Running your own business can be exhausting, and it can be a challenge coming up with new, fresh and fun marketing ideas when you’re burnt out. Not only that, but these fun marketing ideas need to be within your marketing budget.
Fear not! Here are 20 effective marketing ideas that you can try out with your business, whether you’re a restaurant owner, lawyer, store owner, or photographer. These are 20 of our favorite ideas from experts — marketers, founders, writers —from around the web. These ideas are easy to do, will revitalize your customer base and reach more customers, and give you the creative recharge you need to get motivated and inspired again.
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1. Offer coupons or free products/services
“Create loyalty early on. A happy customer will come back and will tell their friends about you. Create a buzz with brand ambassadors. These can be family and friends who help promote your products or services.”
2. Don’t be afraid of marketing automation
“If you’re looking for marketing ideas for small business owners that will save time and money, keep you top of mind and maximize referral leads and customer retention, you can’t do better than marketing automation. Make the most of every customer interaction, identify warm leads and put sales-ready leads on the fast track to conversion, follow up with unprecedented efficiency — and do it all automatically.”
—Erin Myers, former Content Marketing Manager at OutboundEngine
3. Come up with a theme
“Most restaurants will stick with an expected ‘Love is in the Air’ theme for Valentine’s Day. Been there. Done that. Push those boundaries!
Below, you can see how Drink in Boston tried out a luau theme to heat things up during winter, with special cocktails and apps. Another cool idea came from Found Kitchen and Social House in Evanston, Illinois. They built their prix fixe menu around classic movie romances. According to the Chicago Tribune, featured courses included ‘a mini pastrami sandwich on rye with a side salad (dressing on the side) inspired by When Harry Met Sally, a grilled steak al forno with pasta, which Cher makes for Nic Cage in Moonstruck, and others.'”
—AJ Beltis, Content Marketing Specialist at Toast
4. Host a class
“Red Lantern hosts a sushi making class for couples. According to Eater, guests even get a gift to take home with them as well. A meal and an experience? What’s not to love?”
—AJ Beltis, Content Marketing Specialist at Toast
5. Outsource, outsource, outsource
“Outsourcing work is imperative to long-term success. You don’t have to be good at everything — you’ve already proven yourself to be a quality project manager, simply by setting up and running your online store. However, if there’s something you’re not good at, ask for help. Whether it’s advertising, web design, or payroll, know when to outsource so you don’t burn out and can focus on what you do best.”
6. Fuel demand by creating limited-edition products
“Aside from the fact that their products tend to be good quality, what sneaker brands really nail down to a fine art is making sure there’s pent-up demand for their products. They launch exclusive lines — limited edition ranges, collaborations with artists — meaning the products available are one-offs and unique. In a world where everything is available online, people — especially those fashion conscious youths — are yearning to look different from their peers. Nowadays sneakers are like records, they’re collectable items.”
—Suzanne Bearne, Campaign magazine
7. Use chatbots
“Chatbots are AI-powered programs that can respond to user plain-text queries with human-like responses. Consumers can interact with chatbots via SMS, text or messaging apps, and companies are increasingly implementing them as part of their marketing and customer service operations. Companies have been rolling out cross-platform bots, but many have turned to Facebook Messenger as a primary channel for deploying bots ever since that platform opened up its Bot API to developers in April 2016.
For example, one popular implementation of chatbot technology is Pizza Express’ chatbot, which allows customers to book tables at restaurants through a Facebook Messenger bot. Single-purpose tasks, such as booking a table at a restaurant, are the optimal use cases for chatbots. They reduce inefficiencies on both the agent and client side; routine tasks of human agents are replaced with AI technology, and customers receive information more promptly.”
8. Bet on the right place-time-message trifecta
“Vahbiz advises entrepreneurs to ‘take a look at what’s happening around them, in culture, in society, in the industry and to find a place in those conversations. Then, when the time is right to strike with their powerful message which becomes relevant.’ For example, a smart entrepreneur targeting women may respond to the #MeToo movement in their message.
A few years ago, before the Serial podcast became a huge hit on NPR, an up-and-coming email-marketing brand signed on to sponsor their season. That brand, MailChimp, took a chance on something they thought appealed to the same kind of people that use their product, and won by a landslide. As the podcast became a booming success—almost a cultural movement in and of itself—MailChimp’s success also rose.”
—Anuja Khemka, Forbes magazine
9. Use trust symbols
“Badges from Yelp (or other review sites) and PayPal’s certification logo are two examples of trust symbols. You might have a security seal or any other industry-related symbol to share. Testimonials from customers serve a similar purpose, and you can showcase these as well. Your goal is to make sure your potential buyer feels as if he or she can trust you to provide a good experience or product.”
Social Media Marketing
10. Make consistent schedule for social media
“Since it doesn’t take much time to engage fans and make some posts, block some time out every day for it. If you’re really that pressed for time, schedule your posts a few days in advance to stay ahead of the game. Twitter and Facebook have built in functionality for scheduling posts, and other tools like Buffer and Hootsuite make it even easier to preload content for later distribution.”
—Derek Cromwell, Shutterstock
11. Use hashtags
“It’s essential to know your audience. For example, if you are working within residential real estate, you do not want to create posts relating to commercial real estate. Mixing up a niche creates confusion and will quickly have users turning elsewhere. When you know your niche, you can narrow the focus of your posts to appeal to that specific audience. … You can find tons of great popular hashtags online, but here are a few examples you can use to lure in potential followers.
And don’t forget #dogsofinsta and #grannies
Including a good number of hashtags is a great way to create more exposure as more hashtags means more hits, and more hits means more followers! However, keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm the user, so keep your tags relevant and try not to drown people with redundant tags.”
—Chris Paish, 99designs
12. Write a series
“People love to read a good series. As a matter of fact, creating serial content is a great way to keep people coming back for more. Sometimes, one post isn’t enough to provide the information your readers need. In this case, it’s best to break it up into two or three entries. This technique is even more effective when used in conjunction with storytelling. If you tell your story well, people will be anticipating the next entry in your series.”
13. Actively guest post
“While it may seem counterintuitive, you can promote your blog by publishing posts on other sites. When you publish content on other similar websites, you tap into their existing audience. This allows you to make relationships with new readers and drive traffic back to your site. When guest posting, always try to include a link back to your site in your author bio or article content.”
14. Seek testimonials from people whose opinion is respected
“Authors often print endorsements from acknowledged experts in the field on the back cover of their books. The thought is that those testimonials will drive purchases by people who respect the experts’ opinion.
In the end, getting your product or service noticed can be a huge challenge. It involves influencing the perceptions of others. However, if you are going to build a successful business selling to people who don’t currently understand the value of your offering, this is exactly what you’ll have to do.”
15. Generate familiarity with a product demo video
“My company’s 2015 study showed that four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. In addition to providing an understanding of your product, allowing your customers to see your product in action fosters trust in your brand and increases conversion. Use these tips for your demo video:
-Keep it simple. Show your customer what your product can accomplish, and how, letting your product sell itself.
-Engage viewers with a before-and-after video that reinforces the purpose of your product or service.”
16. Expand your brand as a podcast guest
“Pitch your message to podcast owners and try to land spots as a guest. Remember, most podcasters rely on interviews to keep their show going. When you land an interview, go above and beyond for the show’s audience. I like to create a small exclusive giveaway to offer the listeners. Throw up a nice landing page for the giveaway and use it as an opportunity to build your email list. The Result: Tap into potential new customers by leveraging someone else’s audience.
Oh, and pro tip? This one works just as well with webinars.”
17. Don’t start with “I”
“Turn your tagline around so it focuses on the value you offer, without the word ‘I.’ For example, instead of ‘I build customized, responsive e-commerce websites,’ try ‘Responsive e-commerce websites, custom-made for your business.’ That way, it’s all about them—you haven’t mentioned yourself directly at all. But it still clearly communicates what you do. Result? Your ideal client feels you’re a good fit and you understand what they need.”
—Briar Douglas, InVision
18. Use free tools like Canva
“Canva is a popular tool for quickly creating social media images and infographics. Want to mock up something like an infographic quickly and easy? Then Lawrence Harmer, founder of Solve Web Media, recommends Canva. It’s a free, browser-based tools that’s used by both designers and non-designers, to make graphics for both print and the web. ‘Canva is pretty good for making nice images,’ says Harmer. ‘Images are the window into the soul of your website and social media, so a tool like this can be key to success.'”
19. Use infographics
“Infographics are particularly useful for small businesses. They are an excellent tool for improving brand awareness, increasing traffic to your website and optimizing it for search. Infographics are also a prime vehicle for establishing thought leadership, since they allow you to show off a depth and breadth of knowledge in a small space.
Small businesses spend a lot of time communicating their brand’s story, and infographics get that job done more effectively and memorably. They offer the small business more bang for its buck, because you only have to create the infographic once, but you can use it many times. Share it via email, across multiple social media platforms, in your affiliate marketing information, in your media kits, on your website and anywhere else you choose.
Finally, infographics last. They have a long shelf life, and if you choose the right topics, they remain relevant and shareable for months or even years—the perfect format for evergreen content.”
—Karla Lant, 99designs
20. Create an online portfolio to market your work
“For photographers, a successful online portfolio will become your most powerful marketing tool. It shapes your professional story and exposes your work to countless potential clients worldwide who are looking for someone just like you.
In fact, a recent poll of 250 executive-level advertising and marketing people revealed that 63% of the decision to hire you for a photography job is influenced by your portfolio. That’s why your portfolio needs to speak for you. It should highlight your strongest work, showcase your skills and communicate your artistic voice. Your online photography portfolio is usually the first point of contact between you and your next job, so it’s important that it says all the right things.
Feature your best work, highlight your area of focus and be sure to update your portfolio whenever you have new work.”