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16 Best Small Business Advertising Ideas

By Barb Weidner Reviewed By Mike Lucas
By Barb Weidner
By Barb Weidner Reviewed By Mike Lucas

There’s no shortage of options when you’re looking to promote your brand. It’s 2021, after all.

Whether you want to generate more sales leads, increase conversions, improve brand awareness or establish yourself as a thought leader, there are countless advertising tips and resources at your disposal.

Find the best way to advertise a small business, earn brand recognition and gain customers with 1 or more of these 16 marketing techniques.

How to Advertise a Small Business

How you advertise your small business will depend on various factors, such as your target audience, marketing budget and creative resources. That said, here’s our list of small business advertising ideas worth considering.

Green background with computer screen and pink envelope with letter popping out. The words “advertising ideas” are on the screen in a circle.

1. Email Marketing

Even today, email marketing remains one of the most effective methods for getting your message out. With the advent of email automation services like MailChimp and Constant Contact, you can send massive email blasts to thousands of professional contacts at the touch of a button.

Targeted email marketing can do the following:

  • Increase repeat website visits
  • Boost sales through organic search traffic
  • Generate a loyal following of high-converting clients

According to a 2019 report from the Direct Marketing Association (UK), email marketing offers an ROI of £42, which converts to roughly $57, as of February 2021.

2. Paid Online Ads

In the pay-per-click (PPC) world, small business online advertising can take the form of search ads, display ads, remarketing and instream advertising (e.g., YouTube ads). Using PPC ad campaigns, you can advertise virtually anywhere that Google Ads operates — which, in case you haven’t noticed by now, is basically everywhere on the internet.

And while Google is likely the first platform that comes to mind for PPC, there are others, too. Consider Bing, Facebook and other social media platforms. You might also look into alternative ad networks, such as AdRoll, Nativo, Outbrain, Taboola and more. Alternative ad networks can be more affordable, offer less competition and open you up to a new user base.

3. Mobile Ads

According to data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), slightly more than 65.1% of all internet ad revenue comes from mobile advertising, which is on an upward trajectory.

Ever been using an app and seen or heard an ad? If you have the free version of a subscription app on your cell phone, such as Spotify, for instance, you might come across this every so often.

Other types of ads optimized for mobile can include these:

  • Text ads
  • Display ads
  • Banner ads
  • Videos
  • Games

4. Social Media Engagement

Tags and hashtags go a long way toward expanding your reach. So, take to social media to network with other businesses, interact with your audience, request feedback and promote your business and content. Here are a few ways to engage users on social media.

Facebook

Start a Facebook group. This is a great forum for a business to build relationships. Users can pose questions, which you and other users can respond to, offering advice and sharing ideas. Build engagement and Facebook will reward you with better newsfeed reach, thanks to the platform’s algorithm.

Twitter

Additionally, Twitter is arguably one of the best ways to advertise small business promotions within a tight-knit niche. If your company sells, say, hockey or softball equipment, join in on Twitter chats around those sports communities by using their hashtags (e.g., #NHL or #StudentAthletes).

The more “Favorites” and “Retweets” you get, the more eyes will be redirected to your business.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, one of the fastest-growing social media platforms for small business owners and entrepreneurs, is often underutilized. It also happens to be a great way to advertise your business to other business owners that might be interested in your product or service.

Joining a LinkedIn group in your field immediately puts you in contact with other like-minded decision-makers. You also can get the word out on special events you’ll be hosting and offer a registration link for users who’d like to attend.

LinkedIn promotion by Salesforce showing a virtual world tour event streaming live.

Instagram

Instagram is a platform where visual media rules, and it’s a preferred choice for business-to-consumer companies. In addition to carousels and reels, Instagram Live for streaming content, such as an interview or question-and-answer session, is one of the best ways to advertise a small business on this platform.

Thanks to the inner workings of Instagram, live streaming content will move you up to the head of the line in the Stories section at the top of the app, so you get more eyeballs on your brand.

5. Search Engine Optimization

While the benefits of search engine optimization (SEO) can take time, quality content, such as website copy, blogs, guides and ebooks, with a focus on SEO tactics can bump you up on search engine results pages.

Work on ranking for keywords that make sense for your business and your target audience. Once you start climbing the search engine results pages, you’ll have the chance to be seen by more people searching for relevant content. This, in turn, should increase traffic to your site.

Pink background with computer screen showing a play button and video progression bar. The words “advertising ideas” are on the screen in a circle.

6. Video Content

Whether advertising on IGTV or YouTube, consider creating videos on topics of interest to your target audience. For instance, at Fast Capital 360, we’ve created videos covering business loans, collateral and the creditworthiness in lending, to name a few.

Make video content by repurposing a blog post and scripting it out. If you have a graphics team, you could create an animated video a couple of minutes long. Take a look at one of the animated testimonials our graphics team put together to get an idea.

7. Guest Blogging

One of the best ways to promote your business is to become an authority figure in your market. Offering to write guest blogs for one or more high-traffic niche websites is a great way to increase your exposure and generate sales leads, particularly if you can include a link to your company website in your byline.

Also, you can write informative, value-added posts on platforms such as Medium and Quora.

8. Influencer Marketing

Attracting influencers to your brand is a key step in learning how to advertise a small business in today’s digital economy. Having your brand represented by social media personalities with a large number of followers and high engagement rates can generate hundreds of converting leads.

Since larger influencers are often already under contract with other brands, “micro-influencers” with between 5,000 and 25,000 followers are a great source for low-cost ambassadorships. Consider which influencers align with your brand image and tone and which ones have an audience that mirrors your target audience.

9. Print Advertising

While the print industry has largely fallen by the wayside, there’s still an opportunity to leverage this marketing method and capture attention. In fact, Sagefrog Marketing’s 2021 B2B Marketing Mix Report notes 27% of marketers surveyed use print advertising, and 11% plan to increase their spend in this area.

When implemented strategically, you can reach people in mass with the following:

  • Free-standing inserts
  • Newspaper ads
  • Magazine ads
  • Local circulars

10. Direct Mail

In contrast to print advertising, direct mail is designed to reach individuals, whether at home or at their place of business. Here are some examples of direct mail options you might consider:

  • Catalogs
  • Brochures
  • Newsletters
  • Postcards
  • Coupon mailers

Also, keep in mind that direct mail doesn’t have to include pages. You can send interactive mailers, scratch-offs, cardboard cutouts, boxed items, samples and more.

Our advertising tip for direct mail: Get creative, personalize, consider bright colors and, if it aligns with your brand, add humor. With so much junk mail, you’ll want to send something that’ll get a second look and keep you out of the trash bin. You’ll stay top of mind and be more likely to be shared, whether by word of mouth or social media.

Photo of a direct mail flyer from Renewal by Andersen, which is made to appear as a handwritten estimate.

11. Outdoor Ads

A study from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America noted companies that invest in outdoor ads see an average return of nearly $6 for every $1 spent.

You may think of conventional out-of-home (OOH) ads, with printed image displays on:

  • Buses
  • Taxis
  • Wall murals
  • Billboards
  • Bus stop benches
  • Sports venues

But outdoor ads include digital, too. Actually, digital outdoor advertising is expected to reach nearly $26.9 billion by 2025, according to the 2020 Digital OOH – Global Marketing Trajectory & Analytics report.

12. Broadcast Advertising

Television and radio advertising still have their place and are effective forums for reaching large, targeted audiences. Consider contacting local stations to find out what it would cost to run an ad on TV or the radio. You also might consider promoting advertisements on digital stations, such as Pandora or iHeartRadio.

13. Podcasting

Sometimes learning how to advertise your business is a matter of learning how to speak intelligently and informatively about the value your business provides. This is where the art of podcasting comes in.

According to 2020 findings from Edison Research, an estimated 104 million Americans ages 12 and up listened to podcasts every week. In other words, podcasting is now one of the best ways to advertise your business.

Appearing as an expert guest on a popular podcast not only is a great plug for your business, but it also helps establish yourself as an authority figure in your field. You also might consider starting your own podcast.

14. Listings and Directory Placement

Consider how many searches have a local intent. Think about it. When you’ve had it with your dry cleaner losing your garments and turn to Google in search of another one, you expect to get search results for dry cleaners near you, right?

Well, get your name out in your community by creating listings of your business on directory and review sites. Encourage reviews of your business too.

Promote your company locally on Google Search and Maps with Google My Business. The free tool lets you include a company profile and photos.

Also, consider other directory and review sites, such as the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Glassdoor and Foursquare, to name a few.

Snippet of Google My Business webpage, with an image of a cell phone featuring the Chicago Music Exchange with star rating and a photo of a man playing the guitar.

15. Event Marketing

Event marketing is a great way to engage potential customers, build brand awareness, generate leads and get valuable feedback. It also is a good networking opportunity.

Examples of special events you could use to promote your brand include the following:

  • Seminars
  • Trade shows
  • Guest speakers
  • Recruiting events
  • Product launches
  • Friends and family days
  • Community outreach events
  • Customer appreciation events

Also, in today’s digital age and with the coronavirus pandemic still looming, consider holding marketing events online.

16. Customer Loyalty Programs

Sure, customers might return anyway, but give them an extra reason to come back by creating a program to encourage repeat visits.

Customer loyalty programs can run the gamut from punch cards to keychain barcode tags that offer rewards after a certain dollar spent or a specific number of purchases. Think of Starbucks, CVS or even your local grocery store.

Best Ways to Advertise a Small Business

According to the Small Business Administration a good rule of thumb is to spend 7%-8% of your revenues toward marketing, but what type of small business ads and promotions should you be investing in?

Sagefrog Marketing Group’s 2021 B2B Marketing Mix Report offered this breakdown as the most implemented marketing tactics:

  • Email marketing – 84%
  • Social media and social media advertising – 75%
  • Content marketing and blogging – 69%
  • Search engine optimization – 60%
  • Events and tradeshows – 54%
  • Search engine marketing – 46%
  • Public relations – 44%
  • Webinars and seminars – 43%
  • Video marketing – 38%
  • Print advertising – 27%
  • Telemarketing – 13%

Additionally, marketing budgets increased this year, with slightly more than a quarter of those surveyed indicating they’ll be increasing investments in marketing by 15% or more.

The report indicated these as the top areas of marketing spend:

  • Website development – 51%
  • Digital marketing – 44%
  • Content marketing – 33%
  • Branding – 27%
  • Social media – 22%
  • Marketing and sales collateral – 21%
  • Marketing automation and customer relationship management software – 21%
  • Advertising spend (e.g., Google) – 16%
  • Email marketing – 16%
  • Events and tradeshows – 11%
  • Print advertising and direct marketing -11%
  • Public relations – 10%
  • Marketing strategy and planning – 8%
  • Video marketing – 6%
  • Reputation management – 3%

Sagefrog also reported the following new marketing and sales strategies for 2021:

  • Account-based marketing – 46%
  • Video marketing – 41%
  • Influencer marketing -38%
  • Artificial intelligence – 38%
  • Retargeting – $33%
  • Personalization – 32%
  • Inbound marketing – 29%
  • Podcast and live streaming – 27%
  • Chatbots – 24%
  • Mobile-first strategy – 22%
  • Programmatic advertising – 11%
  • Voice optimization – 11%
  • Other – 5%
Barb Weidner CEO at Fast Capital 360
Barb Weidner is the co-founder and CEO of Fast Capital 360, a leading online business loan marketplace. Prior to entering the Fintech space, Barb was the Chief Credit Officer for a mid-sized mortgage bank based in NY. Barb is passionate about simplifying the lives of small business owners and empowering them with the resources they need to thrive.
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