Let’s face it: there are a million and one small business marketing strategies out there, but if you’re like most business owners, you don’t have the endless budget and time to find the hidden treasures that lead to results. Also, determining which marketing strategy is most effective can take months of testing and evaluation.

After growing businesses, testing plenty of marketing campaigns, and helping our small business customers grow, I have come up with the 12 marketing techniques for small businesses that you can use to help your small business flourish.

1. Audience Research

Marketing is about sending a relevant message to your target audience to persuade them to buy your product or service. If you don’t know your target audience, you risk focusing your attention too broadly or on the wrong people, which is a catastrophic error in the age of personalization.  

Successful marketing begins with target audience research — a data-backed process that culminates into elaborate audience persona(s). An audience persona is a profile or visualization of the person you’re trying to reach. It outlines traits such as geographical location, career, gender, motivation, pain points, budget, and more. 

Audience persona is your “north star” for creating and launching successful marketing strategies, from content marketing to word-of-mouth. It lays the foundation of your marketing strategy and informs the best channels to use for effective marketing.

2. Word of Mouth Advertising 

Once you’ve laid the foundation, you can get your marketing strategies rolling. One of the most cost-effective small business marketing strategies is to tap into the voice of your customer by getting them to talk about their experience with your business. That means building a great product or service first and then delivering it in an amazing manner to your customers.

Encourage customers to talk about your small business on social and professional networks and to share their opinions. This will boost your chances of getting new customers in the door. Typically, people trust their friends and value their opinions. That is why it’s critical to tap into your customers who are willing and able to share your excellent products/services with their tribes.

3. Content Marketing 

If marketing is the engine that propels your business, content marketing is the gas in the tank. It’s a fantastic way to bring you leads through search engines, but it also works well to educate your customers on best practices.

Content marketing is about creating interesting material that your audience is likely to engage with, be it text, video, or audio. It entails the creation of content for publishing on your homepage, blogs, product pages, landing pages, advertising channels, and social media. Content marketing allows you to show that you’re a top expert in your field. This means creating fresh content based on your audience’s biggest challenges and curating content that is relevant to your visitors/readers

Once you have created highly-relevant content, push it out where your audience is engaging, such as Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  Your content distribution methods are the only way to harness the full potential of your content marketing strategy. 

4. Search Engine Optimization

Great content without search engine optimization (SEO) has a low chance of ranking on top of search engine results pages (SERPs). When you create highly-relevant content, you have to optimize it for search engines to increase its visibility when people search for keywords and terms relevant to your products or services.

As a small business, it’s tough to compete with the rankings of larger companies when it comes to highly competitive keywords. Start by focusing on keywords with low competition but high commercial intent and search volume. . Once your blog or brand builds authority, throw your hat in the ring for the high-competition keywords.

That said, SEO is a multidisciplinary strategy that transcends keyword targeting. Other important SEO aspects you should prioritize include: on-page SEO, local SEO, and site speed optimization. 

5. Company Website

Every component of your marketing plan is going to come back to your website. Don’t cut corners. It’s where your visitors find out who you are, what you believe in, and what makes you unique. Ultimately, your website exists to convert visitors into leads, and the quality of your leads will improve if you have a great website that attracts the most relevant buyers. 

Once you get visitors to your website, you’ve got to build a conversion strategy. You’ll want to make sure that your company website has plenty of opportunities for site visitors to provide you with their information. Add sign-up forms to high-traffic pages and landing pages to direct traffic. These pieces will enable you to collect site visitors’ email addresses and add them to your lead nurture campaigns

6. Blogging 

Just as your website is the guiding light for lead gen for your small business, the same holds true with your blog. And if you’re not already blogging, you should be. 

Why? Brands with an active blog generate 67% more leads than those without one. 

To generate leads, add a call-to-action on each of your blog posts asking readers to take a desired action, be it buying a product, subscribing to your newsletter, signing up for an upcoming webinar, or downloading a whitepaper.  

But your blog is more than just a lead gen tool. It’s a canvas to share your thoughts and perspectives, to truly position yourself as a thought leader while connecting you to your audience. It’s also part of your SEO strategy. Create pillar posts on your blog and set up an internal linking strategy so your readers can easily find and engage with similar content. 

7. Email Marketing

Email has come from a basic communication channel to a powerful platform to achieve your marketing goals. Its power is undeniable – for every dollar you invest in email marketing, you see an impressive $36 return on investment

Email is also a great way to build your contact list for your small business. A good strategy to build your list is to simply create valuable and relevant content. Offer that content to site visitors in exchange for their contact information. As long as you promise to share high-quality, valuable insights, your site visitors will think the exchange is worthwhile.

As a small business owner, you probably wear many hats and have to juggle multiple tasks to keep the business moving smoothly. A marketing automation tool will help you facilitate effective email nurture so you can do more in less time, saving you hours that you can devote to other important tasks. 

An easy-to-use tool, like BenchmarkONE, lets you automatically capture visitors from your website and send the right message to them at just the right time. Doing so improves the effectiveness of your marketing strategy while helping you make the most of your marketing budget

8. Social Media 

If your small business doesn’t have profiles on top social media sites, build them today. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Each one offers a different format, but all allow you to connect and talk to your customers and would-be clients on a channel that they’re already engaged on. Using social media marketing is a must to ensure that your brand and your customer base grow

Most importantly, keep your fingers on the pulse of the tilting social media landscape, which includes joining new platforms. If your brand is yet to lay a mark on TikTok, you need to move swiftly to ride the wave of the highly-creative and playful channel. With over one billion monthly active users globally, TikTok presents an opportunity to build brand awareness, promote your products, and engage potential customers, particularly the younger generation. 

9. Event or Trade Shows

Trade shows and special promotional events are fantastic strategies for launching a new product or service, driving brand awareness, and getting in front of your target audience. If you are attending a trade show, swap out a sponsorship package for an opportunity to speak on a topic relevant to your audience. It will keep your cost down and elevate your status as a thought leader in your niche.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to capture the full ROI of your event! Be sure to connect with prospects on social media and capture email addresses so you can run pre, during, and post-show campaigns.

10. Online Advertising 

One of the fastest ways to get in front of potential buyers that are actively searching online is online advertising. With PPC advertising, such as Google Adwords and Bing, you can set your budget for the keywords that your audience is searching for and measure the cost per conversion.

Remember to not just set it and forget it. For example, adding negative keywords will eliminate unwanted clicks, keeping your spending down.  You should also test new keywords to ensure you are optimizing your spending wisely.

Also, if you are looking to increase brand exposure, remarketing is a great way to do it. Remarketing allows you to hyper-target visitors that have been to your site that you would like to bring back, with the goal of converting into a customer or sign-up.

11. Free Promotional Tools

Budget constraints could limit the options you can use as far as marketing goes. One way to cut overhead is to use free marketing and promotional tools. Evaluate your strategies and determine which activities require premium tools and which ones you could do with free software.

For example, if you’re only just getting started with content marketing, you can use free keyword research tools to guide you through the initial phase. Once you scale and your strategy gather momentum, you can turn to paid keyword research and content optimization tools.

Sign up for BenchmarkONE’s free plan today!

12. Networking and Partnership Building

Finally, always work on networking to promote your business. This is perhaps one of the most valuable ways to grow your expertise and showcase your skills to would-be partners and customers. Networking is a cost-effective way to drive sales leads and opportunities for strategic partnerships.

All of these approaches are effective but don’t forget that In the spirit of cutting overheads, it’s okay to only focus on strategies that you know will bring the best results. Start small with your strategies and experiment with different aspects to determine what works. Channel your resources, effort, and time toward sustainable methods of generating revenue. 

Good luck incorporating these 12 essential small business marketing strategies into the way you promote and operate your business. Doing so will help you spend less time looking for solutions, so you have more time to devote to what you do best.