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17 Unique Online Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

11 Mins read

In the digital age, standing out online is crucial for small businesses, so we’ve gathered unique strategies from Presidents, CEOs, and marketing experts. From featuring customer vintage moments to sponsoring influential YouTube content, here are seventeen inventive approaches these professionals use to market or promote a small business online.

Feature Customer Vintage Moments

My online store deals with only vintage clothing curated by me. First, my marketing was based on the very fact: nice pictures of the items, historical facts about the era of the clothes that I sell, etc. It did reach some of my target audience, but I felt a disconnection. They weren’t buying the dress; customers were buying into the feeling, the story.

I decided to revamp my social media presence. Instead of focusing solely on the items, I began featuring customer photos and testimonials.

It was a woman twirling in a 1950s party dress—captioned with “Felt like a movie star at my friend’s wedding”—that got more reaction than my carefully staged product shots. I encouraged customers to share their ‘vintage moments’ and created a dedicated hashtag.

It completely changed the voice of my brand. It made it all so much less transactional and really like a group of fans or something coming together to celebrate self-expression, the joy of finding one-of-a-kind pieces.

Shoppers weren’t just browsing inventory; they were seeing themselves reflected in the content. Engagement soared, and most importantly, so did sales. This case study really puts the point home that you need to understand not just what you sell, but the deeper need it fulfills for your customers.

Hamzah Khadim, President and CEO, Logik Digital

Engage with Eco-Conscious Micro-Partners

As a maker of handcrafted wooden toys, I knew the perfect consumer would be an eco-conscious parent who wants an alternative to mass production. Getting to them, though, to be honest, seemed a little daunting. Lost in the standard noise of Facebook ads. And that’s when I really doubled down on micro-partnerships.

I had started with some recon in the world of parenting bloggers and Instagram accounts where the values were shared: focus on natural materials, imagination, etc. I didn’t even give them requests for any paid promotion, but something that is basically equal: an exclusive discount code to their followers, paired with giving away one of my toys. This felt a lot more genuine and valuable than a simple ad.

This exceeded expectations as several bloggers were eager to partner! They already had a predisposed interest in their loyal followers, and the orders and activity were really rolling in on the website. Above all, this made the sales highly targeted. These are the customers who do not window-shop; they relate to the ethos of my product. It is likely that these types of customers will have repeat business with me and make word-of-mouth recommendations.

Kim Christink, Founder and Owner, Bayridge Counselling Centres

Customize Data-Driven IT Marketing

At Graham SEO, we address web marketing for small firms in the IT industry with a customized and data-driven approach. Making use of our proficiency in search engine optimization (SEO), we concentrate on understanding the specific requirements and market environment of every client. Our process begins with a thorough audit to pinpoint key areas that need to be improved. Next, a customized plan is created to increase online exposure and attract relevant traffic.

Our methodology is distinct in that we prioritize the relevancy and quality of the content. We believe that relevant, high-quality content engages and educates potential customers, in addition to raising search engine results. By producing insightful content that tackles common problems and provides workable solutions, we position our clients as industry leaders, attracting organic traffic and building clientele. Furthermore, we utilize sophisticated analytics and monitoring tools to assess the effectiveness of our tactics, enabling us to optimize our methodology and produce quantifiable outcomes for our customers.

Graham McCormack, SEO Specialist, Graham SEO

Embrace Emotion-Driven Marketing

At Empathy First Media, we’ve pioneered a strategy called “Emotion-Driven Marketing.” By focusing on creating content that resonates emotionally with our audience, we’ve seen a significant increase in engagement and conversion rates. This approach involves leveraging storytelling and customer experiences to build a genuine connection with our audience, ultimately driving brand loyalty and advocacy.

Daniel Lynch, President and Owner, Empathy First Media

Combine Local and Online Advertising

In my role at ProMed DME, we’ve adopted a couple of unique strategies for promoting our small business online, which could be valuable to others exploring similar paths. One effective approach was the integration of targeted local and online advertising techniques. We recognized that while our online presence was crucial, especially in reaching a broader audience, complementing this with strong local advertising nurtured a trust-based relationship with the community.

For instance, we advertised in local healthcare facilities and engaged in community health events to maintain visibility among potential customers who could benefit from our services. Simultaneously, we leveraged online search engine ads and social media platforms to optimize our reach. This blend resulted in a more robust connection with both potential online and local customers, helping drive a measurable increase in traffic to both our website and store.

Another strategy involved ensuring our advertising spoke directly to the needs of our customers. Understanding that most of our clients were Medicare beneficiaries, we emphasized our expertise in Medicare billing and compliance, which minimized their out-of-pocket costs and simplified their experiences. Highlighting this specialized service not only filled a niche but also established our reputation as experts, boosting customer loyalty and referrals.

Implementing these strategies, we observed a noticeable increase in customer engagement and conversion rates, which translated into higher sales revenue. This approach of coupling local insight with online reach and specialization can be adapted by other small businesses aiming to strengthen their market presence and customer base.

Mike Breslin, CEO, ProMed DME

Capitalize on Niche Podcast Interviews

Unique approach: Interviewing on hundreds of niche podcasts. Let me explain how it works: 

You are a small business owner. You want to get your business in front of your ideal audience, but you don’t have a massive marketing budget. 

So, what do you do? You research podcasts in your niche where your ideal customer is listening and getting advice. You reach out to the podcast hosts, explain your background and expertise, and pitch them on having you as a guest on their podcast. They say, “Yeah, let’s do it!” 

You interview on the podcast, share your story, talk about your area of subject-matter expertise, and show off your personality. What happens? Your name and brand gain recognition from the podcast’s listeners, and your reputation begins to grow. You also receive a backlink to your website from the podcast’s website, which helps your website’s SEO. 

You repeat this process and get interviewed on 10, 20, 30, 50+ podcasts over the course of one year. Your name becomes synonymous with your subject-matter expertise, and thousands learn about your business. Traffic, leads, and paying customers come to you from your podcast interviews. 

Most people know you can sponsor podcasts and run one of your own, but interviewing on specific niche podcasts is a massively overlooked marketing strategy that ALL small business owners can tap into.

Connor Gillivan, Entrepreneur, Owner and CMO, TrioSEO

Utilize Budget-Friendly Micro-Influencers

Promoting a small business can be tough because of the lack of customers. But thanks to social media, micro-influencers are a big thing. Taking the help of micro-influencers comes with two advantages. First, they’re niche-oriented. Hence, even if their audience is smaller, they are 100% loyal and engaged with the content the influencer produces. 

Secondly, micro-influencers are budget-friendly, and this can be a great deal for small businesses if they don’t want to spend a lot. This helps both the micro-influencer and the company grow together, helping each other out. And often, the results are great when it comes to selling products and building brand awareness.

Julia Lozanov, Chief Editor, Verpex

Host Live Industry Expert Sessions

To attract students and highlight the hands-on usefulness of our courses, we organize live online sessions every month with prominent figures in the field of business intelligence and analytics. 

These sessions offer practical examples of how BI tools and techniques are used in real-world scenarios and allow attendees to engage with professionals by asking questions and participating in discussions. 

This method has notably boosted the recognition and trustworthiness of our platform, leading to enrollments and illustrating the direct advantages to one’s career path.

Arkadiy Ostrenko, CMO, BI-Box

Collaborate with Local Artists

One unique approach I’ve implemented to promote my photography business online is through artistic collaborations. This strategy involves working together with local talents—artists, designers, and other creatives—to produce limited-edition merchandise or art installations. The aim is to create something that truly embodies the essence and values of Karen Vaisman Photography.

For example, we may approach a renowned painter to interpret some of our headshot photographs into their distinct artistic style. These unique interpretations of our work not only showcase the artist’s talents but also breathe new life into our images. The result is visually stunning creations that stand at the crossroads of art and commerce, captivating our audience and sparking engaging conversations about the beauty and power of portraiture in a fresh, artistic light.

These collaborative projects aren’t just limited to physical merchandise or installations. We have hosted art exhibitions, mural projects, and live painting events that highlight the collaboration between our brand and the artists. Each event is a celebration of creativity and entrepreneurship, drawing attention from a wide range of art enthusiasts and potential customers that resonate with our brand’s passion for artistry and excellence.

Social media plays an essential role in amplifying the reach of these collaborative projects. We leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to share behind-the-scenes glimpses, progress updates, storytelling narratives, and the final artistry. This way, we extend our reach to an even broader audience than those who attend our events in person.

Karen Vaisman, Founder, Karen Vaisman Photography

Target High-Value Clients with the 80-20 Rule

Implementing the 80-20 rule to identify and market to high-value clients proved to be a successful strategy for me. Essentially, I focused on identifying the 20% of my clients who were generating 80% of my business revenue. 

Once I had a clear understanding of who these high-value clients were, I tailored my marketing efforts to specifically target them. This meant creating personalized marketing campaigns, offering exclusive deals or incentives, and providing exceptional customer service to nurture these relationships further. 

By prioritizing these high-value clients, I not only maximized my return on investment but also strengthened my brand reputation and loyalty within this key segment of my customer base.

Nicole Dunn, Founder and Marketing Expert, Dunn Pellier Media Inc.

Grow Through Organic Marketing

As a small e-commerce business, I strive for an organic marketing approach. It’s like carving a sculpture by removing bits and pieces to reveal the beautiful shape beneath. During a business’s infancy days, most of the audience knows very little about the brand. But by chipping away at misinformation and unnecessary material, the true shape of the brand is revealed, attracting an audience that appreciates the work.

Organic marketing is essential for sustainable growth. This kind of marketing is about building a genuine online presence, not throwing money at flashy ads. By taking time to craft content that showcases your brand’s values, purpose, and unique selling propositions, you pave the way for potential customers to discover you naturally through search engines. Customers are more likely to trust you if you lure them naturally instead of accosting them with flashy ads and other marketing gimmicks.

The ROI with organic marketing is impressive—it’s a slow and steady climb that nurtures loyal customers. They become invested in the business’s progress, offering support and even helping drum up word about your business. All of these ensure that sales are not just one-offs. Plus, engaging with the audience naturally generates comments and feedback useful for improving products and services.

Dennis Sanders, Founder, Burning Daily

Launch a Product Design Challenge

In the crowded online space, I helped a local retail business cut through the noise with a unique social media campaign. We launched a ‘Create Your Own Dream Product’ challenge. Customers designed their own products using our online tool and shared them with a branded hashtag.

This turned our customers into content creators, sparking engagement and generating organic buzz, all with a minimal budget. This campaign was a success! It fostered customer engagement and generated user-created content, which is inherently trustworthy.

Aqsa Tabassam, PR and Brand Manager, RevenueGeeks

Offer Thanksgiving BOGO Promotions

We’ve experimented with promotional and seasonal promotions. For instance, we use the BOGO (buy-one-get-one) technique, especially during the Thanksgiving holidays. Who doesn’t love a great deal, right? In a BOGO promotion, you give away one item for free or at a reduced price when another item is purchased at full price. This approach benefits both merchants and customers. Instead of just having a half-price sale, our Thanksgiving customers can get extra products for free while we still make a good profit.

The BOGO technique allows us to quickly clear out inventory by offering a deal that customers find hard to resist. However, we are careful not to jump into a BOGO offer for Thanksgiving prematurely. While such deals are great for attracting attention, if a product is selling well at full price, it’s not necessary to push a BOGO to move stock. That’s why it’s wise to launch these promotions only after assessing how fast products are selling and evaluating the inventory risks.

Craig Focht, Co-Founder and CEO, All Pro Door Repair

Harness the Power of User-Generated Content

One unique approach I’ve used is leveraging user-generated content (UGC). Encouraging customers to share their experiences with our product or service through reviews, testimonials, or social media posts creates authentic and relatable content. By showcasing real-life stories and feedback from satisfied customers, we build trust and credibility with potential buyers.

UGC sparks engagement and word-of-mouth marketing, as customers are more likely to share content created by their peers. This approach not only boosts our online presence but also fosters a sense of community around our brand, driving customer loyalty and repeat business.

Daniel Florido, Chief Web Development and Director, Pixelstorm

Showcase Before-and-After Visuals

In my role at Automobilia Auto Salon, we’ve adopted a couple of unique online marketing strategies that could be particularly resourceful for small businesses looking to enhance their digital presence. 

One effective method we’ve implemented is the strategic use of before-and-after visual content on our social media platforms. This approach involves posting high-resolution images and videos showcasing the quality of our detailing work, which naturally draws in car enthusiasts and owners looking to maintain or improve their vehicle’s appearance. These visuals vividly demonstrate the transformations we can achieve, not only increasing our posts’ shareability but also instilling trust and desire for our services.

Another tactic involves interactive online events, such as live Q&A sessions where potential and existing customers can engage directly with our team. This not only helps in addressing their concerns in real time but also boosts our interaction rates, making our social pages more dynamic and engaging. By discussing topics like the benefits of ceramic coatings or the importance of high-quality paint protection, we educate our audience, while simultaneously positioning ourselves as industry experts.

Additionally, we leverage customer reviews and testimonials by integrating them into our digital marketing campaigns. Highlighting these personal stories and feedback not only fosters trust and credibility but also personalizes the experience for potential customers. We ensure these reviews are visible across various online platforms, including our website and social media, using real customer experiences to advocate for our brand. This strategy has been instrumental in enhancing our digital footprint and driving more organic traffic to our online platforms.

Alex Jones, Owner, Automobilia Auto Salon

Initiate Specialized Micro-Campaigns

At Centime, we’ve pioneered a distinctive marketing strategy for small businesses online by initiating highly specialized micro-campaigns. These campaigns are meticulously tailored to distinct segments within our larger audience, allowing for precise targeting based on detailed behavioral insights. 

By deploying advanced analytics, we’re able to dissect our audience into smaller groups, crafting content and promotions that specifically cater to their unique preferences and needs. This method not only heightens engagement by ensuring relevance but also fosters a closer connection with each segment, enhancing their experience and loyalty. 

Our focus on niche targeting effectively differentiates us in the competitive fintech space, ensuring that every campaign delivers maximum impact and resonates deeply with its intended audience.

Aimie Ye, Director of Content Marketing, Centime

Sponsor Influential YouTube Content

We partnered with a well-known YouTube channel that focused on e-commerce tips and sponsored a set of videos on optimizing shipping strategies. This increased our brand awareness and established us as a reliable authority in the e-commerce space.

As influencers and micro-influencers, we’ve found that building relationships with influencers allows us to authentically connect with niche audiences and drive engagement on a more personal level.

In addition, we use UGC to show real customer journeys with our products and services. We encourage customers to share unfiltered reviews and success stories via social media using unique hashtags. We’ve built a community-centric marketing strategy that broadens our audience and creates a sense of community among our customers.

Combining these strategies has enabled us to stand out in a crowded market while building genuine relationships with our target market. It’s not about selling a product; it’s about building a community of passionate e-commerce customers who rely on us to care for their shipping needs.

Diana Zheng, Head of Marketing, Stallion Express

Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Featured, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.

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