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8 out-of-the-box ideas for marketing your business

Out of the box ideas for marketing: digital marketing team in a meeting

Key takeaways

  • Establish a consistent web presence to support out-of-the-box ideas for marketing your business
  • Launch an out-of-the-box referral program turning loyal customers into your own sales department 
  • Get creative with user-generated content to create your next jingle, slogan, or commercial

The internet is a noisy place—by the end of 2023, advertising revenue is expected to hit $352 billion in the United States alone. If you want people to remember your brand, it’s time to think beyond the stereotypical e-blast to your email list or direct mail campaign. Instead, you may want to try some out-of-the-box ideas for marketing your business.

To get your creative wheels spinning, discover several innovative marketing strategies you can implement along with real-world examples of brands that found genius ways to bring those strategies to life.

Before you develop an out-of-the-box marketing strategy

Before you launch an innovative campaign, remember this: You don’t want a genius campaign to become a one-hit-wonder.

Here’s what that means: Creative, viral campaigns can fall flat without an iron-clad strategy. The best campaigns don’t just generate buzz—they generate leads for your business. Therefore, before launching your marketing campaign, be sure to check the following:

  • Ensure you have an effective business website or landing page(s) for new customers to get information about your products or services.
  • Set (and follow) a consistent posting schedule on social media platforms. It can be confusing to followers when your accounts lay dormant for six months and then you suddenly publish an out-of-the-box campaign.
  • Claim your Yelp Business Page to help build your brand presence online. Yelp gives you 20+ free features to share your hours and contact information, respond to reviews, add photos to attract new customers, and more.

8 out-of-the-box ideas for marketing campaigns

As the internet becomes increasingly saturated, once-innovative marketing ideas have slowly become “been there, seen that” campaigns. But there are still creative ways to get your product or service noticed. Discover eight ways to bring some originality to your campaign along with a few real-life brand stories to inspire your own efforts.

1. Connect your campaign to a cause

Out of the box ideas for marketing: a water bottle

At one point, some entrepreneurs believed that making a profit and making an impact were mutually exclusive scenarios. Today, global brands know they can have the best of both worlds: They can scale their brand while contributing to causes they care about.

At least 82% of customers want to feel that their values align with a brand, and 75% of shoppers reported parting ways with a brand over a conflict in values. To attract new customers while giving back to society, consider coupling your marketing efforts with a give-back campaign or by raising awareness on a global issue.

For instance, when environmentally conscious water bottle brand LifeStraw launched a social media campaign to promote a new product, they originally planned a simple product giveaway. Then an influencer offered a counter-proposal: What if they coupled the campaign with global water conservation issues?

Doctor Kiona, a travel influencer with a six-digit following, served as creative director for the campaign. The campaign shot several viral videos at different locations across the globe, each highlighting hyper-local water issues. 

While you might have a limited marketing budget for your small business, you can still apply some of these same principles to create an out-of-the-box marketing campaign. To replicate LifeStraw’s campaign, find a local cause that connects with your brand values and donate a percentage of sales to that organization. You can then promote the campaign to your email list subscribers and social media followers. 

2. Launch a BAF (Bring a Friend) Day

Want to get introduced to a batch of potential new customers? Launch BAF (Bring a Friend) Friday (or any day of the week) at your local business. Create a special incentive where if a loyal customer buys a product, their friend gets a free sample of the same product or a coupon for a substantial discount (like 50% off). You could also reward your existing customers with free samples of other products when they bring in a friend.

3. Market to partners with the same target customer

Yoga mat

If you’re struggling to grow a brand name in a saturated industry, keep in mind that two is better than one—and in the case of this out-of-the-box idea for marketing, it refers to two sellers.

Rather than spend all your time and budget building up brand recognition on your own, try forming a strategic partnership with other local businesses (or other online vendors if you’re an ecommerce brand) that share the same target audience. If you and another business owner provide complementary products or services, you can combine your budgets and creativity to produce a mutually beneficial campaign.

For example, foldable yoga mat Stakt developed strategic partnerships with vacation rentals that targeted the same potential customers. Through a series of guest posts, Stakt developed a roundabout—albeit effective—way to market to new customers. To put this idea into practice, find another local business and do a series of guest blogging, posting content on the other’s website and sharing it with your respective audiences on social media or email newsletters. As you do this, both parties can raise brand awareness and reach new customers.

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4. Open a new “club” for the community

Making friends as an adult is hard and everyone wants to feel part of something special. Be that “something special” in your community by launching a club at your business. For example, if you’re a sneaker store, launch a running club; if you’re a hardware or home goods store, launch a monthly cooking class; if you’re a local bookstore, launch a book club. You’ll likely capture new customers’ attention while giving existing customers another reason to stay connected to your brand.

5. Create a cash-back customer loyalty program

Florist accepting credit card payment from customer

Sometimes, the most “innovative” solutions are simply reinvented versions of tried-and-true strategies. Word-of-mouth marketing has been one of the most powerful tools for business owners with loyal customers helping to bring in new clientele.

That said, punch cards or a “thank you” template email isn’t enough to transform customers into brand advocates for your company. If you want to inspire customers to write a testimonial or refer new business your way, ensure that your return matches their effort.

Here’s an example: Squarespace, the drag-and-drop website platform that’s grown incredibly popular among small businesses, launched the Squarespace Circle platform to transform a trusted group of industry experts (web designers) into a third-party sales department. Squarespace built a content hub targeting web designers and built a referral program to incentivize them to build more client websites on their platform.  

To incorporate Squarespace’s out-of-the-box tactics into your small business marketing campaign, consider launching a cash-back program for your most loyal customers. Give them a gift card for $10–15 off purchases once they refer five new customers to your business. 

6. Bring guerrilla marketing tactics into the 21st century

When people think of out-of-the-box marketing ideas, their brains typically go straight to guerrilla marketing tactics. But what does guerrilla marketing even mean?

Put simply, guerrilla marketing involves unconventional marketing strategies to generate buzz around a product or service and surprise the target market. The strategy was first coined in 1984 as a low-cost alternative to traditional media like television, print, or radio ads. However, as platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube became mainstream, marketers needed to digitize these attention-grabbing campaigns to make them go viral.

Want to try it yourself? Challenge yourself to use a social media marketing platform you haven’t pursued in the past. Launch YouTube tutorials displaying your best products, create TikTok videos interviewing your top customers, or email your most loyal customers a treasure map of where to find “secret” discounted products in-store.

7. Think outside the box with user-generated content

Social media influencer filming a video

For years, brands have partnered with influencers or companies to publish user-generated content (UGC). For paid UGC, a brand might hire  bloggers, social media influencers, or complementary brands to write guest posts, appear on a podcast episode, or design social media graphics. UGC can also happen organically, where a brand uses consumer photos, reviews, or testimonials to market its services. 

To put a creative spin on user-generated content, think outside the static social media post. You can take a few cues from Bush’s Beans, which transformed everyday customers into viral videographers. “Roll that beautiful bean footage” has been an iconic slogan of Bush’s Beans commercials for years. In 2022, the brand decided to capitalize on their well-known one-liner, turning it into a viral sensation.

How did they do it? Rather than produce commercials in-house, Busch’s Beans invited anyonenot just well-known influencers—to produce a viral-worthy advertisement. The main requirement? Shoot a video showing fun, unique ways to enjoy the product. The “Bush’s Beans Can Film Festival” was a smash hit, earning 18.5 million social views and a staggering 600+ million earned media and digital impressions. Plus, the brand got more than 250 entries that served as fresh, never-heard-of-before video content.

Even if you have yet to craft a business slogan, you can still launch your own user-generated campaign. In fact, you can challenge your customer base to create your brand’s jingle, business tagline, slogan, or a full-on commercial. Remember, the quality of the content you receive will directly correlate to the grand prize—so make it as big as your budget allows. Consider offering a $500 shopping spree, free oil changes for a year, or free pizza or blowouts for a month, depending on your industry. 

8. Curate an on-brand playlist on Spotify or Apple Music 

People are always looking for a good playlist to listen to while working out, cleaning up at home, or running errands. Whether your brick-and-mortar casts a homey vibe or upbeat atmosphere, create a playlist on Spotify or Apple Music to capture your brand essence and promote it wherever folks can find you. Be sure to keep your playlist on brand: If you’re a local gym, post a workout playlist; if you’re a tutoring center, create a jazz or playlist with instrumentals only.

It’s time to launch a viral-worthy digital marketing campaign

Out-of-the-box marketing campaigns can generate leads and boost sales by making your brand image more memorable and engaging. But before acting on these out-of-the-box ideas for marketing your business, be sure to couple your tactics with tried-and-true strategies—steady posting on social media channels, maintaining a website that shares further details on your company, and claiming your Yelp Business Page.

Now that your creative ideas are flowing, it’s time to develop your campaign strategy. Check out this guide on online marketing for small business.

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.