8 Inexpensive Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Updated: Mar 13, 2019



Nothing attracts new customers like a good promotion, but it can hard to come up content that's compelling, creative, and cost-effective for small business owners. Here are some strategies from local businesses and Promota partners that hit all three marks.

1. Make a Limited Time Special

Seasonal items are ideal for building hype and creating demand. No doubt you've heard — maybe even said — the phrases "Limited Time Only" and "While Supplies Last." Used strategically, they create a call to action and raise a sense of urgency. When you can't get a product all the time, its value increases

A prime example can be found in any coffeehouse during the fall. From October to November, all things from coffee to pastries are brewed and baked with a pumpkin spice flavor. The reason for the hype is simple: limited-time offers help with newsworthiness. It keeps a business at the front of peoples' minds, capitalizing on anticipation to bring in more customers. Once customers make it in-store, using digital signage can help draw their eye to the offer.

2. Engage Customers with a Challenge or Contest

One of the hardest things for any business is getting people excited and engaged. Proposing a week-long challenge could be a fun and creative way to get your customers onboard. If you make your business part of their daily lifestyle, they're much more likely to return, repurchase, and make referrals to friends and family.

Our superuser Action Karate in Mt. Airy challenged their students to eat a healthy plant-based diet for 3-5 days to earn their Vegan patch. According to their Facebook page, "We challenge our students on the mat, time to challenge them in the kitchen!" To receive the patch, they must also post a photo their meal on social media.


Nektar Juice Bar is another business that offers challenges to keep customers healthy and coming back for more. Since they opened their first store in 2010, they've grown to 100 locations thanks to excitement around their juice cleanse challenge. For the challenge, customers are encouraged to kickstart healthier eating habits with 1-to-5 day juice cleanses. The bundles are designed to flood the body with essential nutrients and increase cravings for whole foods.

3. Create a Coupon to Redeem In-Store

What's another way to get online communities to visit you in-store? Post coupons to social media that can only be redeemed in-person. Time them strategically to bring in more customers and revenue on slow business days.

This idea can be applied across a variety of industries. Mimi's Country Boutique and Franke's Bar and Grille used Promota's templates to create coupons that customers can redeem in-store. They posted these to Facebook, and followers shared them with their friends.

4. Offer a Referral Rewards Program

To reward loyal customers and attract new ones, a referral program is a great option. Give customers a chance to introduce their friends and family to your business, and reward them with something meaningful in exchange.

Some popular reward options include store credit, a discounted/free product or service, or even a simple postcard. There are plenty of creative ideas out there, it's just a matter of finding one that fits your business and provides value to your customers.

5. Host an Event or Class

From bakeries hosting baking courses to florists hosting floral arrangement sessions, educational events give businesses the chance to showcase their expertise. It's also a prime opportunity to meet customers and forge new connections.

During the event, look for ways to extend the relationship by collecting email addresses or encouraging customers to tag your business in photos. You can also repurpose the content you shared at your event by posting it online.


6. Create a Giveaway

As a small business owner, you want to make sure your existing customers are returning ones. If customers are showing less interest in sales and specials, a giveaway could be a good way to pique their interest and incentivize them to come back.

For local businesses looking to pick up a few more customers in their area, in-store giveaways are a quick and easy option. Tea Zone Lounge encouraged customers to purchase drinks and snacks in exchange for an iPhone rage ticket.

The giveaway was displayed in-store on a TV using Promota, and fans were encouraged to share the event on social media. Not only did this strategy boost their online presence, it encouraged more customers to come in and buy drinks during this time.

For more info on using Promota to display promotions in-store and online, check out last month's article on 3 easy ways to promote a sale.

7. Partner with a Local Business

If you're hosting an event or class and worried that there's not enough interest, consider partnering with another brand or business. Not only would this be cost-effective, you'd also be tapping into a customer base you wouldn't usually reach. (Just make sure they're not a direct competitor!)

The San Francisco company Sour Flour partners with locally-owned La Victoria Bakery to host baking workshops. The partnership is a win-win for both parties, Sour Flour has access to the popular bakery and their customers, and La Victoria gains exposure and has a constant stream of new customers through the workshop.

8. Get Customers to Share Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words. We've talked before about using customer-generated content as an effective and inexpensive way to market your business. Photos posted by customers help you reach more people through their network and content discovery.

For example, people who look for new salons or restaurants often scope them out on Instagram first. The content being shared under your business's hashtags can have a huge influence on whether casual browsers are converted to customers. However, a huge challenge is encouraging people to post photos of your business in the first place.

You can encourage customers to share their experiences by providing the resources (free Wi-Fi), encouragement (take group photos for them, suggest that they tag your page), and rewards for participation (share and credit customers' photos).

Promota has a social media template that be customized to display customer posts and reviews. To try it out, open the Promota app and look for it under the Meals category.


Which of these ideas would you use for your next marketing campaign? Remember, you can always get creative and combine them in different ways. For example: launch a contest where customers share photos, or give referral rewards for an event.

Hope this gave you some ideas. Don't forget to install Promota free by tapping the button below.


#smallbusinessowners #marketingideas #holiday #businessstrategy #digitalsignage

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