The 9 Most Effective Ways to Advertise a Small Business

business man on megaphone advertising his small business
Getting the word out can be tricky for a small business. Most smaller companies simply don’t have the budget to spread their message using typical advertising. Print ads, direct mail, billboards, radio, television, and most other traditional forms are simply not feasible.

But don’t fret, there are still many good ways to spread the word about a small business.

Here’s a list of what I’ve found to be the 9 most effective ways to get attention without breaking the bank.

  1. Go to networking and other community events

    From a chamber of commerce business card exchange, to a town fair—going out and directly meeting new people is hands down the most effective way to spread the word about a small business. Some business cards, a nice smile, and a confident hand shake are all you need to make it in this venue.

  2. Generate referrals from current clients

    Sometimes spreading the word starts right back at your own door. If you have a big enough client base, you can entice them to refer friends and family. With a little effort, each one of your clients could become your very own personal sales rep. Read this article about getting more referrals if you want to know more.

  3. Give a free class or presentation

    Schools, chambers of commerce, and many other groups often run regular programs and presentations that are put on by local businesses and members of the community. You can usually get involved just by sending in a proposal; though, I recommend first looking at some of the things they've run in the past.

  4. Write an article for a newspaper or magazine

    While it may cost thousands to get a half-page ad in a newspaper, you can often times secure an entire page by writing a good article. The trick to getting published is to make sure the article is of value to your customers, and not just an advertisement for your business.

  5. Host a networking event at your business

    There are dozens of groups that do monthly business card exchanges, why not invite them to your store or office? Hosting an event is a quick way to introduce your company to 50 or more people without paying a dime.

  6. Put an ad in the yellow pages

    This might be the most expensive suggestion in the bunch; but, as some small business owners will tell you, a well placed yellow pages ad can literally put dinner on the table. You might also put one in the online yellow pages too, just for good measure.

  7. Start a blog and use the power of social media

    I can attest to this one personally. Our blog has been an excellent way to build traffic, gain credibility, and make new relationships. You can start one for your business for $0, and begin making new connections immediately. For more information, check out our other article about social media marketing.

  8. Place booklets or fliers in strategic locations

    A friend of mine just told me a story about how he typed up several pages of home repair tips and placed them around town in various hair salons. Even with only a single logo and contact number on the entire collection, he was receiving calls within hours. Sometimes a little helpful information can go a long way.

  9. Go to trade shows and table-top mixers

    I know that trade shows can be expensive, but if you look carefully you might be able to find a mixer at your local chamber of commerce where you can secure a booth for a few hundred dollars. I've seen these shows help skyrocket some small businesses into the limelight. Just make sure you have a plan for engaging and following-up with people at the event.

  10. Bonus Tip: Partner with another business

    Partnering with another business is a great way to combine and leverage the resources of two companies. You can share contact lists, split marketing costs, and give referrals back and forth. You'll want to make sure you partner with a company that shares the same target market as you.

As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to advertise a small business without spending a huge amount of money. All it takes to be successful is to focus on 2 or 3 of these suggestions, and keep them going consistently. Once you're meeting a stream of new faces, you'll be able to constantly refine your sales strategy until you get something that works. Just be careful not to over extend yourself and try all 9 ideas at the same time (I've seen it done, and it's not pretty).

If you enjoyed this article, I'd love it if you left a comment to say so. I always enjoy hearing other peoples ideas and opinions.

Reader Comments

Sep. 5. 2007 7:15 PM
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Thanks for your list of 9 ways a small business can put their hard-won advertising dollars to work. My target audience will appreciate your article. I cross-posted on your piece to http://blog.innovators-network.org
The Innovators Network is a non-profit dedicated to bringing technology to startups, small businesses, non-profits, venture capitalists and intellectual property experts. Please visit us and help grown our community!

Best wishes for continued success,

Anthony Kuhn
Innovators Network


Sep. 5. 2007 10:22 PM
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Hi Anthony,

Thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate it.

I intended this list not so much as a way to “put hard-won dollars to work,” but rather as a list of ways small businesses can hang on to more of those dollars and still get the word out. Many of these ideas are free, and only require time and effort.

Thanks again for the comment.


Sep. 6. 2007 9:51 PM
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I like 4 and 7 (they’re the ones that are easier for me). I’m glad your blog has helped your business. I think many more businesses will catch on to the idea soon.


Dec. 16. 2009 8:19 AM
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Thank you for the information. As a new business i will find this very helpful


Jan. 14. 2010 1:36 AM
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It was a really helpful sugestion…...The way you shared your idea with us….n got a response i think dis too can be a possible way enhance a business…..

would it be a bit effective?

Thanks a lot..it was really simple n quiet powerful ...


Jan. 18. 2010 10:02 AM
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As a web designer starting up my own business, it can be hard to get work in when your only just starting at the finish line. Thank you for the helpful article.


Jan. 29. 2010 1:30 PM
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Thank you for helping with some very good ideas. Many want to sell us e-book and marketing on how to.

Someone actually give you good advises without asking for a fee is priceless. Thanks again.

I am about to sign my lease for the salon and I am looking for good marketing tips. I am greatfull I found you.


Feb. 1. 2010 4:27 AM
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Thank you for sharing your ideas, Mr. Mason.  They are helpful and of value.  Numbers 2, 7, & 10 seem to be interesting.  May God bless the work of your hands.

Thank you.


Mar. 2. 2010 5:31 AM
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was usefull for a starter in business like me,All the points make good sense,After reading this my inner confidence has got boosted, thanking you a lot for spending the time to give such valuable information to the publics


Mar. 11. 2010 3:55 PM
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was very usefull for my human resources management classes. thank you.


Jun. 30. 2010 8:28 PM
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Hi Mason,

I just wanted to thank you for sharing your ideas. It was very informative and to the point.  During these difficult economic times, we certainly need creative ways in which to market our businesses.  Thanks again!

Best regards,

William Pailley
Artistic Surroundings


Oct. 27. 2010 5:41 PM
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Nice concise list. It’s good to be reminded that we can market for little to no cost—and that this type of marketing is effective. I have a small virtual assistant business and have a very small marketing budget.

The radio and newspaper ads I ran when I started up basically announced my new business (and let folks know that I was doing my old job any more) but my clients have come more directly through my networking efforts.


Thanks for sharing.


Oct. 29. 2010 5:53 PM
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Thanks so much for this article. I’m on the verge of starting my own business (after 4 years of wishing, waiting and wanting) and in order to move forward, I needed to get over the hurdle of how I’m going to advertise. This article provided a lot of great tips…I didn’t think about the yellow pages tip, because I’m so used to everything being online. :)


Nov. 24. 2010 4:18 AM
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This iz so amazing n more effective tips 4 small businesses.The ways r so simple to enhance de business.I hope u wl continoue de valued services 4 us.


Best wishes.


Mir ishtiaq ahmed.


Dec. 2. 2010 7:06 AM
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Please guide me to develope my network business at an earliest


Jan. 13. 2011 12:29 AM
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Thanks for the article.  Very helpful for us new business owners:)


Jan. 14. 2011 12:49 PM
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Wow i can’t say thank you enough for this awesome article.I’m about to start my own railing business and other than the yellow pages, a website and going out to meet people.I did not know where else to look for marketing myself.Thanks a million.


Feb. 9. 2011 10:23 PM
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this website rocks


Mar. 24. 2011 11:22 AM
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My advice in addition to the already good ones mentioned above would be to go local. Concentrate and try to tap your local market.


Apr. 6. 2011 7:26 AM
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What a wonderfulll ideas for my young business,I will stick to it .


Apr. 18. 2011 6:23 AM
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Some great ideas that I have tried to use. I have found that the leaflets and just word of mouth refferals are the best source of business. Thanks again


May. 25. 2011 4:04 PM
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I’m really interested in some recommendations for advertising venues. Which ones are most effective for a new web startup?


Jun. 2. 2011 3:03 AM
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This article is very informative and i think its not only for small business we can use it for every type of business.

THANKS with best wishes…..


Jun. 15. 2011 7:57 AM
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Jun. 27. 2011 9:24 AM
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The most effective and least expensive advertising tool is MONEY…MOOLAH…DINERO…HARD CASH.

How can you give prospective customers $100 to view your business and only have it cost 10 cents or less?

http://www.dropabill.com

Drop cards have been around for nearly a decade now. DropaBill cards that replicate a $100, $20, $10, or $5 are new to the market with much success with rave reviews (view our customer testimonials)

Businesses use them as a coupon for their business:

- $10 dollars off on all $100 purchases
- $20 dollar giftcard when you order $200 or more at our store
- $100 gift giveaway for our 100 customer that orders today
- $100 in free e-book giveaways
- $100 savings when you order today

There are so many ways of using these dropabill dollar bill drop cards. Creativety is key.

Replace them with your existing business cards. Who wouldn’t like a $100 bill over a plain and boring card?

Not only is it effective, it gets around. Even if the person that you give it to does not keep it, if they throw it on the ground, someone will pick it up. It is so unique that people will show it to friends and family as a gag “here’s a $100 for you”. People add them to their tips at a restaurant to introduce a business opportunity to waiters and waitresses that may be looking for a way to make extra money on a part-time basis.

The cost of a dropabill card is less than a standard business card. Have fun giving aways $100 bills.


Sep. 9. 2011 11:09 AM
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This article wraps everything up but perhaps business coaching programs are also great investments when thinking of widening the scope of your business.


Sep. 27. 2011 7:56 AM
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I love this write-up. I’m about to set up a new business and I believe this is a life-saver. Thank you.


Oct. 13. 2011 1:16 AM
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I like these off line ad techniques.  Other than these, now a days on line promotions are going on.  Make a website and put the website link in the various sites like classified sites, related forums, and directories etc.


Oct. 16. 2011 5:19 AM
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nice, starting from local 2 national and thn international slowely bt repedly then others nvr neglect the comption


Jan. 5. 2012 8:05 PM
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I would definitely be using some of the tips thanks.


Feb. 8. 2012 2:12 AM
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am a small business owner from belize and i thank you guys for your free inspirational comments and if The most high wills, I am already taking steps from your lessons to gain success!!! Alhamdullillah***


Feb. 13. 2012 5:56 PM
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Thanks This really helped!

Sean Bigler
S&W Landscape LLC


Mar. 3. 2012 10:41 AM
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Hi thank you for this advice. I found a small internet business that is really starting to work but I need to find better ways of promoting it. I will definitely try some of your methods.

Thanks

Regards

Steve


Apr. 18. 2012 10:23 PM
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k you for this advice. I found a small internet business that is really sta


May. 6. 2012 5:02 AM
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Thanks a lot for your suggestions. i have a ticket sales business and referrals is really helping me. I will try the other options as well


Aug. 25. 2012 1:26 AM
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True words by you. I personally use online marketing and advertising option, thats effective as well as cheap method. Thanks for your other suggestions.


Sep. 15. 2012 7:06 PM
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Thank you for you words of wisdom and suggestions. Its so hard not to give up. when you have suggetions and ideas it keeps you going… Its very hard to start a business.


Sep. 17. 2012 11:16 PM
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Sep. 22. 2012 4:46 PM
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Thank you for this article. The information was practical. I really enjoyed the tip on placing booklets or fliers in strategic locations. I have a speech therapy company and it gave me an idea on typing up tips on how parents can increase their child’s language skills. I will leave this information in several of the doctor’s office in my area. Thanks so much.


Oct. 7. 2012 7:19 AM
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I would definitely be using some of the tips. Few ideas are really great. I like 3rd idea. I am going to try this one.


Nov. 19. 2012 3:23 AM
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very good advice. very practical. i love it… thank you! - vic from the philippines


Dec. 19. 2012 5:53 PM
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Hey,

Good suggestions. It’s amazing that most of them have stood the test of time.

I think #4 and #7 are the strongest, especially because I’m a huge fan of sharing your personality online if you’re a small business owner.

I’m also an advocate of doing what you do really, really well. Wrote a post about it that fits with some of your suggestions.

http://www.getspokal.com/stop-trying-so-hard-most-effective-advertising-for-small-businesses/

Your thoughts?


Alexandra


Jan. 17. 2013 11:39 AM
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Hello I am a junior in highschool, and we are trying to figure out ways of advertisement that will attract seventh and eighth graders. We are trying to get them to use empathy. Any ideas email me at sara.ida.krueger@gmail.com.
Thank you very much Sara Krueger


Mar. 19. 2013 4:16 PM
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Some great ideas here for the small business


May. 30. 2013 2:35 PM
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Nov. 6. 2013 4:43 PM
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Great article! The tips can be very useful and I would love to see them in action. My business has used something not on the list for some time now and it works fantastic! I normally am not one to rave about another business but they have far exceeded my expectations. I advertise on wet wipes! wetwipeads.com


Nov. 18. 2013 7:06 AM
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Its great idea and give fantastic tips of social media to start small business. Its very helpful for me.

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Nov. 19. 2013 7:50 AM
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These all tips are helpful obviously but the most strong points is from SEO for me, Because SEO points are more effective than anything in marketing

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Dec. 3. 2013 4:34 AM
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Great tips i am back here again for this useful information just forgot the last point copying it now.

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Dec. 4. 2013 4:57 AM
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This post is very helpful . Many effective tips sharing to starting business. I appreciate this blog writing owner.


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Dec. 6. 2013 8:19 AM
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Really liked the post you have mentioned nine effective ways of advertisment which is quite informative.You have mentioned the effective advertisment ways in a sound manner.Thanks for writting such an informative article.

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Dec. 7. 2013 6:01 AM
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One cannot refuse the importance of advertisment nowadays, it plays a key role in running a business.You have posted some ways for effective advertisment which is quite informative. Please tell how much social media will be an effective tool for advertisment in future?

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Dec. 9. 2013 1:51 AM
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Advertising is very important to run small business.I am also running a small business nowadays,and i have been searching for different ways of advertisement.After reading your article i can say i have got my answer,you have mentioned all important ways of advertisments,which is very important for me to run my business.Thanks for the post.


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Dec. 11. 2013 5:48 AM
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Dec. 12. 2013 2:59 AM
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If you know good advertising tactics and use in your advertising campaign definitely you will get good results. i am really thankful to you for sharing this great tips of advertising. Once again thank you very much for sharing this great and informative post.

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This site is very good site.Thanks for such a nice post. I found a lot of useful tips from this post.I am sharing with my friends.


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Dec. 20. 2013 6:56 AM
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Jan. 9. 2014 9:46 AM
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These 9 ways are effective and very helpful to revolutionized your small running business.that,s some great ideas.


Jan. 17. 2014 9:02 AM
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There are several ways to revolutionize your business but these nine ways are most effective to grow business and introduce in internet market.i hope your next post.


Jan. 25. 2014 4:03 AM
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Thanks for giving good tips for advertising because they are very essential for running a small business.
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Feb. 23. 2014 12:58 PM
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