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7 tips for advertising your small business – an expert guide

14-minute read

Three people discussing advertising plans
Lucy McNeill, Sam Bromley and Lauren Hellicar

Lucy McNeill, Sam Bromley and Lauren Hellicar

3 March 2023

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If you’re not sure where to start with your business advertising, or you’re stuck for inspiration, this expert guide to small business marketing offers some ideas on how to grow your business and get noticed by your customers.

Whatever your profession, you no doubt went self-employed because you’re good at what you do – not because you necessarily love marketing, bookkeeping, or paperwork. While there are obvious benefits to being your own boss, it also means you’re responsible for all of those things by default.

Read on for how to advertise your business with tips from experts in the industry and creative inspiration to help you get started.

Small business marketing methods

Here are the top seven ways to promote your business, according to our in-house experts at Simply Business:

There’s no ‘best way’ to advertise your business. Of course there’s best practice, but there are different approaches depending on the type of business you run. We hope these tips will help get you started.

How to promote your business: expert tips for marketing a small business

1. Use social media marketing

When it comes to social media small business marketing, there’s a whole host of platforms to choose from depending on your audience.

From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and TikTok, social media is a way to communicate directly with your customers, potential consumers, and industry in a relaxed and conversational way.

Using social media in the right way will help increase awareness of your business which can ultimately lead to an increase in sales. Danni, Social Media Manager at Simply Business, shares her tips for getting it right:

  • choose the right platform go where your customers and your competitors are. If you’re selling products this might be Instagram, whereas LinkedIn might be your best bet for professional services
  • set a goal and create a social media plan – are you looking for increased brand awareness, better customer service, or sales?
  • make time every day – put aside a bit of time each day to actively engage on social media and you'll start to see results
  • track your progress – every social media platform has free analytics so you’re able to track your social media activity against your marketing goals
  • save time with tools – using social media scheduling tools such as Tweetdeck, Buffer, and Hootsuite means you can plan and schedule posts in advance
  • analyse trends with social media listening – tools let you organise, view, and respond to customer queries and conversations, brand mentions, relevant industry topics, trends, and hashtags. You could also use a chatbot for Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp
  • show your brand personalitytell your business story in a visually creative, authentic way, ask your customers questions, and consider offering rewards and discounts
  • consider paid advertising – this can be a low-cost way to promote your business, but consider the pros and cons when deciding whether it's right for you

Read more on how social media can help your business grow. And once you’ve decided on the platforms you want to try, read these in-depth guides to get started:

How to build a social media community

2. Send emails and newsletters

Email marketing and newsletters help you keep in touch with your customers. They allow you to send advertisements, updates, sales messages, and important information about your services or products.

Here are just a few reasons to give it a go:

Personalisation – send personalised, relevant messages to customers at exactly the right time. You could, in theory, completely tailor the experience to each customer, depending on how much data you have access to.

Cost-effective – deliver messages straight to people who are interested in your brand. There are lots of free or low-cost platforms available and, once you’ve set up a few email templates, you can send as many as you like.

Instant tracking – most email marketing tools let you see how many people have opened or clicked on your email within seconds of sending.

How to get started with email marketing

You’ll need a few things to get started:

  • an platform to send your emails – an email service provider (ESP) or customer relationship management (CRM) platform like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor lets you upload your contacts and create and send emails
  • an email template – most ESPs offer different templates and if you search for ‘responsive templates’, like these templates from Campaign Monitor, they’ll be formatted correctly on both desktop and mobile
  • good ideas – your message needs to be timely and relevant to engage your target audience. Keep it simple and don’t overwhelm customers with too many emails
  • a call to action – give the recipient a reason to open your email, and invite them to do something like ‘buy now’ or ‘learn more’
  • data – build up your contact list and stay on the right side of the stay on the right side of the rules and regulations on customer data protection (you'll need customer consent to send marketing emails)
  • send timely emails mapping the customer journey will help you send emails to your potential customers at the right time to keep them engaged

Bigger companies like ASOS and Uber do emails really well, if you want a standard to aim towards. They use data and website/app behaviour to create perfectly tailored email messages.

But smaller companies can be just as effective.

Kayleigh, eCRM Marketing Manager at Simply Business, says: “The best thing to do is to sign up to emails from a range of companies, including some in a similar field to you, and see what lands in your inbox. You’ll start to get a feel for what they send and how often, and you can use that as a starting point.”

3. Optimise your business website with SEO

Your business website is how lots of people are going to find out about your business and what you offer. But it’s important that it’s optimised so that it shows up in search engines.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) involves optimising your website to get lots of visitors from search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo). SEO can be confusing at first, but there are lots of SEO tools out there that can help you get to grips with it and really make the most of the boost it can bring your business.

SEO tips

Pages and pages of results can show for a search query, but most people will only look at that first page of results. Not only that, the highest position at the top of page one (known as position one), will drive the most clicks and traffic. Your goal is to be position one.

Jerry, Head of SEO & Partnership Marketing, shares his tips on how to optimise your website.

On your website (on-page optimisation)

Keywords – Keywords are, like the name suggests, the key words or phrases to include on your page. The right keywords help drive traffic to your website. Use online tools, like, to find out which ones you want to target. You can also carry out keyword research by asking customers what they’re searching, or searching yourself to see what people are asking.

Write useful content – create content around your keywords. Start with written content and add images. If you have more budget, add video or rich media. Content has to be unique – you can’t copy and paste information – search engines don’t like plagiarism. We'll go into this more in the content marketing section below.

Make sure you consider these top tips for your business website:

  • use short, descriptive URLs and include the keyword in them
  • write a compelling title tag and description, using 60 characters for a title and 155 for a description
  • use headings – the title of your post is known as the H1 (and should include your keyword)
  • link to relevant internal and external web pages
  • optimise your images with descriptive ‘alt’ tags – search engines can’t actually see what’s in an image, so you need to describe the image using this tag
  • if you’re using a CMS like Wordpress, download a plugin called Yoast SEO to help optimise your content
  • use analytics – tools like Google Search Console show your website's performance

Jerry explains: “Search engines are a huge feature of our day-to-day lives, with people using them to answer all sorts of queries. If you want to know whether to watch a particular film, search engines help you find reviews in an instant. Your potential customers are doing the same when looking for products or services.”

“With no direct costs associated with SEO, it’s ‘free’ marketing. The cost is the time and effort you put into developing an SEO strategy”, he added.

Another part of SEO happens away from your website, for example backlinks (when another website links to yours). You could get backlinks by:

  • giving expert quotes to other websites and asking them to link to you as a source
  • asking companies you work with for a link on their suppliers or partners page
  • asking websites to include you in blog posts, including ‘best of’ lists or reviews
  • looking for where competitors are mentioned and asking if you can be mentioned too
  • finding resource sections on websites – just as a partner may have a supplier list, a website might have a resources page
  • having a social media presence – it doesn’t affect SEO directly, but it’s a great way to earn trust
  • use data to build compelling PR campaigns – there are many tools available, such as Prowly, that can help with PR outreach

If you need to outsource your SEO, read our guide to finding the right SEO agency for your small business.

4. Blogging and content marketing

Content marketing involves creating engaging content to help answer a reader’s question or problem. This content can come in various forms, including blog posts, podcasts, and videos.

Content marketing is closely tied to many other areas described in this guide. It’s helpful to think of email, SEO, and social media as channels you use to get your content in front of readers (and listeners and viewers).

How to market your business using a blog

Blogging regularly is the easiest and cheapest way to get into content marketing.

Come up with a schedule for regular posts. Before posting, make sure you get someone else to read your article first. Typos, errors, and badly researched pieces can damage your reputation.

Decide what to write about. Finding good topics to write on may seem daunting at first, but it can be done with a little practice. Scott Chow from The Blog Starter advises using tools like Google Trends and Keyword Planner for ideas on what to write about. The ‘Related Search’ section on Google search results is another fantastic resource to find good topics for your blog.

Sam, Copywriter at Simply Business, said: “Considering the benefit to you is the wrong way to think about content marketing. You should think about the benefit to your customers (and potential customers).”

Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • write how-to blog posts – what could you instruct your readers on? For example, if you run a dog walking business, you could write an article about how to groom your dog at home. Do some keyword research and write a user-friendly article, using headings and images. Keep your sentences short and punctuation light
  • create listicles – some see lists as ‘clickbait’, but listicles can be a great way of getting information across to readers
  • experiment with video and podcasts – everyone is creating videos now and it can really bring your business to life. For example, a cycle repair shop could post a video explaining how to fix a puncture
  • promote your articles – as well as optimising blogs to rank in Google search, you can share links in your email newsletter and on social media. Planning this before you start should help you find the right audience
  • keep track of what’s working – are people actually reading and watching what you create? Use Google Analytics or social media tools so you can replicate your successes – and ditch the duds

Not confident about writing? Reading lots is the best way to improve your way with words. Copyblogger has lots of great tips on content marketing, focusing on making your words work for you. And Oberlo’s blog about entrepreneurship is great for inspiration.

Read more on how to start a blog from expert blogger Ryan Robinson.

5. Customer reviews

Reviews are an important part of your business’s online marketing as customers can rate your service or product. Using an online review platform like Google, Facebook, Trustpilot, or TripAdvisor also lets potential customers know what your existing customers think of your business, whether it's positive, negative, or neutral.

Saniya, Brand Community Manager at Simply Business, says: “Often people will research your business before making a decision on whether to buy your products or services. Positive reviews can help encourage your potential customers to choose your business over your competitors.”

Reviews from others who have already been there give clients faith that your business is trustworthy and isn’t trying to hide anything. That’s why it’s important to embrace negative as well as positive feedback. Read more in our article on how to respond to online reviews of your small business.

Build your presence on review platforms

It’s usually fairly simple – and often costs nothing – to set up an account on a customer review platform.

Here are some of the most popular platforms and information on how to join them:

It’s important to note that some review platforms will be more suitable for your business than others, depending on your industry.

6. Word of mouth and networking

Having a network can provide multiple opportunities — your community can support you in troubled times, help your business grow (via word of mouth), and you can use it to bounce ideas off.

A solid network can even help reduce costs by helping you find a good deal, or hunt down a piece of equipment that you might need. Crucially, it can help you understand your marketplace in more detail.

Peter, Development Manager at Simply Business, shared his tips:

  • be active on LinkedIn – create blogs relating to your business, connect with customers and competitors, and get chatting
  • join local clubs – if you trade locally, this could be a source for new business as well as a place to find new connections
  • stay in touch with people – friends and people you’ve worked with in the past can often turn out to be a valuable source of new business
  • use Facebook – it can help you understand what others think about your business and products and build your network
  • attend local business forums and events – this is a great way to integrate with your local business community and shows your commitment to the sector you work in
  • join your local chamber of commerce – they usually run events throughout the year and can update you on new policies that may affect your business

Remember to talk to as many people as you can at events — you’re there to start building relationships that could be crucial for the development of your business.

And groups like our Women in Business Facebook community group can be a great space to talk, share ideas, and get tips.

Harpreet Kaur on stage at women in business networking event
Photograph: Noah Da Costa

7. Flyers, business cards and print marketing

Printed marketing materials have been around a lot longer than most of the options listed above. They include everything from flyers, business cards, and pens to water bottles, stickers, and hoodies.

Before you decide which printed marketing materials to spend money on, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions:

  • how will my customers use this item?
  • how does it relate to my business?

Ellie, Graphic Designer at Simply Business, said: “Relating your printed marketing items to your core product or service means you’re more likely to stick in people’s minds. For example, if you sell bottled drinks, you could market using branded bottle openers. Or, if you repair electrical goods, you could distribute fridge magnets among your customers.”

Tips for designing print materials

The first step is to be creative with your design so your business will be remembered. Then do your research to find local print suppliers – not only is this likely to save you money, you’ll also be supporting other local small businesses.

It may also be easier to build a great working relationship with your print provider, which means you’ll be more likely to get tailored service from them. It’ll also make life easier when you want to see sample prints and make tweaks to the design.

If finding a good quality, local printer isn’t an option for you, Moo is a good example of a high-quality online print marketing provider, offering great service and a variety of finishes to help you nail the right style and tone for your business. You can give them a go by ordering a free sample pack of their range of paper weights and print finishes.

What free advertising can I try?

Something to bear in mind is that effective marketing doesn’t need to cost lots of money. In fact, most of these forms of marketing can be done for free.

The digital world in particular has lots of ways to start advertising for free. Making the most of social media, blogging, word-of-mouth marketing, and customer reviews is about finding different ways to connect with your customers, making their experience positive.

And while SEO tools can be expensive, many come with free trials that can help you establish (and improve) your website’s ranking:

Don’t forget about Google’s own free tools, Search Console and Analytics, when keeping on top of your website’s performance.

As you become more familiar with the different forms of marketing and the most useful tools for your business, it could be worth investing money into your marketing.

But in the meantime, establishing a marketing plan for your business is a great way to start building better brand awareness and relationships with your customers.

How to promote your business locally

Local advertising is one of the most important marketing strategies for a small business.

An important step is to make sure your business is visible.

First you’ll want to create a Google Business Profile. It’s free and lets you create a business listing, helping you appear in Google search and Google Maps.

When considering where to advertise your business, think about where your (potential) customers are and the area you operate in. For example, can you put a pavement sign outside your shop? Or perhaps a flyer in a neighbouring café?

You can then consider things like loyalty schemes and targeted advertising (based on location). Our guide to increasing footfall has more tips like this.

You could also write a press release to share something newsworthy about your business and encourage local journalists to write about you. The best part? It’s free advertising for what you do.

Inspiration for your small business digital marketing

Advertising ideas for small business retailers, trades, and services can be hard to think of at first. Looking at what other businesses are doing is one way to get unstuck and find your creativity:

  • @TinyRebelBrewCo is fantastic for Instagram inspiration for behind the scenes access to their brewery and beautiful customer pictures
  • Innocent UK has always shown other brands how it’s done on Twitter – their brand voice is whimsical but authentic, and they work at answering customer queries and entertaining their followers
  • Really Good Emails – this is a collection of thousands of good emails and you can view by category (such as ‘abandoned cart’ emails, or ‘welcome’ emails) and by company.
  • Blogging inspiration – Neil Patel is an entrepreneur and content marketer who runs one of the most successful blogs about content marketing on the internet
  • Moo’s blog can give you loads of inspiration for the look and feel you want to create for your business
  • Behance has ideas on how you can use your logo across a range of printed marketing materials
  • Pinterest as a great source of creative inspiration and ideas on how others in a similar line of work to you are doing things

We’ve covered a range of traditional and digital marketing small business approaches, but for more ideas here’s a guide to the latest trends.

Do you want to know anything else about small business advertising? Let us know in the comments.

Read more small business guides

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Photograph: Friends Stock/
Lucy McNeill, Sam Bromley and Lauren Hellicar

Written by

Lucy McNeill, Sam Bromley and Lauren Hellicar

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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