4 Creative Marketing Strategies for Small Business Owners

  •    Meredith Wood is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans.

Have you ever seen the Blair Witch Project? The hype before the release of the film is one of the most legendary examples of creative marketing.

With a $60,000 budget, the team carried out a guerilla marketing campaign, using not just a dedicated website, but also various online forums to spread the myth of an evil witch lurking in the woods of rural Maryland. It worked. The film grossed $248 million worldwide.

That was back in 1999 when most of the digital marketing techniques you see today were in their infancy or didn’t exist. Today, small businesses have a variety of creative marketing tactics at their disposal. With the right marketing strategy and execution, your company can achieve exponential growth, even if you don’t have a big budget.

Here are 4 creative marketing strategies every small business owner should consider:

1. Think outside the box with content marketing

While traditional ads still work, even those expensive Super Bowl ones, content is the new way to advertise. You must know this as a small business owner.

As the Content Marketing Institute notes, content marketing is a “strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

According to industry research, content marketing works. For instance, educational content makes consumers 131% more likely to buy in comparison to those who didn’t read the content.

Clearly, potential customers want helpful, informative articles, videos, infographics, etc. Give it to them. In addition to traditional content marketing tactics, try creative ideas like the following three:

  • Guest post on other sites where readers are interested in what your business has to offer. This is what actually enabled Buffer to get 100,000 signups within nine months.

  • Use Quora to answer questions in your industry and build your company’s brand. Give in-depth analysis and mention your expertise and business naturally, if possible. Be sure to include your company name in the bio as well.

  • Post on Slideshare. Not only does the site have 60 million visitors per month, it gets five times the amount of business professionals other sites do.

2. Optimize your website design and copy

Nature Air increased conversion rates by 591% on their landing pages by adding context to their CTAs. They changed the general CTA of “Daily Flights throughout Costa Rica” to a more specific offering, like “Fly to Tamarindo from $58.”

Even simple changes can make a big difference. The good news is that, with intuitive A/B testing tools like Google Analytics and KISSmetrics, you can discover what works and what doesn’t much more quickly.

To start optimizing your website, do the following:

  1. Make your website SEO-optimized. A salesperson can’t win over a customer’s business if no one is walking through the doors. Your website can’t convert visitors if traffic isn’t flowing to it. Keyword research tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer and Google Keyword Planner can help you figure out which words and phrases you should emphasize.

  2. Use logical layouts to appeal to viewers. Nice visuals that don’t strain the eyes and actionable writing (not big blocks of text) keep readers on the page. It’s just easier to navigate. For example, Underwater Audio changed their website to an F-pattern that led to a 35.6% increase in sales. The F-pattern adheres to human reading patterns.

  3. Simplify the process. Steve Krug, a user experience expert, wrote a book called Don’t Make Me Think. In short, your website should make everything very easy, from finding content and viewing products to contacting staff and making purchases.

In short, the website should be clean and attractive, while also clearly showing the value of your products and services. This is how you generate and convert more visitors.

3. Set up a referral program

Did you know that recommendations from friends and family are the most credible form of advertising? You need to use that to your advantage by setting up a referral program.

A referral program is quite straightforward: You allow customers to promote your product in return for a commission. This could be cash, a discount, gift cards, or something else.

Many successful startups have employed referral programs to boost their customer base. For instance, [Uber’s referral incentives for drivers and riders was a major reason why the ride-hailing service was able to expand to more than 50 countries in just its first three years. The company offers a double-sided referral program, with both the referrer and newly referred customer receiving a bonus.

With powerful referral program software and the right strategy, your business can duplicate what Uber did. Consider the following when designing and implementing the program:

1. Is it easy to refer friends and family? It should literally take seconds via an email or social media share.

2. Do both parties benefit? This ensures people are motivated to refer friends and family and those receiving the referral don’t feel taken advantage of.

3. Does the program align with your growth plans? Obviously, you want the referral program to succeed. But. as Sandeep Dahiya, a finance professor, notes: “high growth can easily overwhelm the internal controls of a small enterprise.”

4. Participate in trade shows, conferences, and other events

Not everything has to be done online, even in the digital age. Going out and personally meeting influencers, competitors, customers, suppliers, and others involved in your industry is a great way to build fruitful relationships and partnerships.

For example, if you attend a trade show, beyond having a great display that details your company’s story, product, and social media addresses, you can hand out free things so potential clientele remember your company. Just be sure to target your audience accordingly.

Sidekiq, an open-source software that enables Ruby developers to move jobs into the background for asynchronous processing, got its first users this way. Mike Perham, author and maintainer at Sidekiq, handed out free swag at events like Rubyconf and Railsconf to increase Sidekiq’s visibility and brand among Ruby developers. The idea was an incredible success and helped make Sidekiq a major player in the industry.

By choosing events where the right people will be, you can grow your business a lot. To ensure even greater success, use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, so that your content extends online as well as offline—and all your audience is reached.

Achieve greater business growth with innovative marketing tactics.

No matter your budget, you can employ creative marketing tactics to grow your business. From hosting contests to partnering with other brands to offering free gifts with a purchase, you have lots of options.

To make certain any new marketing strategies have the best chance at success, consider your customers and how they can be best reached. Then, take time to create high-quality content and have a thorough plan in place. Execute the strategy, being sure to pay attention to data and feedback. Adjust as needed. This is the path to generating growth with a new creative marketing strategy.