go over digital advertising options. Many digital advertising options offer free advertising solutions, with the option to upgrade your advertising for a price. Choose what best fits your budget and brand.

Many times, advertising strategies come from simple ideas. Websites such as Google, Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook can be simple yet effective ways to increase your brand recognition. Partnering with local businesses, donating, or hosting events are more traditional ways to increase the local footprint of your small business.

Free and low-cost business advertising is about being creative and efficient. You must use any tool you have available rather than overpaying for a tool you may not need.

Hire a social media manager to handle these tasks for you

As your brand grows, you may need to hire an advertising manager. Their job will be to keep up with your online presence, update your information as needed, and interact with customers. The more active you are online, the better your small business’ image

Make your product or service available online

It is free to set up an account with many online marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay. Setting up these accounts provides another way for potential customers to find your business.

Be sure when you list your products to include your brand name and logo as often as possible (within reason).

This will help your brand recognition and help those customers remember your name. Online sales are just another outlet to expand your reach. If practical, making your products available for purchase directly from your website can be a huge advertising benefit as well.

Gather a strong social media presence

Social media is a part of nearly everyone's life. It can be very important to have a digital footprint for potential customers to find. A plethora of approaches to social media marketing exist. Dozens of tools, including Yelp, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, and countless others can benefit your company. Be sure to choose the tools that will work best for you and your customers.

Create and honor loyalty discounts

Source: SmallBizGenius

One technique that can be very effective is giving a discount to customers who follow your small business on social media. Your small business could give a larger discount if a customer is willing to share on that platform too. This will encourage customers to return, and their friends might also give you a try.

Engagement is another major aspect of social media management. One of the great benefits of social media for a small business owner is that customers can give feedback. This allows an opportunity for growth and satisfaction with a job well done.

Design a brand ambassador program

Another technique to gather an online presence through social media is to create a brand ambassador program. If you can get someone who is relatively well known in your local area or beyond to support your business publicly, this will get more eyes on you and more potential customers into your business.

A brand ambassador can help legitimize your business. A program may happen organically in some cases. In others, you could potentially hire someone for this purpose. Consider legalities and terms of service on the websites where your brand ambassador represents your small business.

Use Snapchat

While advertising may not be your first association with Snapchat, the brand has an enormous reach, with around 300 million users worldwide. Snapchat can be useful for upcoming promotions, live streaming events, or showing a different side of your business. Make sure to maintain a professional appearance when using this tool.

Post on Instagram

A picture or short video can often showcase more about your business than a typed message. Show your customers' smiles (with their permission), the perfection of your goods, or an image of your new logo.

Instagram only takes a second, but that image can often resonate with customers for a long time. Instagram is particularly useful in the food service and restaurant industries. Make your customers mouths water with a picture of a perfectly baked cookie (or your business equivalent).

Create for YouTube

YouTube is a great opportunity to attach your face and the faces of your employees to your business brand. Consider showing some behind-the-scenes videos of your business. The content can be light-hearted or serious (whatever fits your brand).

The ice bucket challenge, flash mobs, and mannequin challenge are just some examples of viral sensations seen all over the internet. Participate in trends like these with your small business and show a personal touch. Many businesses advertise on YouTube, and it is an excellent opportunity to educate potential customers on the services and products you offer. Consider live videos at special events as well. You could also pay influencers and creators to rate your products in their videos.

Use Facebook groups and boost engagement

Facebook is one of the most used social media websites in the world. Facebook groups can be a great way to fuse your social media presence with your presence in the community. This is a great way to get the word out on upcoming events, special sales, and job openings.

Another consideration is highlighting an employee or group of employees. This can be a great way to boost morale for your business and show your small business team’s humanity. This shows you offer a great product or service and provide a nurturing, positive environment for your employees to grow.

Engagement from your employees and customers on these kinds of posts can also help you! Share fun quizzes, memes, or viral videos so your customers can interact with you. These activities can bring in more and more visitors to your pages.

Facebook also offers advertising services. While this is not a free option, it can be cost-effective. You can customize your advertising based on your target audience, as well as your budget and goals. Once your ads are running, you will receive reports of detailed metrics. This may also allow you to determine how effective the advertising campaign has been and make improvements for the future.

Join LinkedIn groups

Source: Kinsta

The groups' function can help you find individuals and entrepreneurs in your industry on LinkedIn. These people can provide you with great advice. This can also help you expand your digital footprint and make it easier to find new employees in the future.

LinkedIn also creates a list of groups for you based on your profile and activities on the website. This is another tool that can be very powerful for your marketing. LinkedIn also allows other users to endorse you for certain skills or expertise. Use this tool to show others what you can bring to your amazing small business.

Create a Yelp page

Creating and establishing a Yelp page can be crucial for a business owner. Yelp is often where consumers find specific goods or services. You can find anything on Yelp, from a dog groomer to a local park or taco restaurant. Once your page is established, you must monitor reviews to garner customer and community feedback.

Keep your pages simple and connected

With all of the different websites out there for social media (and social media marketing), make sure that your business pages are linked together. There should be an accessible link tree on each page to direct potential customers to your website, Facebook page, YouTube page, Instagram, and any other pages you decide to set up.

Pinterest, Yelp, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat are all useful tools with their own advantages. Remember that not all customers may be especially familiar or comfortable with technology. This is why it is paramount to make all of your online resources easy to navigate.

Utilize other websites

Yext and Quora are two other websites where you could potentially get exposure for no cost. Yext is a website to help you manage your information from all of your sites in one place. Yext allows business owners to monitor things like Yelp and Facebook pages to maintain accuracy going forward. This can help ensure that all of your platforms communicate the same information.

Quora is a question and answer website. Users ask questions and other users respond. Responses are reviewed and rated. Quora can help you show your knowledge base to a whole community of users. Quora questions can sometimes come up in Google searches as well. This can, again, help you boost your brand name recognition.

These are just some of the many websites you can use for free and potentially gain some exposure. OLX, Oodle, and many others are available. Choose a website that fits your business needs and culture.

Make a scene!

An important aspect of marketing and advertising is differentiation. You must show potential customers that your business is unique. You can do this in many ways, including online challenges, displays, and events. You want to stand out. Consider bold choices for color schemes, fonts, signage, and more.

Follow online trends

When online viral trends pop up, think about participating. Please consider the ways this might affect your customers. If you think there is a chance you will offend potential customers, steer clear. You do not want to attract negative attention online.

If it fits your brand identity, this can bring extra attention to your business. A funny or engaging viral video can spread online quickly, and you might even end up with thousands of views! This is a fun way to bring a more personal touch to your business, making customers feel closer to you.

Be unique

Bright colors, unique designs, and music can all help bring more customers into your shop. Think about it. Most often, customers (and potential customers) will remember unique experiences. If someone goes to two different stores, they will remember the store that offered them something different. It is up to you what that something different might be.

Be a friendly neighbor

Just like Mister Rogers would have wanted, be kind and outgoing to your neighbors and community members. While you do not want to impose, be sure to make yourself accessible in the community. Be friendly! Start conversations with your neighbors and community members, and, when appropriate, be ready to steer those conversations towards your local small business.

Partner with a local artist or musician

Local artists and musicians are often looking for places to display their talent. If you have space and it fits your company brand, fill that need. Artists and musicians often have followings of their own, bringing in more customers.

Celebrate with giveaways and events

Social media is just one way for a business to show its appreciation by giving back. Contests (in-store or virtual) are an awesome way to encourage customers to keep coming back. One option is a giveaway to the customer who refers the most customers. Be willing to host events, and attend other business’ events in the area.

Start a referral program

Incentivize your customers to talk about your business to their friends. Often, customers are encouraged by their loved ones and friends to try new businesses. Consider offering a discount or a free good or service to customers sending more business your way. You can verify that these techniques are cost-effective and worthwhile for your small business.

Team up with another local business

Events in the local area might help you find customers you may have never otherwise met. Team up with another local business with similar values to mutually benefit both businesses. Contact nearby vendors who offer complementary goods and services. A cross-promotional event could be a big event for both of you. And similarly, a lot of these techniques are free or low cost.

Host your own event

Connecting with customers online is fantastic, but there is just something about meeting new people face to face. Host an event at or near your business. A cornhole tournament, barbeque, or chili cooking competition will bring out many people at a low cost to you. Often, people will gravitate towards businesses that make them feel more comfortable. Make sure this is your business!

Other media

Online communities are thriving, but social media is not the only way to reach new customers you might not meet in person. Consider:

● Email

● Direct mail

● Bulletin boards

● Referrals

● The radio

● Podcasts

● Blogs

Email

Source: Snov.io

MailChimp is one of many online platforms that will help you send marketing emails at no cost to you. Mailchimp will allow you to email up to 2,000 people and up to 12,000 emails monthly at no cost. However, we don't recommend sending that many emails, or you may have customers ignore your emails or unsubscribe altogether.

Emails are a great way to directly connect with customers and let them know the important things about your business. Be sure to include website and social media links in every mass email you send.

Direct mail to your community

Direct mail to your local community is a nice way to bring more attention to your small business. Make sure to target specific communities where you want brand exposure. A direct mail campaign is not cheap, but it is low-cost compared to other advertising (like television commercial spots, for example). Another consideration is partnering with another local business. This can drive down the cost for both of you.

Bulletin boards

Bulletin boards can be an effective way to increase name recognition. Set up one for your business to advertise for other local businesses and see if they will return the favor. Customers are often drawn to bulletin boards, driving more brand recognition for your small business. Again, bright colors and unique designs will often attract more attention.

Start a blog

Similar to a podcast, creating a blog can show your business in a different light. Customers may start to see you as a thought leader. Sharing your opinions and expertise on your business can bring more eyes to your blog (and, ultimately, more customers to your small business).

A periodic blog encourages visitors to return to your site regularly. This gives you more opportunities to convert them into paying customers.

Create your own podcast or be a guest on a podcast

Podcasts are a growing media, particularly among the younger demographics. Consider creating a podcast for your business. Free audio editing software (such as Audacity or GarageBand) is available. Your small business can purchase a microphone relatively cheaply as well.

Having a recurring podcast with weekly or monthly episodes may give customers a reason to return to your website periodically. The podcast itself can inform customers about more details of your business and allow them to get to know you on a more personal level.

However, if you think starting your own podcast seems like too much work or not worth the effort, consider being a guest on a podcast. Reach out to podcasts from contemporaries in your industry and inquire about being a guest. Similarly, an appearance on a local radio show could do wonders for your brand exposure.

Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) can help you boost the effect of things like blog posts, podcasts, or even your Yelp page. It is a marketing technique that tries to improve a website's ranking within the search engine's results.

Search engine optimization can show your website (or blog, etc.) near the top of search results when a potential customer searches for you. This can also apply to business terms, industry names, or even competitors' names. Search engine optimization is an increasingly important tool for businesses of any kind. It is important because, unlike advertising, search engine optimization effects are longer-lasting.

Make a public appearance

Public speaking opportunities, including graduations, religious gatherings, local parades, and more, can make you (and your business) more recognizable to your community. This will:

● Give your company exposure

● Grant you the personal opportunity to rub elbows with other entrepreneurs

● Benefit the audience

● Allow you to put your name and your company's name in event materials so people become familiar with your business

The more public appearances you make, including podcasts and radio shows, the more opportunities you will have in the future. You may even become the go-to person for a local news or radio station.

Put your business name on everything

This is not a free technique, but it can be well worth it. Give away items that have your business name and logo on them. You can distribute:

● Stickers

● Magnets

● Bumper stickers

● T-shirts

● Hats

● Pens

Trinkets that customers can take with them will remind them of your company for months and even years to come. The familiarity with your brand name will have customers returning again and again. Customers will be happy to have a new t-shirt, and you will be even happier to see them advertising for you all over town!

Give out business cards

Business cards have been around for a while, but they are still a great idea. While business cards are not technically free, they can be very affordable. Consider a website like Moo to get your cards made affordably.

Having a business card with you while making a new connection can create new business for you. When choosing your design, make sure it is easy to read and stands out. Business cards are one of the most traditional forms of marketing out there, and they continue to work.

Unconventional marketing

While tried and true, conventional methods are not the only way to make an impact. As mentioned above, creativity is a huge aspect of expanding your brand. Less common marketing techniques can be a big help in funneling potential customers through the funnel.

Guerilla marketing is a relatively inexpensive strategy that promotes a business in a public setting. Flash mobs, though less popular now, are one example. Another example might include stickers, a flashy store-front, or a fun game to draw customers in. These techniques and unconventional marketing, in general, can lead to your company being both recognizable and recognized for being fun.

Why not have a dry erase tic-tac-toe game outside your store? A candy counting game? A funny noise that plays when customers enter the store? Be creative! Think about what can bring those people in. It is a good idea to think outside of the box.

Put as much care into your business’ advertising as you do your customers

Low-cost and free advertising methods can help you grow your business. While not all of the techniques on this list might work for you, hopefully, some will. If you can make just a few of these approaches work well for you, you may have more customers than you expected.

It is important to advertise to the right community in the right way. Every business and every community is different, so be sure to use the most suitable techniques for your particular situation. The thing that is going to make customers return over and over again is excellent service and an excellent product.

You attract the customers with advertising, Smith.ai fields the attention

Make sure your company is your priority and have happy (repeat) customers. Smith.ai can assist you with the extra leads generated from your new marketing plan. We can do this by:

● Answering questions you get through Facebook messenger

● Transferring calls to your company’s team

● Serving as after-hours or lunch break virtual receptionists

● Helping you schedule appointments with your customers

Spam blocking services

24/7 web chat services

Screening your prospective leads and customers

Bilingual answering services

You have a lot on your plate running your small business. It is natural to focus on advertising and expanding your base. You can have us take over the day-to-day duties of your business. This can allow you to turn your attention to other areas.

Our team wants your business to thrive. Let us put our staff to work on your company’s success. Email us at hello@smith.ai or call at (650) 727-6484 to speak to our team about setting up a consultation. Our pricing information is on our website, along with more details about how we could help you.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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