5 Cost Effective Small Business Marketing Ideas


As a small business owner, you can’t afford not to invest in some form of marketing. But considering there are nearly as many ways to promote yourself as there are people, how do you know which small business marketing methods will pay off in real ROI and which ones will waste your resources.

Perfect your elevator pitch

You should always stand ready to talk about your business. Spend some time crafting a brief elevator pitch, meaning a summary of your business in a condensed version, that not only details what you do, but also gives the listener a reason to want to learn more.

Typically, you only have about 8 seconds to grab their attention. Once you have them interested, you’ve got about another minute to sell them. Practice your pitch until the words flow freely.

Request an online review or testimonial

It does not matter what industry you serve, online reviews matter. It’s hard to find a customer nowadays who hasn’t checked online reviews about a business at least once. This means it’s highly likely some of your prospects have already scoped you out before they appeared on your radar.

Ask your best clients to rate your business or leave a review on social media pages. Incentivize them with a high profile prize drawing, or offer a coupon or other small reward to everyone who participates.

Ask for referrals

Referral marketing is possibly the single most cost-effective marketing tactic you can employ, costing you as little as zero cash and a few minutes of your time. However, there are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to asking customers to share their contacts with you:

  • DO only ask happy, satisfied customers for referrals.
  • DO provide an incentive to both the referral and to the person referring if their lead converts.
  • DO make it a regular habit to ask for referrals.
  • DON’T continually badger the same clients for referrals. They may feel that’s all they mean to you.
  • DON’T let hot leads get cold. Follow up on all referrals immediately.
  • DON’T ask yes-or-no questions to get a referral (ex. Do you know someone who might be interested in this service?). Keep questions open-ended.

Create sticky customers

Studies show it costs 4 to 10 times more to gain a new customer than it does to keep an existing one, so don’t forget to allocate some of your marketing budget to the people who already like you and know about your business.

Talk to your current customers about other products and services you offer. The key is to provide value in as many different ways as possible so you can remain their go-to choice whenever they need something you offer. Creating a sticky customer is a bit different than typical customer retention. While you don’t “lock in” a customer to your services, you do get them invested in multiple parts of your business that makes it a little more difficult for them to jump ship and switch to your competitor.

Use social media marketing

Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find a business of any size that isn’t established on social media in some way. Maintaining a consistent social presence can help attract new customers and retain loyal customers by keeping yourself top of mind and sharing the ins and outs of what makes your business great.

And, contrary to popular belief, social media marketing does not always involve a hefty time commitment. Stick to these small business marketing secrets to stay on track:

  • Only set up social media accounts on channels where your target audience is likely to be. You don’t have to be everywhere to get noticed.

  • Start with one or two platforms and work from there – you may find that’s all you need, or all you can responsibly handle. This helps avoid the time-consuming, resource-draining “Social Media Fatigue” that plagues many small businesses who eventually determine that social media isn’t worth the effort.

  • Use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts on your behalf. This way, you can touch your social marketing less frequently yet still provide fresh content on a regular basis.

  • Use Paid Ads to get directly in front of your target audience, and no one else. You set the amount to spend (even as little as five dollars!) and your social media channel goes to work putting your information in front of the people who most likely need it.