Small Business Marketing: The Ultimate Guide To Promoting Your Small Business in 2019

Tara Malone
Jun 28 · 19 min read

You’ve finally done it. After months or even years of dreaming about it, you’ve taken the plunge and launched your small business. Only problem is, you’ve discovered that small business marketing is a lot harder than you thought. There’s tons of information online on how to develop a marketing strategy for your business, but you don’t know where to begin.

On top of that, you don’t have the funds to hire a marketing specialist or invest in expensive advertising. You’ve found tips on how to market your business on a budget, but you’re not sure how to fit them into your marketing strategy. The whole subject of small business marketing is overwhelming, and you feel stressed just thinking about it.

If you’re in this situation, you don’t need to worry anymore. This ultimate guide is for small business owners just like you who want to create a successful marketing strategy for their business. This guide will demystify small business marketing, help you create a successful marketing strategy, and provide practical marketing ideas that you can implement on a modest budget.

Sound like a plan? Then let’s dive right in!

Create A (Marketing) Plan Of Attack

If you’re worried about your limited marketing budget, don’t be. The truth is, most small businesses have a tight marketing budget at the beginning and need to make the most of every dollar.

To ensure you’re using every marketing dollar effectively, begin by developing a comprehensive marketing plan. Creating a marketing plan might seem daunting, but even a basic plan can make a world of difference.

Here’s how to go about creating a simple but effective small business marketing plan.

Dump Your Marketing Ideas

The first step is to clear your mind of any marketing ideas you have. That’s because they aren’t doing you any good right now. You first need to clarify what you want your marketing campaign to achieve and set measurable goals. This means you should set highly specific goals using numbers whenever possible. Specific goals make it easier for you to build a marketing strategy, and can save you lots of time and effort in the long run. You can also evaluate the success of your marketing initiatives more easily when you have actual numbers to compare your results to.

Some examples of specific goals include:

  • How many leads you want your website to generate in a month
  • How much website traffic you’re aiming for each week
  • Social media engagement rates you want to see
  • How many leads become paying customers in one month

In addition to setting goals, you’ll need to set your small business marketing budget. When budgeting, consider how you’ll achieve your marketing goals. Online marketing is essential, which means you’ll need to budget for website development and maintenance. This includes a lot of different components, including a domain name, branding, hosting, website theme, and hiring a web designer or an SEO specialist. Also leave room in your budget to invest in an email marketing platform, printed marketing materials, and advertising.

Get To Know Your People

After figuring out your marketing goals and budget, it’s time to get clear on who you’re marketing to. It’s essential to understand your audience so you can create a message that resonates with them and motivates them to learn about your product or service.

To get this clarity, you’ll need to research your target audience. If you already have a customer base, reach out to them and find out what they like about your company. You can do this in a number of ways, including phone calls, emails, or online surveys. If you don’t have a customer base yet, search online for studies on the audience you hope to reach. Some important things to find out include:

  • What are their pain points, and how does your business help them resolve those issues?
  • Why did they choose your brand instead of your competitors? Why did your brand resonate with them?
  • How do they describe your brand?
  • Would they recommend your brand to others? Why or why not?

Whether or not you have a customer base, conduct online research on the demographics of your target audience. It’s important to know their average age, gender, spending habits, income level, profession, and location so you can tailor your message to them. In addition, find out which social media platforms they use to interact with brands.

Design Your Persona

Once you understand your target audience, create a buyer persona to help you define them more clearly. A buyer persona is a fictionalized depiction of your ideal customer based on audience data. When you create a buyer persona, be as detailed as possible and include your ideal customer’s demographic information, goals, motivations, and behavior patterns. This will help you understand who your audience is, and how to best direct your marketing efforts to them. In addition, these personas will help you segment your email list and personalize your sales and marketing messages to resonate with your audience.

Do Some Channel Surfing

When you’re clear on who your ideal customer is, you’ll need to find a way to reach them. Investing in online marketing is a must, since this method is low-cost and extremely effective for winning over customers. However, you’ll also want to consider what social media platforms they use the most, and their email marketing preferences. Then you can decide which social media platforms to join and how to tailor your emails to their specific preferences.

Also consider whether it’s worth your while to invest in local marketing tactics. These tactics can include networking, print advertising, distributing marketing materials, and hosting local events.

Get Yourself Online

Your online marketing strategy is an essential part of your marketing efforts. And the cornerstone of your online marketing strategy is your company website and blog. Each small business needs a website to establish their online presence, to build credibility, and to provide information about their products and services.

Setting up a website doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s very possible to create a professional-looking business website on a budget using WordPress, Squarespace, and other platforms. Whether you choose to DIY or hire a professional, make sure your website is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and optimized for mobile.

All of your website and blog content should target your ideal customers, address their specific needs, and provide value to them. A company blog is a very useful way to communicate with your customers and to share content that is highly relevant to them.

A website and blog are also the best ways for prospects to stumble upon your business, usually through a Google search. In fact, close to 93% of web traffic comes from search engines. For your ideal customers to find your website, you’ll need to rank high in the search engines, ideally on the first page of the Google search results.

To accomplish this, all your website content needs to optimized for SEO. There are many resources on how to implement SEO on your website, but if you have the budget for it, hiring an SEO professional can be a worthwhile investment.

Start Taking Names

Despite the popularity of social media marketing, email marketing remains extremely effective. In fact, 64% of businesses consider email marketing to be their most effective marketing technique. Even better, email marketing campaigns are very cost-effective. In fact, every $1 spent on email marketing results in an average return of $38.

That said, for email marketing to pay off, you need to have a solid strategy in place. Begin by answering some key questions:

  • How are you going to build your email list? You’ll need to include a sign-up form on your website where visitors can enter their email address. You’ll also want to offer some kind of freebie to motivate them to sign up for your list.
  • Which email service provider will you use? MailChimp is an extremely popular and affordable option for smaller businesses.
  • What kind of content will your emails contain? Popular kinds of content include newsletters, drip campaigns, product updates, and promotional emails.

It’s important to remember that content alone won’t necessarily motivate subscribers to open your emails. That said, here are some simple practices to help you engage your audience, and boost open rates and conversions:

  • Make sure the emails come from a business address.
  • Use compelling subject lines that entice recipients to open the email.
  • The email content should be optimized for mobile devices and easy to read.
  • The content needs to deliver on the promise in the subject line.
  • Include a clear call-to-action (CTA) so that recipients know what you want them to do. The action should be easy for them to carry out.

Become A Social Butterfly

All businesses need to have a presence on at least a couple of social media platforms. Having a social media presence can be a powerful way to promote your business, and is an extremely low-cost marketing strategy. In addition to spreading the word about your business, social media channels give you a way to interact with your customers.

But social media marketing means more than setting up business pages and hoping they will reach your target audience. The truth is, social media marketing is challenging to get right and many small business owners struggle with it. In fact, a Manta survey revealed that 38% of small business owners use promoted posts and paid advertising on social media, but 48% don’t see a significant ROI.

For social media marketing to really pay off, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Limit yourself to a few social media platforms, and select ones that your audience regularly uses.
  • Make sure all content reflects your audience’s interests and is tailored to them.
  • Create engaging content to draw your audience in. Some popular types of content include colorful images of your products, infographics, video stories, and live chats.

Say Yes To Automation

It’s no secret that marketing your business is a ton of work, and it can get overwhelming to keep up with everything. Luckily, many marketing tasks can be automated, and small business marketing automation is growing in popularity.

According to a Salesforce study, 67% of marketing leaders use marketing automation. You can use marketing automation to help with many tasks, including automating and segmenting your email campaigns, generating and nurturing leads, and tracking your marketing interactions across channels.

Looking for inspiration? Then check out Neil Patel’s roundup of 23 marketing automation tools to help you market your small business.

Figure Out What’s Actually Working (And Ditch The Rest)

No matter what marketing strategies and activities you engage in, keep track of them and regularly assess if they are helping you reach your business goals. For example, are customers opening your emails, engaging with your Facebook posts, or spending a significant amount of time on your website?

The simplest way to figure out if your marketing activities are effective is to use a web analytic tool. These are tools that automatically track your website’s performance and provide insight into your visitors’ behaviors. You can use them to discover how long your visitors spend on your website, how well your website performs in Google searches, whether your social media campaigns are effective, and much more.

Some of the most popular web analytics tools include Google Search Console and Google Analytics. As an added bonus, many of these tools are free to use, making them ideal for small businesses on a tight budget.

Ready, Set, Market! Small Business Marketing Ideas That Won’t Break The Bank

Online marketing is an absolute must for small businesses, since it offers tons of low-cost ways to promote your business. However, your marketing plan can also include offline strategies. These offline strategies are especially effective for reaching leads and prospects who live locally. Here are some practical online and offline small business marketing tips you can implement on a tight budget.

Taking Things Online: Content Marketing Tips

Content marketing is one of the most popular and effective strategies out there. But to be a success at it you need to create first-rate content that addresses your audience’s specific needs, wants, and pain points. A company website and blog are ideal places to showcase your content.

Some types of popular content to include on your company website or blog are:

  • Blog posts on best practices for your industry, practical tips for your target audience, and stats roundups.
  • Video content to engage your audience, showcase your products and services, or to answer your audience’s FAQs. And don’t worry about investing in expensive equipment — you can shoot high-quality footage using your iPhone.
  • Infographics are another type of visual content that can be a powerful marketing tool. They’re easy to read and share, which makes them useful for increasing referral traffic to your website. Best of all, you can create them for free using tools such as Canva.
  • Other kinds of content include podcasts, online courses, ebooks, and industry reports on a topic that interests your audience.

In addition to creating killer content, be sure that all content is SEO optimized to boost your ranking in the search engines. The higher your ranking, the more likely your prospects will be able to find your business in a Google search.

One final word about content marketing: it’s important to remember that content marketing is about playing the long game. It will take time for you to see results at first, but it’s in your best interest to stick with it. That’s because content marketing can bring you a steady stream of visitors, leads, and customers for the long-term.

Want to start content marketing but aren’t sure where to start? Check out this getting started guide from the Content Marketing Institute.

Despite the popularity of social media, email is definitely not dead. In fact, countless studies reveal that consumers prefer email above other communication channels when it comes to receiving brand communications. And marketers across all industries identify email as the marketing technique with the highest ROI.

Another great thing about email marketing is that it’s extremely cost effective. The average cost ranges between $20 and $50 per month on email marketing platforms like Constant Contact or Campaigner.

Getting started with email marketing is very simple. First, sign up with an email marketing service. At the beginning you’ll want to choose a free service like MailChimp. Then, you need to offer your website visitors a piece of free, valuable content to encourage them to subscribe to your email list. This piece of content is called a “lead magnet”, and often consists of a free digital download, ebook, a free trial, or a “seat” at a webinar.

Once people sign up for your email list, stay in touch with them via email marketing campaigns. Regularly send them valuable content and relevant offers to encourage them to become paying customers.

Given how prevalent social media is, it’s important to have a social media presence for your small business. At the same time, it’s essential to be strategic about creating social media pages for your business.

First, make sure to join platforms that your customers actually use. Having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn is advisable, but if you have a lot of visual content or products, don’t forget to sign up for Pinterest or Instagram.

Once you set up your social media pages and profiles, stay active on the platforms. Join groups, regularly share your blog posts and video content, and be sure to interact with visitors to your page.

Social media is also a powerful customer support tool. In fact, 67% of consumers use social media for customer support and 33% turn to social media instead of the telephone. By addressing your customer’s concerns over social media, you can encourage them to interact with you. This can help build a positive impression of your brand.

You might also consider whether to invest some of your marketing budget on sponsored posts or advertisements. Sponsored posts can be a relatively inexpensive way to get your brand, product, or service in front of your target audience. These posts have the potential to win you new social media followers, web traffic, and raise awareness of your brand.

And you don’t have to worry about blowing your marketing budget on sponsored posts. Both Facebook and LinkedIn let you set a designated amount of money to spend on boosting a post. They also have built-in demographic tools to help you put your ads and posts in front of your ideal buyers. Facebook in particular lets you target an audience based on location, interests, age, sex, and online behavior. Instagram ads let you do much the same thing with visual content.

Since the amount of money you spend on these ads is entirely up to you, you can easily fit them into your small business marketing budget. At the same time, running these ads don’t guarantee you lots of new followers right off the bat. It takes time and persistence to figure out what kinds of posts and ads engage your target audience. It’s important to monitor each ad campaign to see how effective they are and to tweak them if they aren’t drawing in enough followers.

Creating a Google My Business profile is an essential tool for boosting local SEO. It’s totally free to set up and allows your business to appear in local search results. To increase your ranking in the search engines, there are some steps you should take to optimize your profile.

Here are some of the best practices to keep in mind when optimizing your GMB profile:

  • Use your actual business name and choose the correct categories
  • Claim your listing
  • Make sure all your details are up-to-date and correct
  • Use high resolution images
  • Ask for local reviews and social check-ins from your customers
  • Encourage visitors to upload photos

Google Ads is an advertising method where you pay to display your business website on the top of a Google search page. It also advertises your business on YouTube and other websites when people search for related keywords. By putting your business website front and center, your ideal audience can find you much more easily.

Even better, you can fit Google Adwords into your advertising budget. When creating an ad, you get to set a monthly budget. This means you can designate a small amount per month to conserve your budget while evaluating how well Google Adwords works for you.

Keeping It Close To Home: Local Marketing Ideas

Working with other businesses to cross-promote or market cooperatively can help you grow your client base. If you opt to collaborate with other businesses, stick with those that are local and related to your industry but not direct competitors.

Once you’ve recruited another business to collaborate with, you can then work together on a joint project that will raise awareness for both of your businesses. These projects might include organizing a local event, webinar, or promotional giveaway.

There are many other ways that businesses can cross-promote as well, including:

  • Referring clients to each other
  • Recommending each other’s services to social media followers
  • Sharing links to each other’s websites

There’s really no limit to the type of projects you can collaborate on, just as long as you can work out an arrangement that benefits both businesses.

It might sound like a cliché by now, but the truth is that in-person networking never gets old. Finding ways to get involved with your local community can help you meet new contacts and give you the chance to talk about your business.

It’s definitely worth your while to join local business groups to meet other small business owners and entrepreneurs who are related to your industry. This can be a great opportunity to tell people about your brand and to find other businesses to collaborate with. In addition, getting involved with local business groups is a great way to exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs, share referrals, and find opportunities to promote each others’ businesses.

To make the most of these networking opportunities, you’ll need to have an elevator pitch. This is a brief, compelling explanation about what your business does, who you serve and how your products or services benefit your customers. In addition, have an attractive business card or brochure to exchange with new contacts who you’d like to develop a business relationship with.

Believe it or not, print media still exists and remains popular in some industries. Even in 2014, retail consumers still identified printed advertising materials as the main source of information they used to make a purchasing decision. At the same time, there’s no question that print media is not as popular as it used to be. On the upside, in certain industries, it’s possible to run print ads at far more affordable prices. If you have the budget for it, print ads can definitely help raise awareness of your brand.

That said, print media tends to work best as a supplemental strategy, as it isn’t always very effective on its own. It’s best to create a mixed marketing campaign that mixes print advertising with online marketing strategies. In this way, the different marketing methods work together to create a more engaging experience for potential customers.

Although direct mail marketing isn’t as popular as it once was, it could be an opportunity for you to stand out from competitors who rely on online marketing. For direct mail marketing to be effective, you need to be strategic and target your materials to your ideal audience. In addition, you need to create materials that are engaging and motivate the recipients to actually open them.

Make sure you send the materials in an attractive, distinctive envelope that stands out from all the other promotional mail out there. Print the materials on a professional letterhead, and make sure that the content is engaging, with an enticing headline, compelling copy, and a CTA.

Like print advertising, direct mail marketing is best used in addition to your online marketing strategies, as part of a mixed marketing campaign.

Meeting The Public: Marketing Event Ideas For Small Businesses

If you’re looking for marketing event ideas for your small business, consider trying out experiential marketing. This is a strategy to raise awareness of your brand by giving your prospective customers a positive, interactive experience with your business. The idea is that if your prospects come away with a positive impression of your brand, there’s a good chance they will become “brand ambassadors.” This is a fancy way of saying that they rave about your business to their family, friends, and social media followers.

Although some of the biggest brands host experiential marketing events, you can develop ones that fit into your budget. Some popular types of experiential marketing events include workshops, tutorials, office or factory tours, giveaways, competitions, and product testings.

Just remember that experiential marketing mostly consists of one-time events, so it is most effective when combined with other types of marketing, such as content and email marketing.

People love free stuff, and people seeking out professional services are no different. So if you are seen as an authority in your industry, offering a free consultation is an effective way to generate more leads. If you have an effective process in place for nurturing your leads, there’s a good chance that some of them will become paying customers.

If you can provide a high-quality consultation that gives your prospective customers lots of value, it can help convince them that they should choose to do business with you.

When it comes to promoting a free consultation, you have tons of options. You can choose from many different online and offline methods, such as using print advertising, your blog, and your social media channels to spread the word.

Ready To Win At Small Business Marketing?

Feeling overwhelmed after all that information? If the answer is yes, the first thing I want you to do is take a big, deep breath. Remember that you don’t need to do everything all at once, and that some of these ideas will be better suited to your small business than others.

To make things a little easier, here are some steps to help you figure out where to go from here:

  1. Outline your marketing goals for your small business and decide what kind of budget you have to work with.
  2. Research your target audience, learn about their needs and wants, and figure out what channels are best to reach them. Consider who they are, where they live, where they hang out online, and how they look for products in your niche.
  3. Your online marketing strategy is most important, so focus your energy here before trying any offline tactics. Set up or optimize your business website and blog, sign up with an email marketing platform, and work on building your social media following.
  4. Test out each marketing channel using web analytics tools and sales data to see how each one performs. Focus your efforts on the ones that bring in the most traffic and leads, and consider tweaking or eliminating those that don’t perform well. Always be open to revising your strategy as needed over time.

Developing an effective small business marketing plan can seem like a daunting task, but the truth is it’s totally doable. You just need to have a solid strategy, to set realistic goals, and to break things down into more manageable steps.

As long as you follow the process outlined in this guide and put in the time, you too can ace small business marketing and grow the highly successful small business you’ve been dreaming of.

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Tara Malone

Written by

Tara ditched corporate America and became a freelance writer. Now she teaches other freelancers how to do the same at

The Startup

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