4 cost-effective small business marketing ideas

Although running marketing campaigns on a small business budget can be challenging, it is doable. In fact, some marketing initiatives are less expensive than you might think! All you need is a little time and creativity. Whether your small business is in the process of reopening, slowly getting back on track or looking to accelerate growth, your business can surely benefit from cost-effective marketing ideas. Here are 4 ways to make a big impact with a small budget.

1. Create engaging and relatable content

One of the hottest trends in the marketing world is content marketing, and for good reason. By definition, content marketing attempts to attract customers by distributing useful, informational content (information in the form of videos, blog articles, whitepapers, or infographics), rather than by advertising products and services in the traditional way. It provides value to your audience in the form of knowledge or entertainment. All while providing your business products or services with exposure. The formula is simple: the better the content, the more likely it is that it will be shared. The more your content is shared, the more exposure your business will get.

There are plenty of reasons why businesses spend so much time and effort on creating content; it gives them a voice that differentiates them from the competition and shows authenticity. What all that marketing lingo means is simply that whatever you create is yours and only yours.


There are a few easy ways to start creating your own content. Creating videos is a method you’re likely already familiar with. Whip out your smartphone and record some interesting aspects of your business:

  • Introducing your staff
  • Expert interviews
  • Customer testimonials
  • How-to videos
  • Product showcases


Try your hand at blogging. A well-written blog will draw potential customers to your website and give them a reason to keep coming back. If you don’t have a blog on your website, options like WordPress and Tumblr can be used to host your content. Hosting a blog on your website is also a great way to help with your search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines love it when you update your site with fresh content regularly. The more you update your website, the more you increase the chances of your site ranking well on search engine results pages. You can also post to platforms aside from your website you may be more familiar with such as LinkedIn Posts or Facebook Instant Articles. These platforms make social sharing a breeze, helping your blogs reach more people.

Not sure what to write about? How about one of these topics:

  • Customer success stories
  • How current events affect your customers
  • Product comparisons
  • Behind the scenes looks
  • “Best-of” lists


A whitepaper is an in-depth educational piece whose sole purpose is to break down complicated topics. In no way is it designed to be a sales pitch. They offer the reader something they likely couldn’t find anywhere else with a great amount of detail on a relevant topic. A very common exchange is asking someone to provide their Email address, or to sign up for a newsletter, in exchange for a copy of the whitepaper.

Coming up with a topic isn’t easy. As the writer, you are expected to be the expert, so make sure you’re writing about something you know inside and out. A general guideline is that whitepapers are over 6 pages long and the content is quite dense.


Chances are you’ve encountered more than your fair of infographics share while scrolling through your social feeds. Infographics are defined as “visual communications”. Their purpose is to ease the comprehension of data, which is often complex, by visually representing it. Essentially, they make information easier to digest. Best of all, there are free online tools available to help you create your own infographics with no design skills needed.

Any infographics you create should have a connection with your industry. If you’re a restaurant you can highlight menu trends. If you’re a retail store you can highlight how efficient your checkout process is. If you’re not too sure where to start, check out the 100 best infographics for inspiration.

2. Run a Promotion

The Economic Times defines a promotion as making people aware, attracting and inducing them to buy the product, in preference over others. You have no doubt been exposed to promotions in the form of coupons and giveaways at some point, now it’s time to see how to implement these simple marketing tactics for your own business.


Coupons are a great way to attract new customers and help keep current clients loyal by rewarding them. They can help expand your market size, win customers away from competitors, and encourage impulse purchases. Coupons are trackable, making it really easy to determine how your promotion performed, whether the offer was effective as is or needs some tweaking.

The first step is to decide what you will discount and how you will present it. According to Entrepreneur, these are some of the best ways to get the most out of your coupons.

Use the psychology of discounts

This means making the savings seem as big possible.

For example: At a glance, which of the following do you think represents the biggest discount?

  1. $200 off a $999 TV
  2. A $35 pair of sunglasses, marked down from $50
  3. Buy one shirt for $60, get the second for 50% off

“1” often seems like the best deal at first, but it’s only a 20% discount, option 2 is 30% and option 3 is 25%. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and get creative!

Create urgency

Sometimes all that’s standing between a customer and their purchase is an ounce of hesitation. When they are presented with a coupon that’s only valid for a limited time, they feel some pressure to move past this hesitation and follow through with the purchase.

Personalize and individualize coupons

This isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but personalization goes a long way. Studies show as much as a 95% increase in website traffic and a 217% increase in revenue after implementing personalization on websites.


Giveaways may seem like a waste of valuable product, but it’s about more than just handing out freebies.  It helps bring more people through the doors of your business and helps to boost sales. It’s no secret that people love free stuff, sampling just works. People are more likely to pick up additional items once they are in store and will generally spend more since you extended your “generosity”. You’ll also acquire new customers that are now more inclined to come back.

Pinterest has over 1000 giveaway ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

3. Send out a Company Newsletter

Email marketing allows you to reach targeted groups of customers in a cost-effective way. There is one caveat, Canada has strict rules around how and who you can send an electronic message to. The people on your Email list will have had to give you permission to Email them. This means they will have to “opt-in” to receiving your communications, which is essential to avoid violating the Canadian Anti-SPAM Legislation (CASL). There’s plenty of ways to collect Emails legally such as:

  • Ask your customers to join the mailing list when they make a purchase
  • Place a signup form on your website
  • Promote your newsletter on social media by sharing similar content and linking to the signup form

The types of things you can share with a newsletter are endless. You’ll be able to include key pieces of info such as:

  • New business happenings
  • Promotions
  • All that content we mentioned above

Remember, the people receiving your newsletter have expressed interest in hearing from you. They will be more receptive to what you have to say than the average person.

Step one is checking out some of the most popular Email marketing providers. They will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to create professional-looking email campaigns that get results.

4. Develop and nurture your online social media presence

Given that the average consumer spends over 2 hours on social media every day. It would be a mistake not to be accessible to them there. Find out which platforms your customers use so you don’t waste time posting where no one will see it.

Once you have your accounts set up, it is time to start building and nurturing the network. Think of building your social community as a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t expect your number of followers to balloon to over 1,000 in under a week. According to the social media pros, the best way to gain numbers is by consistent posting. The frequency of your posts all depends on your current network size as well as the platforms you’re using. If you need help figuring this out, RevLocal put together this short guide.

Deciding what to post can be a challenge in itself. Think of social media as a distribution tool. All of the marketing ideas we’ve explored can (and should) be shared through social networks for added exposure. It’s important to remember that by creating and sharing quality content that people actually want to read will lead to more sharing, and so on. If you’re not sure what to post about, try some of these:

  • Ask a question
  • Create a contest
  • Post about holidays
  • Share articles from other sources

Where social media really shines is that it creates an open dialogue between your business and your customers. You’ll be able to engage with your customers and they will be able to give you feedback, leave you reviews, etc.

Want to Stick to “Traditional” Marketing?

You can place ads in newspapers, on the radio or even TV. Call your local publisher or radio station to find out how. One major drawback to traditional media versus the newer online advertising options is cost. Print (newspapers & magazines) and broadcast (radio & TV) advertising can be much more expensive compared to online marketing channels like social media or online ads.

For more marketing tips and tricks, be sure to check our small business resource page regularly.