Cost-effective Advertising For Small Businesses
Today’s entrepreneurs have more options than ever when it comes to small business advertising ideas. So even if you can’t afford a national TV ad or a full-page spread in this month’s Vogue, you can still get your message in front of relevant customers without blowing your entire budget.
In this piece, we cover small business advertising ideas, including:
If you’re looking for small business advertising ideas on a shoestring budget or even a few free advertising ideas, here are 50.
One way to get your message across to radio listeners is by sponsoring a contest. Offer up one of your products as a prize or sponsor a special prize such as a cruise in exchange for the station crediting your business.
Newspapers are great for reaching local customers. Restaurants, bars and cafes might target the weekend entertainment pull-out section. Service providers might focus on classified ads, which are particularly cost effective. Some newspapers offer advertorial options that allow businesses to sponsor written content to educate about a solution.
Magazine ads offer a great format for businesses that put a heavy emphasis on visuals. Trade magazines are valuable for businesses that cater to niche followings or specific industries.
Radio personalities like to set up shop at local businesses that are hosting events or other special promotions from time to time. If you can get them to come to your business, you can have them talk about all the fun your customers are having.
TV commercials offer another traditional ad format. Forget national networks. For small businesses, target the local news stations or cable TV to fit within your budget.
Get your message across to hyper local customers when they’re likely to be paying attention: just when a movie is about to start! Theaters offer advertising options to local businesses, to air before movie previews.
What if your business is focused on a specific industry or niche rather than a geographic area? Exhibiting at trade shows or sponsoring industry events is tailor made for you.
Google pulls information about local businesses right from the “ Google My Business ” listings. A listing is free. Add your company name, website and hours to make it easier to be found online. Trick your listing out with enticing images to invite clicks and engagement.
Google AdWords or Bing Ads bring shoppers who are actively searching for particular items. These ads help your business feature prominently when people search for relevant phrases you bid on.
Increase your deal close rate (conversion rate) through retargeting . Retargeted ads show up after people leave your website, and remind them to, say, go back to your ecommerce site and purchase that item they were browsing.
Share thought leadership content by working with blogs or online publications to publish sponsored content opportunities related to your industry.
Create visually focused online ads, like banner or sidebar display ads, and then place them on sites relevant to your business. These are usually sold at a flat fee or per-impression rate, such as $10 per thousand impressions.
Having your business listed on relevant online directories can be a major benefit. Some directories are free, but may also offer paid options to increase visibility.
If you sell products on large ecommerce platforms like Amazon, eBay or Etsy, you can pay to boost the visibility of offerings so they’ll be more likely to show up in customers’ searches.
Native online ads are ads that fit with the style and functionality of the other content of the website where they’re featured. For example, if you want to advertise on a site that offers video content, you could create a short video ad that fits seamlessly into the design of the site.
Some online publications or influencers offer giveaways or similar contests to their followers. Offer up product or contribute toward a special prize such as the latest hot smartphone, to get attention for your business. The cost can be as little as a few hundred dollars.
If you’re low on cash for online ads, perhaps you could trade some space on your own website or in your email newsletter with another business that has an overlapping target market.
Send promotions to customers via email. Get your customers to sign up for updates by offering exclusive discounts, early access or other incentives.
Facebook is the most popular social media platform with over 1.4 billion daily users . Advertising options for small businesses range from boosting the reach of a post to placing ads that promote your product — starting at under $10.00. While you’ll have to spend more than 10 bucks for big results, the point is that Facebook ad campaigns can fit a small budget.
If you’re looking to start conversations with customers, Facebook’s Messenger platform offers an advertising option to make it easy for customers to reach out to you.
YouTube offers options for short video advertisements that play before videos on the site and app. Even less expensive, create great video content and optimize it well, or boost it to get more visibility. This is a good option for service businesses with informational content, as “how to” videos are the second most watched category on YouTube .
For businesses that target professionals or other businesses, check out LinkedIn ads. While more expensive than other social platforms, LinkedIn ads may be more targeted. For B2B businesses, they may be worth it.
Social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all offer advertising options to boost the visibility of posts. These options can jumpstart engagement, leading to more sharing of your content naturally.
If your business is especially popular with young people and creatives, you could take advantage of some of Snapchat’s advertising options , including the ability to sponsor lenses or filters that promote your business.
Work with influencers relevant to your target market to spread the word about a particular campaign. Find influencers with an authentic following and encourage them to share their experience with your product. Be sure to disclose per FTC Rules , as required.
Another audio format that’s gained popularity in recent years is audio podcasts. Many podcasters would be thrilled to have a sponsor. They’ll read a short message about your business in exchange for a fee. See this list of top business podcasts .
Create an affiliate program. In this kind of program, you compensate online publishers or influencers for the sales they drive to your website, based on tracking links you set up.
Business cards can serve as low budget advertising. Include a discount code on the back of your card, and place a stack on your reception desk or checkout counter. People will snap them up if there’s an incentive. Or give every satisfied customer a few of your cards (with or without a discount code) so they can hand them out to neighbors and friends. It’s a good way to encourage referrals.
Contribute financially toward local charitable or community events — or make an in-kind product donation. You’ll likely receive signage or otherwise get your business in front of participants. And you’ll get the satisfaction of supporting a community cause.
Don’t forget about participating in the St. Patrick’s Day or July 4th Parade! By serving as the sponsor of a parade and creating a float or group routine that’s part of the show, you gain valuable visibility in your local community.
Some local chambers of commerce offer advertising partnerships . These help you get your message out in a variety of ways, from local chamber events to the website. These are especially good for B2B businesses (i.e., those selling products or services to other businesses).
Printed Yellow Pages may be going away, but they are not gone. They are transitioning to the online world. To gain visibility, get a free listing and then consider testing out a larger listing space .
Use a limited-time promotion through “deal” services like Groupon. Offer a discount to get more customers to discover your business and visit it. A variation is to include coupons or special offers in local coupon books like Clipper Magazine or mailers such as ValPak .
Take a look around your local community to find businesses or landmarks that have bulletin boards allowing open posting. Then create tear-off flyers or signs. Other than some legwork and a little ink and paper for your office color printer, it’s free.
For local businesses, direct mail continues to be a viable advertising strategy. Create a small flyer or include your sales pitch in a letter format and mail it to past customers or everyone in a certain neighborhood. The U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct program is cost effective and partially automated, saving time.
Distribute stacks of physical brochures or postcards to visitors’ centers or local businesses such as coffee shops that allow it. Find the popular spots. This is one time when it’s good to be among competition. The more flyers or cards, the more likely consumers are conditioned to look for them there.
Print up small items like magnets and pens with your business name, logo and contact information to hand out to customers at local events or when you visit their homes to provide service. They are a reminder the next time someone has a need for your product or service.
Hyper local businesses may get good ROI by placing small ads in church bulletins. Or look no further than your homeowners’ association newsletter. And there are neighborhood community sites like Nextdoor , which also offer sponsored posts for neighborhood businesses.
Make a donation in exchange for shirts with your business name and logo. Find a little league, middle school or other youth sports team. Some teams will allow signs for your business at the local field.
This isn’t exactly an advertisement, but it’s a valuable technique. After you do business with a client, send a handwritten thank you note. It seems so simple, yet shockingly few actually do it. You’ll stand out.
If you send regular bills to customers, include a small flyer or card offering a bonus to those who refer new customers. You can also include promotions in mailers and newsletters or on your website.
If your community has any local fairs or festivals where businesses can purchase booths, you can set up shop there and meet with local consumers or even offer product samples.
You can also create t-shirts with your company name and logo, or even a short tagline. They serve as sort of wearable ads. Wear them at local events or even hand them out to customers so they can participate as well.
Give customers who purchase gift cards an option to get extra value. For example, give them a free $10 gift card bonus when they purchase a $100 gift card. Put up signs around your business and posts on your social media pages calling attention to this promotion. Word will get around about your great deal.
The area right outside your store or business is super valuable. Make sure to follow any local zoning rules and then add a well-lit and visible sign that advertises your business favorably.
To call attention to your business from the street corner, hire a human billboard or a sign spinner service such as AArrow Sign Spinners . Sign spinners are people who stands on the corner with a sign, usually paid hourly. Check local ordinances to see what is permissible.
To get your message in front of local customers, you can purchase space on a local billboard. This is especially relevant for drive-by businesses, like restaurants or convenience stores.
Some cities or popular landmarks have signs with rotating digital advertising messages. Add targeted punch by advertising in the vicinity of conventions or events that attract your target audience.
If your business has vehicles that take you to service appointments, like plumbing or HVAC trucks, you can buy vehicle wraps that turn your mode of transportation into a mobile advertisement. Better yet, park your wrapped vehicle prominently in front of your place of business when it’s not in use.
Finally, no collection of small business advertising ideas would be complete without something you might not typically think of. So consider physical ads in unusual spots. This could include ads inside elevators or near escalators. You can even buy ads on shopping carts at your community grocery store.
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