How To Promote Your Small Business: Online and Locally

  << The Immigrant’s Guide To Starting a Business in Ontario

Did you know that immigrants have started many companies in their new countries? Many of these immigrant-owned businesses began as small enterprises. Although their marketing efforts varied, they all became household names through effective promotion and advertising. If you dream of emulating their success, you’re not alone.

Wondering how to promote your business, no matter how small?

This guide will help you get started.

4 things to do before you promote your business

Before you explore potential marketing channels, read through these tips to set your business up for a successful promotion strategy.

1. Develop a brand identity

A brand identity is the face of your business. It’s what people picture when they hear your name.

Small business branding includes things like your logo and official color scheme. It also includes what your current and new customers perceive about you, like:

  • Reputation
  • Personality of your company
  • Promises and values of your company
  • Overall customer experience

Having a strong brand identity increases your brand awareness by making your company easy to recognize and different from competitors. It can also build trust and foster loyalty among your customers. A well-established identity for your brand can guide your marketing efforts and ensure that all of your promotions speak to your customers in the same voice.

Promote Your Small Business

2. Know your target audience and where to find them locally and online

Before you can develop a marketing strategy, you need to know who it is you’re trying to reach. Take the time to think about who your customer base actually is.

Start by considering the following demographics in your area or for your product:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Occupation
  • Annual income
  • Highest level of education completed

Then, delve deeper by asking yourself questions about your ideal customer, such as:

  • What are their values and priorities?
  • What are their aspirations?
  • Where do they get their news?
  • How do they make buying decisions?
  • What social media platforms do they use?

3. Set a marketing budget

Many forms of marketing can cost small business owners a lot of money. Knowing how much you have available to spend on promotion for your small business allows you to market your business effectively without overextending yourself.

Entrepreneurs usually factor in the cost of marketing when determining how much money they need to start a business. If your small business is a recent startup, your business plan can be a starting point for your marketing budget. For an established business, examine your cash flow carefully to determine how much you can realistically afford to spend every month on promotions.

4. Be prepared to hire out for what you don’t know how to do

As you investigate marketing tools and channels, consider what you can realistically do on your own and what you may need outside help to achieve.

To find help with the things you don’t know how to do on your own, start with friends and relatives. You can also contact small businesses that specialize in those areas and inquire about trading services. When all else fails, explore ways to find funding for your business to increase your marketing budget so you can hire a marketing or social media expert.

promote your business

How to promote your business online

Digital marketing includes promoting your business through online methods. Brick-and-mortar and eCommerce stores can both benefit from online marketing.

Customers frequently research products and services online, even if they ultimately intend to visit a brick-and-mortar store. Try the following steps to get started with your own digital marketing.

1. Build a website

Your website is your small business’ home base online. It can communicate practical information about your hours of operation, and give you an opportunity to introduce your products and services to your prospective customers.

Having a well-organized, easy-to-browse website also builds trust and makes your business seem more reputable.

2. Write a blog

About 77% of people who spend time online read blogs. Internet users spend more time reading them than they do their email messages.

Creating a blog gives you a chance to establish your company as an expert in your field. Delivering useful information to your potential customer base builds trust, and when you add a call to action that encourages readers to learn more about your products and services, it can increase sales too. Plus, blogs give you content that you can promote through other marketing channels, like email or social media.

3. Practice search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization or SEO is about helping your website appear higher in search rankings on Google or other search engines. For brick-and-mortar businesses and service providers who work in a geographic area, local SEO can help you appear when people in your region search for keywords related to your company.

When researching businesses with a local search, most people won’t go beyond the first few entries, so it’s important you’re among the top results. Google offers an informative search engine optimization guide to help you get started with SEO.

4. Create an email list for direct marketing

Email marketing helps you stay in touch with current and prospective customers. You can build your own list of email addresses by asking customers to sign up, in person or online.

You may decide to offer visitors a discount or perk for signing up and sharing their email addresses. If you have an ecommerce site, ask at checkout if customers want to be added to your mailing list. A simple sign-up sheet at the counter, for a physical location, also works.

5. Use social media to promote your business

Nearly three-quarters of all Americans use at least one social media platform. Social media marketing gives you an opportunity to promote your products and services to people who may not naturally find your business. Posting on social media can also drive traffic to your blog and website.

You can post without paying anything. To increase your reach, you can pay for ads on your preferred social media sites.

To get started, establish profiles for your company on the social media platforms your customers are most likely to use. Creating a YouTube account and a Facebook page are two smart steps for most businesses, as a wide demographic uses them.

Other social media platforms to consider include:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • TikTok

6. Partner with influencers

Online influencers can expand the reach of your digital marketing efforts. Find out which influencers your customer base is most likely to respond to. Then, get in touch to see how you can partner with them. Some charge fees, while others may promote your business on their social media page in return for free products or services.

7. Create a Google Business Profile

Having a business page on Google is a key step in digital marketing. Once in place, your page will show up in every Google search that someone makes looking for your business.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, your profile also ensures that you appear in the right place on Google Maps. Keep your page updated with information about your business hours, products, and services to ensure current and prospective customers receive accurate information when they look you up.

8. Get listed in online directories

Consumers often check online directories to find contact information for companies and read customer reviews before they buy. Most small business owners have a business listing on Yelp. The platform accepts listings from stores, restaurants, and service providers across industries. 33 million unique devices accessed Yelp in 2021.

Other directories to consider include:

  • Foursquare
  • Yellow Pages
  • ChamberOfCommerce.com
  • Angie
  • Superpages
  • HotFrog
  • Better Business Bureau
  • MerchantCircle
  • Nextdoor
  • eLocal
  • DexKnows
  • Alignable

How to promote your business locally

Even in the age of the global internet, local marketing remains important. Word of mouth marketing adds up $6 trillion of annual consumer spending. Getting your local community talking about your business is a powerful marketing tool.

The following are some of the many ways that you can reach out to your local audience.

1. Keep business cards on hand

“What do you do?” is a common conversation starter. Each time you answer this question and mention your local business, you can reach new customers.

If someone shows an interest in your products or services, hand them a business card, so they can remember you. Make sure these cards are readily accessible in your bag, wallet, or pocket. Consider giving out more than one and asking the person to share them.

2. Get involved in the community

Attending local events gives you a chance to get to know other business owners in the area. By building relationships with them, you might get referrals for your new business.

See what events your local chamber of commerce has scheduled, and look at community calendars for other networking opportunities. Consider sponsoring community events, youth sports teams, and nonprofit organizations to build your reputation and get your name on signs and in front of community members.

promote your business

3. Try to get some local press

A write-up in the local newspaper can be a powerful form of free advertising. Whenever you have a special event coming up, a big sale, or other noteworthy news, you can issue press releases to local papers.

Send short follow-up emails to the publications to remind them of your release to increase the chances of coverage.

4. Create partnerships

Learn about local influencers and reach out to them for promotional opportunities. They may include community leaders, other business owners, and philanthropists.

When you meet with them, identify the real benefits of working with you. This may be tangible things like discounts or free merchandise, or intangible things like helping them achieve a specific goal. For example, a dog grooming business can help promote your new pet supply store—and vice versa.

5. Join a local professional association or networking group

Professional associations and networking groups can provide a steady stream of referrals and provide you with resources to grow your business. Local chambers of commerce are a good starting point.

You can also look for referral marketing groups and entrepreneur groups in your area. There are also trade associations for women and minority business owners to consider too.

6. Get listed in local directories

Make sure that your business appears in local listings like the Yellow Pages. Find out if your community has any public business directories that you can join. Look for industry-specific directories, such as restaurant or tourism guides.

7. Promote your business in the mail

Targeted direct mail campaigns can be a good way to reach a local audience. You might share a handy reference guide to something related to your business, a coupon, or a takeout menu.

8. Offer sales promotions, free consultations, or referral programs

Having a sale or offering free consultations can encourage local customers to come in and give your service a try.

Referral programs encourage word-of-mouth marketing, since satisfied customers will have an incentive to tell others about you. You might offer a perk in exchange for every referral given or for a set number of referrals. Tell every customer about your referral program to help ensure its success.

How to use paid advertising to promote your business

If your marketing budget allows, paid advertisements can help you reach your target audience and more. You can do paid advertising both online and locally.

Online paid advertising

Some potential forms of online advertising include online ads and paid promotions through influencers and micro influencers.

Social media ads

Paid promotional posts on social media can target your messages to people in certain areas or with certain interests. With Facebook ads, you can create a standalone advertisement or pay to promote certain posts from your social media account to an audience that you define.

Google ads

Google ads are advertisements that appear on top of Google search result pages for certain keywords as well as on YouTube, Gmail, and on websites that use Google ads plugins.

The program allows you to establish a monthly budget cap to control spending, and you can increase or decrease it as needed. Google provides detailed analytics to help you assess the effectiveness of your online advertising strategy and make adjustments.

Local paid advertising

You can also pay to get your business name, and products, featured in some local establishments or publications.

Advertising to a local audience can involve:

  • Newspaper ads
  • Local magazine ads
  • Billboards
  • Bus advertising
  • Local TV & radio commercials

Once you establish your promotional strategy, determine your marketing budget, and decide what marketing channels are best for your small business, your company can reach new customers. You’re on your way.