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You’ve learned how to start a business now it’s time to promote it Marketing your small business is spreading the word about the great products you have to sell. No promotion equals a slim chance of making money online anytime soon.
But your customer’s attention is being drawn from one column to the next. Big brands with marketing budgets in the thousands of dollars increase advertising costs to high levels. Don’t start social media channels changing their algorithms to make it harder for small businesses to reach the audience they’ve created.
It’s not all doom and gloom. You can stand out in the busiest places. It requires more creativity.
To get you started, this guide features 17 creative marketing ideas we’ve seen from independent brands that can be replicated for free (or at very low cost).
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To say that social media platforms are oversaturated is an understatement. About 92% of businesses will use platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to reach their target audience by 2022.
Add to that the fact that Facebook only shows posts to 5.2% of a page’s followers, and you’ll see why social media is such an exhausting way to market a small business.
Diversify your social media marketing strategy by hosting contests. Science directors love free stuff. So you can give something away for free — like a product package or a trip to your headquarters — in exchange for a social media share. Ask your followers to like, comment, share and tag a friend in the giveaway post to increase your reach.
Loca Foods, for example, hosts a contest on Instagram that gives away dips and desserts. Participants need to like the post, follow their Instagram profile, and tag a friend. Bonus entries are up for grabs if followers share posts on their own stories:
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Exciting social media contests and awards give away expensive products. But the marketing money you spend on hosting a giveaway doesn’t have to be excessive. You can make the gift as cheap or as expensive as you like.
Another smart way to use social media to market your small business is to use user-generated content (UGC)—79% of shoppers say it strongly influences their purchasing decisions, possibly because it’s less biased than branded content. They can see someone in their shoes loving the product.
Encourage existing customers to share photos, videos and testimonials of your products. Do a simple scan of your brand name or hashtag to see what social media posts people have shared unsolicited.
The goal is to build a library of quality user-generated content that convinces your social media followers to buy, like this example from Andie Swim. Her former client created a TikTok video, which Andie Swimer posted on Instagram.
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Continuing the social media theme, video marketing is prevalent on many platforms. Look at the success of TikTok. His minute-long videos became so popular that Instagram, a traditional photo-sharing app, launched its own version — Reels — behind him.
Dope Dog is a small company that uses this free marketing idea. Its founder, Irene Mastopietro, says, “We have live Instagram sessions with experts in our field, where audience members can ask questions, and we also do small interviews.
“As a result, we gain exposure to an expert audience and deliver value to our followers.”
Social media fueled the trend. Think about it: TikTok is credited with making songs go viral; Artists listen to record breaking trends as dance trends emerge. Everyone posts videos of themselves dancing to the same song.
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How do you spot trending topics before your small business’s social media content mixes with other people’s trends? Get it before the crowd does with:
For example, Partake Foods has published this duplicate of Spotify Unwrapped – the music platform’s annual report of what music users listened to during the year. Just in case, Partake Foods has turned the most listened to music into the best product:
Here’s a great marketing idea if you’re on a zero budget: Partner with other small businesses that target the same market as you (provided the product you’re selling doesn’t compete with theirs).
Let’s say you have an online store that sells handmade pottery, you partner with other small businesses that sell handmade pottery and lean on each other’s audience and run joint marketing campaigns, such as:
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The beauty of affiliate marketing is not only are you supporting your fellow small business owners, but you can tap into an existing audience for free, unlike the influencer marketing route — most of them charge for posting sponsored posts.
Shoppers have different things on their minds when they visit a new e-commerce store. Ahead are questions like: How do I know this is the right product for me?
Take the pain out of comparing new products with weird recommendations. This does not require hours of time to go into product development. Just skip the “You saw this, so you might be interested in this” categories that grab people’s attention.
Kayleigh adds that with smart copy-paste to increase sales, new businesses can “increase sales and sell in a more fun way.”
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Existing customers are your best friends. They are the people who look at your existing digital marketing strategy and buy off the back of it. Use it as a starting point when developing new marketing ideas.
Use an app like Post Purchase NPS Surveyt to send customer surveys to anyone who purchases through your online store. Ask them what they like about your product, how they found you and what motivated them to buy.
The free package, for example, has a roll of featured customer reviews on its product page. Anyone who discusses trusting retailers will immediately be convinced that it will definitely increase the conversion rate of your e-commerce site:
Voting for the “best” products in your industry is a surefire way to build credibility and gain attention. Stephen Light, chief marketing officer and co-owner of Nolah Mattress, explains, “Awards offer companies a solid opportunity for power, which is one of the keys to successful marketing; you want your audience to know you’re doing your best.”
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“No matter your niche, there are tons of awards and honors you can find with a little digging.”
Whatever prize you win, Stephen says, “It’s a cost-effective boost in credibility and publicity that can make a big difference with a very small investment. Proudly displaying it on your website can encourage conversions.”
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that all marketing must be online. Building an online presence is essential. But step away from the computer and meet potential customers by attending local offline events, such as:
Check with your local council, most have a list of events to support small businesses in the area. Sites like MeetupandEventbrit aggregate business events in your local city.
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Can’t find anything? The host himself. Find a free space to host an event (like a public library), take your inventory with you and hand out flyers to build brand awareness. Remember to use our free business card maker to design your own business card and take it with you. Anyone interested in your product but not ready to buy can get the information to visit your website later.
Got a bunch of slow-moving products? Sell it as part of a mystery box—something Callie echoes in her jewelry business: “Fill it with slow-moving products and promote it as a surprise, and offer it at a bargain price.”
Zac’s Sweet Shop is another e-commerce retailer that offers mystery boxes. Not only do shoppers get to try a variety of products at low prices, but the brand has a way to swap slow-moving or soon-to-expire food products inside each mystery box.
Sometimes the most effective internet marketing ideas are the simplest. It just takes longer to bear fruit. But lay the groundwork early and you’ll set yourself up for success later.
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This is especially true with search engine optimization (SEO), the process of optimizing your online store. It will appear in search results when people are actively looking for information or entertainment, or to solve a difficult problem.
Pair your SEO with a content marketing strategy to launch your small business, and write blog posts targeting low-volume keywords with direct links to your products. Follow those with minimal competition to set yourself up for success.
“The secret is to put out really great content. Producing great content means a lot of different things, but to me, it means putting out content that is relevant to your audience that people really want to read and understanding how to monetize that content.” Trevor Crotz, Founder of BuddyRest 12. Sell themed gift cards
Gift cards increase cash flow. You get money upfront without having to pay a fee to produce the product or ship it to the customer right away.
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Starbucks, for example, sells gift cards year-round. But retailers listened anyway and created custom gift card designs based on popular themes. Taylor Swift’s new song lyrics have surfaced