Jan 22, 2020 | 6 min read

Marketing Ideas and Tips for Your Small Business

Tips for Running Your Small Business

Small business owners, we know you have a lot of competing priorities – you don't just run your business, you have to get the word out about it. And coming up with marketing ideas while working isn't always easy. That's why we've put together these quick and simple suggestions to help you draw in new clients and keep them coming back again and again. 

Small Business Marketing 101: Intro

Marketers love funnels. One of the most classic marketing funnels you may have seen before is an inverted pyramid made up of four stages:

1. Awareness stage: This is the biggest group of people at the top, who know about your company, at least by name.

2. Consideration stage: Further down are people who are looking to learn more before making a decision, such as booking an appointment.

3. Conversion stage: This is your target audience – people who will convert from considering your business to becoming a customer or client.

4. Loyalty/advocacy stage: Some models show the previous critical step as the final one, but there’s another key stage: when customers become loyal fans who do free word-of-mouth marketing for you. In this stage, which fuels the marketing funnel by bringing in new business, your company's biggest advocates help increase brand awareness among friends and family, which can lead to more customers down the road. 

Small Business Marketing 101: Strategy

We’ve covered the basics. Now here are some low-cost marketing tactics and marketing tools for small business owners, from accountants and realtors to dog walkers and daycare owners, to move customers through the funnel.

Awareness stage small business marketing ideas

1. Neighborhood communities

Spread word of mouth about your small business wherever your local customers hang out. This could be in local coffee shops, stores, and other places that allow local businesses to leave business cards and flyers.

To reach your neighbors digitally, join them where local conversations are taking place, such as the neighborhood hub, Nextdoor (that's us). Right now, members are likely discussing local news in their neighborhood, asking for recommendations, and searching for information about local businesses on the platform. It's free to create a Business Page on Nextdoor. Get started by claiming your profile. Try Local Deals, paid ads at a budget that works for you that include hyperlocal targeting to reach the neighborhoods where your customers live.

2. Other social media sites

In addition to Nextdoor, the social network for neighborhoods, it's free to create accounts on social media sites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. That said, it can take time to build a following organically. To reach a wider audience faster, there are paid advertising options.

3. Google My Business (GMB)

GMB is the platform that powers business listings on two of Google’s most popular products: Google Maps and Google Search. Owners can claim or create their business listings and publish (or update) key company info, such as your phone number, website, hours, and address.

4. Search engine marketing (SEM)

As with social media marketing, there’s a paid side to getting your listing to rank well in search engines. Enter SEM options like Google Ads (and similar services from Bing, AOL, and Yahoo!). SEM can be a low-cost marketing plan to promote your business to your target market, say, people searching for dog-sitters in the Nashville area.

5. Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is all about getting your business website to rank well for your business name as well as your business’s products and services. Say you’re the business owner of Amy’s Pie Shop in Miami. You’ll want your website to be the top Google result when someone searches for “Pie shops near me” or “Best pie in Miami.”

Consideration stage small business marketing ideas

1. Content marketing

Content marketing is a great way to attract customers at the consideration stage. Let’s say you’re the business owner of a local daycare center. You know customers at the consideration stage often compare daycares and babysitter services, so you might start blogging about the pros and cons of daycare versus babysitters. 

Think of a content marketing strategy as an editorial calendar. You could create a series of blog posts with relevant content about how to budget for childcare, strategies for finding affordable childcare, and other relevant topics, which can also be shared with potential customers on your social media channels.

2. Business cards

If you're a babysitter, dog walker, realtor, gardener, or home cleaning or repair professional, you never know when you might run into your next potential client in your community. That's where business cards come in handy. Consider creating a card with some personality and maybe even a special offer. This may help convert them to customers when the timing is right.

3. Infographics

Illustrations are popular on visual social media sites like Pinterest. They often contain fun facts and stats. Infographics are a concise and attention-grabbing way to tell the story of your business so potential customers can glean your greatest strengths in a glance. Consider sharing these on your social channels, blog posts, or email newsletter as part of your larger content marketing strategy. 

If you're a local realtor, you could put one together showcasing the number of homes you've successfully sold. Local charities could create one that demonstrates the amount of funds raised.

4. Email marketing

Creating an email newsletter for customers to join is one way to educate consideration stage customers and help them convert. Offering a one-time discount or exclusive offers may help to encourage people to sign up. Before you start adding members to your email list, you’ll want to have an email campaign strategy in mind. Possibilities for this marketing strategy include sending updates about your new products or services, promotions, or changes to your business hours. 

Conversion stage small business marketing ideas

1. Webinars

Whether you're the manager of a local school or daycare that offers informational sessions for families before they enroll their kids or a local business that hosts speakers and performances that are open to the public, webinars may help you reach people who can't make it to face-to-face meetings. 

This live (virtual) video hosting technology gives you the ability to broadcast yourself and your business to reach even more potential customers. For webinar informational sessions, customers have the chance to learn more, ask questions, and interact with you and your business in an intimate setting.

2. Free trials or demos

Are you a local trainer or health coach? Consider offering a free trial session for new clients to get to know you and see the benefits firsthand. Experts recommend setting a finite time frame for a free trial. Consider transitioning free-trial users to a discounted plan as an interim step before making them pay the full price.

Loyalty/advocacy stage small business marketing ideas

1. Referral marketing

Small tokens of appreciation can show customers that they matter the most. Take this one step further by creating a referral program. Your regular customer base can sign up to receive ongoing rewards in exchange for doing what they do already: bringing in new customers, following your company on social media, and posting reviews and photos of your business.

2. Free upgrades

Everybody likes a gift with purchase, and free upgrades are a great way to reward big-ticket items, such as throwing in a free five-year warranty for furniture purchased from your store.

3. Milestone recognition

Whether it's your customer's anniversary as a client, their birthday, or their 100th visit, people love being recognized (and rewarded) on special occasions. Consider offering a free service or perhaps a branded T-shirt, a pair of sunglasses, or a coffee mug.

4. Rewards programs

Does your local restaurant, hair salon, or home services company offer a rewards program for returning customers to keep encouraging them to do repeat business with you? Punch cards (purchase 10, get one free) is a simple method to get things started if you don't have the marketing budget or bandwidth for complicated systems. 


If you're a small business owner looking to grow your business, incorporate these ideas into your marketing efforts to increase your brand awareness and increase sales. Share with us your best local marketing ideas that paid off for a chance to be featured on future blog posts at local-business-newsletter@nextdoor.com.

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Author image Nextdoor Editorial Team At Nextdoor, we love local. The Nextdoor Editorial Team is dedicated to telling stories of local businesses, providing product education, and sharing marketing best practices to help businesses grow.