Developing a winning marketing strategy requires you to identify key marketing channels that could work for your business. If you’re a big brand, you can brainstorm as many creative marketing ideas as you like, and they can all pan out with enough capital to support them. Small businesses, on the other hand, typically don’t have the luxury of large budgets. That’s why we created this mini-guide of unique marketing ideas and digital marketing channels you can explore—bonus points for them being cost-effective!
10 Unique Marketing Tactics and Online Marketing Channels
1. Participate in an online forum.
Online communities are a goldmine for not only (passively) spreading the word about your business, but also getting candid insights surrounding products and services similar to yours. People tend to share many of their thoughts and feelings when they’re passionate about specific topics—avid car enthusiasts and pet lovers are good examples.
However, keep in mind that while an online forum is a no-cost marketing channel, it isn’t meant for outright advertising and promotion. You have to be careful not to overpromote yourself, as you’ll annoy other members and risk being banned. Be a part of the community and contribute where relevant. You can either put your business link in your signature or explicitly mention your business when requested.
2. Invest time in SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a must in the age of Google. Two stats evidence why: 46% of product searches begin on Google, and organic search produces 23% of all site visits. So, if you want people to come to the website you’ve painstakingly built, you need to incorporate some time and effort into SEO.
Since there are numerous free guides on the internet—such as this one on Moz and this one from Neil Patel—using SEO for your website is more than affordable for any small business owner. And before you get overwhelmed, keep in mind that you don’t have to follow every practice to the letter. Think of SEO as a sliding scale—as you do more, you’re more likely to get better results.
3. Start a blog.
In tandem with the previous tactic, blogging provides useful SEO “juice” for Google. Not only can each blog post rank in search, but the posts can also help your entire domain rank higher. Plus, blog posts help educate your customers and let them know you’re a thought leader on a given subject; this can encourage them to buy your products or services over a competitor once they’re ready to buy.
4. Practice influencer marketing.
If you’re new to the term influencer, it refers to an individual who has the power to impact viewpoints and purchasing decisions of their sizeable or loyal following. Celebrities are often considered influencers—but most influencers aren’t considered celebrities.
These influential individuals have become so popular that a staggering 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations for buying products and services. Taking advantage of these meaningful ties through influencer marketing is one of several creative marketing strategies that has emerged in recent years as social media has grown.
You can use influencer marketing in your small business by either partnering with an influencer in your local area or with one who has a smaller following. This way, you can negotiate on more reasonable terms, whether in the form of a small budget or free products. The influencer can then share information about your products with their followers through photos or videos.
5. Host contests.
Contests have always been an excellent tactic for generating buzz and getting people’s attention. People love free stuff! To amplify the reach of your contest, use social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or another social platform, these marketing channels are great for getting in front of people.
The prize should be something your target audience would find valuable. It’s up to you to determine what that is from your research and knowledge of your customer base. If you’re not entirely sure, you can always send a quick survey to your current customers with a few options for prizes to see what interests them the most.
Consider these prize examples:
- Own an online store that sells books? Offer a free copy of an upcoming release or previous bestseller.
- Run a pet-centric, e-commerce business? Give away a fun dog pack that includes treats and toys.
- Offer IT services? Extend a free assessment of IT assets or even a free month of service.
As for entry qualifications, you have several options you can instruct people to choose. Regardless of which ones you offer, they all help spread awareness and ensure people interact with your brand:
- Like and/or comment. A common way to have people engage with your brand.
- Share or retweet. This can help your contest reach a wider audience.
- Tag a friend. Like a share, you gain reach. In addition, the tagged friend is more likely to view your contest (and potentially share it with their friends).
You can have each task be one entry, meaning people can have multiple entries to the contest and increase their chances of winning. Naturally, this also increases engagement and reach for your contest.
Once you decide on a winner, you can go an extra step and ask the winner to show off the prize on their page in a photo or video. You can then share it on your page as well.
6. Start a podcast.
According to a 2019 study, over one-third of the U.S. population ages 12 and older (about 90 million people) listens to podcasts. Branded podcasts can be just the ticket to reaching a new audience—assuming you go about it the right way. After all, you can’t just record a bunch of ads and expect people to be interested.
Engagement is essential to grow and maintain your podcast following. To keep people listening, you have to educate or entertain them in a way they find valuable. You might create an insightful show or comedic segment; it all depends on what your audience likes and what you’re able to produce. Once they’re hooked, you’ll be able to work in advertising and promotion where relevant.
7. Host webinars.
Webinars provide a wonderful opportunity for people to learn about something they’re interested in without having to travel across the country. This is beneficial for audience members and your business, as you don’t have to worry about travel costs and lost time.
Of course, your main benefit is getting leads, which are essential for service-based businesses. Attendees are already primed for receiving information related to the topic—presumably one that coincides with your brand or what you sell. This makes them the perfect candidates for follow-ups from your sales team.
8. Create whitepapers or e-books.
Both e-books and whitepapers are cost-effective marketing ideas. They’re well-known in the marketing community for being great lead generators for service-based businesses.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, you produce an e-book on a topic your audience is keenly interested in (and that pertains to your products and services). To access the e-book, the audience provides their contact information. You can then follow-up with them to build rapport and eventually sell your services.
9. List your business in online directories.
While not the highest on the list of marketing channels that drive amazing results, many online directories offer free registration, so it’s a good idea to post your business information. Users can search these directories for the products and services you offer, so it makes sense to have a presence there.
We’ve already noted the importance of Google, so your first stop on your online directory journey should be Google My Business.
10. Create a referral program.
Your current customers are another great source of potential revenue. By creating a referral program, you can incentivize your customers to attract more business. Give them certain gifts—gift cards, statement credits, free services, etc.—for bringing you a new customer. It’s a win-win situation that rewards them with something valuable and grows your business.
Try out each of the above marketing channels to see which ones work best for your business!