woman setting up an Open sign outside her business

Marketing is important at every stage of your small business’s growth. These small business marketing ideas can help you promote your business and develop ways to both reach new customers and retain your current ones.

Keep your target audience in mind

If you’ve already created a business marketing plan, you probably will have defined your business goals, budget, competitors and target audience. When choosing how to market your business and product, it’s important to choose strategies that will appeal to your prospective customers. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where are your customers going? 
  • What are they interested in? 
  • What are their needs? 

By pinpointing and then promoting the problems your business can solve for your prospects, you will have a better chance of converting them into a paying customer. 

Write your value proposition

Your value proposition is a short statement about the key factor that sets your business apart from competitors. Writing one will help you identify what you can give to your customers that your competitors can’t — or what you have that your competitors don’t.1 Emphasizing the value your business offers to customers in your marketing efforts can help potential customers understand why they should choose your business over others within the industry.

If you’re not sure how to write a value proposition, you can start by listing your products or service benefits and comparing them to your customers’ needs. From there, you can connect how your business can help solve your customers’ problems, then outline how your particular product or service differs from those of competitors — what they’ll get from you that they can’t get anywhere else.

Be active in your community

Whether it’s a sporting event, an art festival, a farmers market or a live performance, community events are great opportunities to spread the word to attract new business. Having a booth or presence at the event gives you a chance to tell attendees more about your business and maybe even give away free promotional items such as pens or bookmarks. 88% of consumers prefer brands that are socially and environmentally conscious.2 Being active and involved in your community helps build a positive reputation around your brand.

Develop a referral program

Even in an increasingly online world, word of mouth continues to be a driving force in how many people shop. Since 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, you may find it helpful to offer current or prospective customers an even greater incentive to use your business by setting up a referral program.3 Some ideas include giving a customer a free product for referring three friends, or a discount on a service for writing a review.

Incorporate email marketing to offer coupons and discounts

Everyone loves getting a good deal. Coupons and discounts are a great way to attract new business, bring in repeat customers and potentially earn even more. For instance, if you own a pizza parlor, consider offering a deal where customers can purchase one pie and get a second one for half the price.

Printing paper coupons or fliers can be expensive, but email marketing is a modern and cost-effective alternative. Promotional emails are emails sent with the intent to persuade someone to take an action — in this case buying from your business. Make the deal or discount even more exciting through creative calls-to-action and deadlines that create a sense of urgency.4

Free trials are also an option to bring in new customers who may want to try before they buy. While offering a free trial may not work for all businesses, it can certainly help give your customers an idea of what you can offer without the pressure of having to decide right away.

Attend networking events

Not only can attending networking events can help you build relationships, but it can also help you stay up to date on trends and brainstorm new business ideas. These types of events are great for getting your name out there. While networking events can be intimidating at first, the possibilities are endless. You may meet your next hire, investor or major influencer in your industry.

Reward loyal customers

Your customers keep your business alive, so be sure to let them know that they are appreciated. Offering exclusive deals, early access to new products, invitations to special events or even something simple such as a birthday coupon will convey to your customers that you value their business and want them to keep coming back. According to Forbes, “Loyalty programs are effective at retaining customers by preventing them from turning to the competition.”5 Rewarding your most loyal customers will help them feel a personal connection with your business and that it’s not just about profit and sales. 

Use a CRM (customer relationship management) tool

CRM is a tool that can help you manage your company’s interactions with new and existing customers. CRM tools can be used to contact customers, track sales, receive customer feedback, analyze data, manage projects and more. While it sounds complicated, businesses of all sizes can leverage CRM to their advantage. In fact, 91% of companies with 10 employees or more utilize CRM.6

Typically, CRM tools will pull data from all outlets where your business interacts with customers and collect them in one place — including from your website, social media, phone calls and email. Being able to keep track of this information can inform business decisions and streamline the customer experience. And CRM isn’t just useful for new customer acquisition: 47% of companies report an increase in customer retention after implementing CRM in their business.6 

Optimize your digital marketing by updating your business website

In today’s digital-forward world, it’s important to make sure that your business’s online presence is strong and that your customers can find you when they are looking for your business. Start by making sure that you’ve set up a Google My Business account that will ensure you can be found easily online. Google My Business can also give you the ability to run paid search ads running for terms related to your business, increasing your online visibility.

After ensuring that your business is easy to find, take an objective look at your website. Your website is often the first interaction new customers will have with your brand, so it’s important to make a good impression. Pretend you are a customer and attempt to navigate the site to complete goals such as buying a product, making a reservation or learning more about your business. Identify points that are difficult, and then work to simplify them. Keep the information on your website up to date, including hours of operation, items sold and more, so you customers know what they can expect from your business.7

Once your website is updated and easy to use for the customer, make sure that your website is optimized for SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization — in simple terms, your website’s chance of ranking highly on a Google search. Good SEO can help customers find your business more easily online and thus drive them to purchase. Incorporating SEO best practices into your website’s content, such as clear headlines and searchable language, will make Google more likely to serve your website to those looking for products or services similar to what you offer.8

Incorporate social media marketing

Setting up social media profiles set up that effectively convey your brand message and offer information that customers need is another effective way to reach new customers and engage current customers online. But which social media channels are right for your business? It all starts with knowing your customer.9

Choose your social media platforms based on what you offer and where your customers spend the most time. For instance, a brief breakdown of some of the top social media platforms by user and advantages would include:

  • Instagram: Users trend toward millennials and Gen Z, and the visual-first platform lends itself well to highly aesthetic products or places.
  • TikTok: Users are primarily Gen Z, and the video-based platform encourages personal brand building and visual content.
  • Facebook: Users tend to be older millennials and later generations, and the business page function offers a comprehensive digital touchpoint outside of your website.

As a small business, you can be flexible with the social media channels you choose. But wherever you choose to have a presence, make sure it’s valuable to your customer. Engaging online content starts with authenticity. Online users have become savvy at sniffing out when a brand isn’t representing itself accurately. They want to see what your business really has to offer them, so use that to your advantage! Social media lets you showcase all the ways your business shines. Plus, social media can become one of your most important customer experience tools. It allows you to interact with customers or prospective customers in real-time, including responding to issues as they arise. It’s one of your most direct lines to the people that you want to reach.10

Final thoughts on marketing a small business

The work is never done when it comes to marketing your business; it will be a journey to learn new ideas, bring in new business, keep your current customers happy and drive sales. The Nationwide Business Solutions Center has a variety of resources that can help you grow and improve how your business operates through the entire process.

Small Business Icon
Learn more about Nationwide business insurance Talk to a specialist  

[1] “How to Write a Great Value Proposition” Basha Coleman, blog.hubspot.com/marketing/write-value-proposition  (April 13, 2023)
[2] “10 Corporate Volunteerism Statistics Your Company Needs to Know” Eli Samuels, galaxydigital.com/blog/corporate-volunteerism-statistics  (July 11, 2022)
[3] “Word of Mouth Marketing Statistics, Fun Facts & Tips in 2023” Iva Marinova, review42.com/resources/word-of-mouth-marketing-statistics/ (May 20, 2023)
[4] “Discount & Promotional Email Examples” no author, mailcharts.com/email-examples/discounts-and-sales (May 23, 2023)
[5] “How Customer Loyalty Programs Can Enhance the Customer Experience” Greg Kihlstrom forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/11/20/how-customer-loyalty-programs-can-enhance-the-customer-experience/?sh=68ddc42b5a46 (Nov. 20, 2018)
[6] “23 Key CRM Statistics [2023]: Growth, Revenue + Adoption Rates” Abby McCain zippia.com/advice/crm-statistics/ (Jan. 16, 2023)
[7] “18 Tips to improve your small business website” Cathie Ericson quickbooks.intuit.com/r/growing-a-business/best-small-business-websites/ (Jan, 25, 2022)
[8] “The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2023” Jami Oetting blog.hubspot.com/marketing/seo?hubs_content=www.hubspot.com%2Fmarketing-statistics&hubs_content-cta=Search%20engine%20optimization&_ga=2.263454725.826167342.1683224055-667213109.1681137101&_gl=1*14uk3hx*_ga*NjY3MjEzMTA5LjE2ODExMzcxMDE.*_ga_LXTM6CQ0XK*MTY4MzIyNzQwMy4xLjAuMTY4MzIyNzQwMy4wLjAuMA. (accessed May 25, 2023)
[9] “Social media engagement: What it is and how to improve it” Jamia Kenan sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-engagement/ (Oct. 20, 2022)
[10] “Small Business Marketing: Social Media Engagement” Megan Baker aofund.org/resource/small-business-marketing-social-media-engagement/ (accessed May 24, 2023)

The information contained in this blog was obtained from sources believed to be reliable to help users address their own risk management and insurance needs. It does not and is not intended to provide legal advice. Nationwide, its affiliates and employees do not guarantee improved results based upon the information contained herein and assume no liability in connection with the information or the provided suggestions. The recommendations provided are general in nature; unique circumstances may not warrant or require implementation of some or all of the suggestions. Nothing in this brochure is intended to imply a grant of coverage.