When brainstorming marketing ideas, it’s easy to get carried away. What may at first seem like a great idea might not look so good once you factor the cost. After operating expenses, small business owners don’t usually have much left to spare for traditional marketing and advertising campaigns. Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to make your business known with a small budget, or even no budget. As a small business owner, your greatest marketing assets will be your customers, your community, and the internet.
Grassroots Marketing Ideas for Small Business
- Product Demos and Samples
If you’re selling a material product, consider the effect of demonstrations and samples. For durable goods, like tools and appliances, an in-person product demonstration will show that your product is functional, reliable, and well constructed. For food products, free samples are a great way to spread the word and inspire cravings that lead to purchases. Regular customers will be pleased to receive free samples of new offerings, since it appears thoughtful and makes them feel appreciated. Newcomers, especially hungry ones, will be more easily swayed by a taste than by a pitch.
- Event Presence
Are you nearby any farmer’s markets, or are there other events coming up in your city or county’s calendar? Consider making an appearance at events in your community. Stock up on some inexpensive promotional products like pens, reusable bags, fans, anything to help with brand marketing and visibility. Setting up a stall at an event with lots of foot traffic will expose your business to new customers eager to spend their pocket change. If physical presence doesn’t appeal to you, or if it won’t work logistically, establishing a sponsoring partnership with event planners is a great way to gain exposure. Having your name mentioned in a flier or handbill won’t cost much, and it will almost certainly be seen by hundreds of people.
- Event Hosting
Depending on who you know, the size of your business, and the amount of time you can devote, you may want to consider hosting your own event. Partnering with other local businesses will help lighten the load of event planning and lessen your own resource burden. Charity events are a great way to spread the word while showing good will; people will remember when you contributed positively to your community or to a broader cause, and this will influence them to choose you over your competition.
- Social Media
As your business grows and becomes more lucrative, you’ll want to spend money to host a dedicated website for your business, but if you’re still fresh on the scene, take advantage of popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Making a business account on these platforms costs nothing, and instantly positions your business for better visibility and easier access. Potential customers will more readily contact you with questions, requests, and suggestions if it can be done via social media rather than over the phone or in person. Social media users take pride in their interests, so they’ll be eager to “like” the content you post, leave positive comments, and tag their friends. In the event you decide you’d like to shell out some cash, social media platforms typically offer easy and convenient ways to promote content for even greater reach.
- Referral Benefits
Your greatest allies are your own satisfied customers. When a friend asks you where they should take their guests for lunch, do you refer them to a restaurant where you’ve never been, or your favorite spot where you’ve had consistent good experiences? People are eager to help their friends choose the right product and the right business for their money, and while it happens organically all the time, there’s a simple shortcut: referrals. You should reward your customers for supporting your business with word-of-mouth. Consider offering store credit or discounts for each successful referral. This is doubly effective; you’ll get more business from return customers excited to take advantage of referral perks, and new business from their friends and relatives. Consider the effect of referral programs employed by popular finance apps like CashApp and Robinhood, which give direct monetary or stock rewards for every successful referral, and have exhibited massive growth. You can, and should, apply this same strategy to your small business.
- Employ Your Customers
Not only are your customers willing to support your social media content and refer their friends, but they’ll take the initiative on social media if you encourage them. Are your products or services photogenic? Ask your customers to show them off on their personal Instagram account, creating an advertising audience out of their followers and sparking potentially massive word-of-mouth. You can take it a step further and offer to feature your favorite customers on your own instagram or Facebook business page, establishing positive relationships and giving your business an intimate, hands-on, and customer friendly appearance.
- Blog It
Hosting a blog via WordPress or other web services is a tried and true on-foot marketing tactic. If you’re a natural writer, this is a fun and free way to establish some grassroots web presence. Maybe you have something unique to say about your industry, or you’d like to go into greater detail about a product, service, or special offer. You want to publish your own take on current events and how they relate to your business, or even an open invitation for critiques and suggestions in a forum-like format. Not a great writer, or too strapped for time to sit down at the keyboard? Writing work is less expensive than you might think, and if that’s out of the question, consider asking an employee or family member to take up the challenge.