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The 4 best ways to advertise a small business with any budget

Best ways to advertise small business: small business owner on laptop

Key takeaways

  • The best ways to advertise small businesses are those that let you target specific audiences instead of the masses
  • Use cost-per-click ads to get more control over your audience demographics and ad budget on widely used platforms
  • Invest in direct mail and event sponsorship to reach prospective customers offline and help your local business stand out

Free marketing tactics can help you attract new customers without digging into your budget. But if you want to generate more relevant sales leads and grow your small business, bolstering your marketing strategy with paid ads can help your brand get noticed by your target market faster. The best part is, you don’t have to invest a lot of money (or time) to make and run high-quality ads. Learn about the best ways to advertise your small business while keeping costs low.

The 4 best ways to advertise small business brands

There was a time when radio spots, newspaper ads, billboards, and television commercials were the only marketing tools at a business owner’s disposal. Fortunately, times have changed, and there are other strategies that are much more cost-effective.

While traditional advertisers sent out ad campaigns to mass audiences—only a small fraction of which would include potential customers—the best ways to advertise small businesses today help you reach a specific target audience to make the most of your ad budget. Here are four types of ads that small business owners can use now.

1. Direct mail

Direct mail isn’t a new way to advertise small businesses, but it’s one of the few old-school methods that can garner substantial engagement from local community members. When you send direct mail, your potential customers physically receive your ad, which can feel more personal and lead to much more meaningful engagement with your marketing campaign.

What sets direct mail apart from other traditional ads is the ability to target specific audiences. You can send mail to specific ZIP codes or purchase a targeted mailing list from a list broker.

Use the USPS direct mail cost calculator to get an estimate for your ideal direct mail campaign. You can keep your costs low by choosing postcards instead of letters, sending bulk campaigns (at least 200 pieces of mail), and making your own postcard design with a free tool like Canva.

2. Cost-per-click ads

Small business owner setting up Cost-per-click ad on his laptop

Cost-per-click (CPC) ads—also known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads—offer you a lot of control over your promotional campaigns, allowing you to adjust the levers that will give you the most success. These types of digital ads let you target specific audiences, like those who fall within your service area or age groups that are most likely to purchase from you. Once you’ve attracted their attention through your ads, you increase the percentage of users who are likely to visit your website, reach out with more questions, or make a purchase.

Running CPC ads is also an impactful way to advertise your small business when you want to keep your marketing strategy low-cost. The following CPC advertising platforms give you the flexibility to choose and adjust your own budget, and you only pay when your ad gets a click.

Social media

When you run ads on social media platforms, your campaign will show up directly on the feeds of your target audience members, including those who don’t follow your business profile. These ads can help you get better results from your organic (unpaid) social media marketing by giving your business page more visibility and growing your following.

Prioritize social platforms that your target market uses—like LinkedIn for reaching commercial clients—and consider experimenting with video content to make your ads more eye-catching.

Online directories and review sites

When you make it easy for consumers to find your business listing on online platforms like directories and review sites, you can stand out to people who are actively looking for products or services like yours. For instance, adding or claiming your Yelp Business Page and running Yelp Ads allows your local listing to show up in a number of key places on the site and app, including above relevant search results.

Yelp Ads also displays your small business on competitor pages so you don’t miss out on potential customers just because they landed on another listing first.

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Search engines

While search engine optimization (SEO) can help small businesses show up higher on search engine results pages, it doesn’t necessarily lead to instant results. It can take time for your website to rank high for the right keywords. On the other hand, running search engine ads—which show up above organic search results—can drive relevant traffic to your website quickly.

Local search ads can also show up for consumers searching for nearby businesses on their preferred map platforms.

3. Influencer marketing

Social media influencer promoting clothing range

Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to advertise small businesses to younger generations. In fact, 63% of consumers aged 18-34 trust influencers more than brands. By having an influencer do digital marketing on your behalf, you can boost word-of-mouth referrals, strengthen your message, and become a staple brand for their online community.

Choosing influencers who align with your core values and have a similar target audience is key to getting the most out of this online marketing tactic. They should also have a highly engaged audience compared to other influencers in their niche. High engagement rates—which measure the amount of likes, comments, and other interactions received per follower—indicate that an influencer can actually get their audience members to take action after viewing your ad. This way, you’re getting measurable results instead of just brand awareness.

You don’t have to limit yourself to working with influencers who have hundreds of thousands of followers. Local or niche influencers can have incredibly loyal followings while charging lower commission or per-post rates. Influencers who are just starting out may even be willing to promote your business in exchange for free products or services.

4. Event sponsorship

Event sponsorship is a unique option for advertising your business both online and offline. Ahead of an event, many sponsorship packages include promotions on the event organizer’s website, social media pages, and email marketing campaigns. Your small business may even be mentioned on press releases, which can get your brand name on the local news.

During the event, your small business will likely receive more recognition, whether it’s a feature on a banner or a mention from an emcee. However, you also have the opportunity to strengthen this offline advertising by speaking to potential and existing customers in person.

While sponsorship packages can vary widely in price, many local events offer pricing tiers for as little as $100-$300. You’ll only want to sponsor functions that draw members of your target market and are relevant to your business. For instance, a dog grooming business could reach a lot of pet owners at a fundraising gala for a dog rescue, while a commercial cleaning business could reach clients at local trade shows.

Get more from your small business marketing efforts with ads

If you want to maximize the success of your marketing plan, investing in paid ads can help you get there. However, you don’t need a massive advertising budget to see results. The most cost-effective ways to advertise your small business—like cost-per-click ads and direct mail—let you target specific audiences so every cent you spend helps you reach your ideal customers.

To keep your lead-generation efforts going, try these low-cost ideas to promote your business—especially helpful on a limited budget.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.