6 Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

  • Small Business
  • Marketing
  • Marketing tips

 With so many marketing options out there, small businesses can feel overwhelmed with the possibilities. With the right strategy and outlet, you can contact the right people for the right price. Read about these common marketing outlets—each with pros and cons—to help you make the right choice for your business growth.


1. A Website

Did you know that over half of small business owners don't have a website for their business? Websites are one of the best marketing tools, and they have few downsides. 85% of consumers use the Internet to search for businesses, so the 52% of small businesses without a website won't be found when people are actively looking for them. What an opportunity to miss out on!

If you commit to having a website, keep in mind that it's a long-term relationship and requires regular updates—without them, your customers will be reading information that may no longer be applicable or relevant. Websites also don't market the way a billboard does—rather than hitting customers in the face like a billboard, websites have to be found by customers who are looking. However, that website can be your best chance at getting customers to choose your products over another—especially when you have a professional-looking website and your competitor doesn't.

By using Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can increase the odds of your page being found, and therefore increase the number of customers who find you. Don't forget that over 60% of clicks go to the top three search results on any given search engine, so having a well-made website can pay off by giving you not only exposure but also real customers.

Having a website does even more than bring customers into your shop. If you have a website, you can list and sell your products online. Last year's Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in history, and consumers spent over $128 on average. Among the top five cities for online sales? Chicago, of course. If your small business is based in the Chicago area, there is a huge population of people searching for products and services online near you. This is not a market to miss out on, and if you have an e-commerce website, you can sell products outside of business hours. Long story short: websites are always worth it, no matter what your business sells.

2. E-mail newsletters

E-newsletters are another simple way to contact customers: they can be sent for free with sites like MailChimp, require little time, and since customers sign up for these, you know you'll have an interested audience. With e-mail newsletters, you do need to make sure you meet legal compliance, which means having an opt-out link and some business information listed, among other things. Use this if you want to keep contact with current customers to give them occasional business updates and promotions (once a month or so is good for most businesses). Keep in mind that e-mails are easy for customers to delete and may not get read, but if you send them for free, the only potential loss is a few minutes of your time, making it a pretty risk-free investment. If you keep your newsletters relevant and don't send them too often, they can help customers feel connected to your business.

3. Google Adwords

Adwords can be an effective tool for small businesses too: with Google Adwords, you can set your budget, select your keywords and target audience, including the geographical location you want your ads to be seen, and the time of day you want your ads to appear. Adwords gives you control of your budget, a major benefit for small business owners since you won't be struck with extra fees or expenses you weren't expecting. Adwords also often runs deals for first-time users, so you can get free money toward your ads. Plus, with Adwords, you only pay when people click the ad, so even if people don't click, they've still seen it—and you don't pay. Maybe this is why most businesses end up making $2 for every $1 they spend on Google Adwords. Google research also shows that nearly 9 out of 10 clicks from Google Ads wouldn't have happened without the ad—so the ads really do help broaden your reach to people who wouldn't have found you otherwise.

Adwords does require work on the part of the user—not only does it take a while to set up, but you also have to be willing to look at your results and make any changes often if you want the most effective ads for your dollars. For Adwords success, use a small number of specific keywords so you aren't wasting money on irrelevant ads, and track your success with Google Analytics, which you can set up to your website. Adwords can be a great tool for online marketing success, but it can be complex for small business owners, so if you are struggling with an Adwords strategy, LinkPoint Media can help you set up your account and tracking.

4. Radio

This marketing tool can be a good way to reach a broad audience: nearly everyone of all ages listens to radio, so radio ads reach all sorts of demographics across gender, age, race, and socioeconomic groups. While you can't target a specific group with radio marketing the way you can with direct mail marketing, you can target people who listen to Country, talk radio, pop, or Spanish radio stations, so think about what kind of radio your ideal customer listens to. 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. is a peak listening time for most listeners, though 18- to 34-year-olds listen the most during 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Strategic Media has a useful article explaining how much you should budget for a radio ad.

5. Direct Mail

While it certainly has downsides (being lumped in with "junk mail"), direct mail can be a good way to target your ideal customers. First, direct mailing allows customers to hold something in their hand, so it feels tangible, something customers don't get with e-mail marketing.

With direct mailings, you can send promotions to specifically targeted groups and buy mailing lists that include customers in that demographic who may be interested in your purchases. Make your mailings successful by offering an irresistible deal, sale, trial, or offer. Another benefit of direct mailings is that they let you keep track of your success. You can have customers bring the mail-in with them or mention it over the phone to claim the promotion, so you can keep track of your ROI. Use this type of marketing if you want to target a specific type of customer and not spend money on marketing to people who may not even be interested.

6. Newspaper

Newspaper offers a wide audience, rapid response, and affordability. Nearly 70% of adults in America read newspapers per week, either online or in print, and about 1 in 4 read a print newspaper every day. Newspaper advertisements are also respected and not seen as "spammy" the way other types of ads can be. With newspapers, you can also change your ad and have a second one run within a few days, so you can see whether your ad is working and make appropriate adjustments quickly.

If you're worried that you can't afford advertising space in the New York Times, you should know that consumers reported they were as likely to make a purchase based on an ad in a local newspaper as an ad in a national newspaper, so whether your ad is placed in your local paper or a national paper, your ad carries the same weight. Newspaper also offers affordability: in most places in Illinois and across the United States, you can buy ad space in local papers for as little as $10-$15 per column inch. Use this if you don't want to spend a lot of money on advertising, want to advertise in a reliable, respected medium, and want to reach a broad range of customers (though keep in mind that the quality of your local newspaper will affect its readership).

Whether you want to devote a few dollars to newspaper advertisements, a few minutes to e-mail newsletters, or go the more complex route with radio or direct mailings, you should feel more enabled to make the best marketing decisions for your business. There are a thousand other marketing options out there: Google Adwords, Facebook paid advertisements, Chamber of Commerce connections, and more, but these few should help you make some basic business marketing decisions. And if you've decided it might be time to get your business a website or bring your current site into the New Year so you can attract online shoppers, contact us for a free quote!