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7 Creative Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Do you feel like everyone you know is using the same marketing tips and tricks?

Are you looking for more creative marketing ideas for your business?

In this article I am going to give you 7 creative marketing ideas for small business owners.

I’m also going to suggest some practises you might want to consider to help you with creative thinking and coming up with ideas.

When do you have your most creative marketing ideas?

Have you ever noticed that when you do certain activities you have better ideas? Some people find taking a long bath works for them. Others a long walk.

I would guess most people don’t have massive light bulb moments sitting in front of a computer for hours. The combination of staring at a screen and being in one spot.

There is definitely something to be said for movement and creative thinking. Getting up off the spot and going somewhere else.

Many of the worlds most creative thinkers believe that they work better in isolation. The term monk mode is fashionable in productivity books. It simply means finding somewhere to work and limiting all interactions until you’ve done what you set out to achieve.

Think about it over the next month or so. When you are next in ideas mode and grab your notebook and pen, write down what you were doing at the time the idea strikes too.

Once you understand how inspiration strikes for you it is possible to recreate.

Need 12 espressos and a run around the block, great.

Want to sit in silence somewhere beautiful, also great.

What we are looking for here is to get a really good understanding of your creative thinking process. That is going to be different for every single one of us.

A man holds a light bulb in his hands
Most Creative Marketing Ideas

Why is planning such an important part of marketing?

As small business owners we are all different. You may work in services, you may produce a product.

You know that you need to come up with creative marketing ideas. The ideas a law firm might come up with will be very different to a fashion designer. What the law firm and the fashion designer both need is a structure that encourages the capture and implementation of their best marketing thoughts, and stops them forgetting those ideas.

As a marketing consultant I’m often asked what the key benefits of marketing planning are.

In a longer piece on marketing planning I listed them here but for a short recap they are:

  1. Getting organised

  2. Showing you what works

  3. Taking the strain off you on your bad days

  4. Giving direction

  5. Giving accountability

The most simple way to keep all your marketing tied up and in one place is a marketing plan

This article is all about creative marketing ideas and you may be wondering why I’m dwelling so much on the planning aspect instead.

The bottom line is, planning sets you free.

To be truly creative you need a framework.

Before I finish up this point I’d like to recommend that if you don’t plan at all at the moment that you start. Some examples of fun and easy planning you could do right now are:

  1. Grab your diary and put in several hours on a regular basis just for you, just for thinking and being creative. This is not indulgent, woo woo, or anything else. This is vital business activity. Defend these hours with your life!

  2. Start an ideas park. Our heads are busy all day long. They are not a good place to keep ideas. I want you to nominate an ideas park and from now on use it to record all your ideas. If you are worried about remembering your ideas why not record a voice note as your first action, and then make a time each day when you move the ideas somewhere more formal.

  3. Put your targets up somewhere that you and the key members of your team can easily access them. I would have said on a wall in your office but with teams working remotely at the moment maybe somewhere digital makes more sense. You all need to know the big numbers for your business that are important and that you are planning towards.

Now we’ve covered why it's important to plan in order to have more creative marketing ideas let's move on to those 7 ideas.

Someone is writing a check list with their pen poised above the paper
What Is Marketing Planning?

7 Creative Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

1. Create an association

When you think about Dolly Parton what is the next thought in your mind? Is it books? No. I didn’t think so. And yet Dolly Partons Imagination Library had gifted over 150 million free books by the end of 2020. Literacy is vital for the human race, so you could not pick a more noble project to get involved in. Fair enough you may not have access to Dolly's resources, but what could you do instead? If books are something you believe in, or rather if helping children to read and access books is, could your company get involved with a local school in some way? Perhaps you could volunteer to hear children read a certain number of times per month, or donate books to the school library.

Schools send out newsletters to the parents in their community so your business would be guaranteed lots of positive attention, and of course the charitable aims are also good for the PR you generate for your own business.

There are lots of other ways you could pursue an association. If your business sells fabric and you have material to spare could you donate it to community eco-projects? At the moment masks are probably the no 1 item every person needs, but maybe can’t afford to keep purchasing. Could your company produce masks from off cuts and donate them to a charity?

Look to your company values for the associations that might make the most sense.

2. Write a book

If you are an expert in something and want to let the world know about it, one of the best things you could do is write a book. Many coaches and consultants are already following this tip. Writing a book takes the knowledge that you could usually only share 121 and turns it into one to many. You may be thinking, but that would take me ages. It could do, it could also be something that you outsource. There are amazing professionals out there who can pretty much do everything from taking your idea and turning it into a book for you. Books are great for marketing for so many reasons. They are content that you can re-purpose forever. They give you something that helps you stand out as a professional and expert in your field. They provide endless PR opportunities, from the launch stage to journalists looking to feature writers on your subject.

There is also Amazon, a huge marketing platform for anyone who gets it right. In an age where lots of people are going for short form content why not go long!

3. Sponsorship

What could you sponsor that would help your brand be seen by your target audience?

Estate agents are often sponsors of local events such as school fairs. It is a clever tactic.

They sponsor a school fair and then ask parents from the school to display a board for the fair with the company branding on it in their garden. It's a genius way of paying for premium space on quiet suburban roads where there is no other way of advertising.

Or you could approach it the other way and look for sponsors for your own company.

This generates revenue for you, and extends your marketing via them.

One example of this is small football teams who offer sponsorship on shirts. Think about what you have that someone would be prepared to pay to access.

Do you have a busy Facebook group with a certain audience?

Do you have a podcast with a decent amount of downloads.

How about your website? Could you offer a sponsor a position there?

Plenty to think about in this tip.

4. Create a talk

It could be for the local Women's Institute (WI) or it could be a TEDx talk that goes out to millions. We are all doing events online now, and depending on the area you specialise in, you could find the audience you end up speaking to is far larger than you’d have at an in person event. Think about what your area of speciality is and then create a talk that you could take on the road. There is nothing to stop you giving the same talk to lots of different audiences. Create a tour of different relevant locations in the country you live in. For me when I released my book last year I made a list of any networking organisations that I could find that may want to know more about marketing, and I approached them one by one. My strike rate was pretty good and I gave the same talk, with a few tweaks here and there to lots of different audiences. I always found the investment of time worthwhile both in terms of book sales and future business opportunities.

5. Create some merchandise

If you watch any YouTube you will know that pretty much every single channel offers ‘merch’ this is usually T-Shirts, caps, bags. Anything that the content creator can sell on to their audience. You might be thinking but I’m a services business what could I possibly sell? There are lots of low content options that might be possible for you. How about a planner? A day book? Notepaper? You may even decide to give away some items.

Companies that promote for a living know the value of having a fridge magnet, a pen, or in the old days a pad to go by the phone, with a company logo on it. You are in a prime location to keep in someone's mind until they next decide they need you.

So give it some thought. What could your company create?

6. Host a challenge

The reason there are so many social media challenges that involve a branded hashtag, logoed posts and a set of instructions to follow over a certain period is, they work! If you want to grow a targeted audience that actually may engage with you beyond the challenge period is to keep it specific and useful for that group. What could you give away in terms of tips for a certain period?

The benefit of all those extra people viewing your content over that period will likely be worth it in terms of leads and enquiries and all it costs is your time in engagement.

6. Stunts

I’ve written a lot about these in another blog Inexpensive Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses recently but for those of you who haven’t read that I'll summarise.

Depending on what they are they can be really effective and generate loads of publicity. They also don’t need to be super expensive or David Blaine escaping from a cage above the Thames.

Could you turn an unloved patch of land near you into a pop up tea garden for a day? Could you create guerrilla gardening in urban areas near your workplace, like the man who threw seeds everywhere around London

Could you place some old tyres outside your place of work, fill them with dirt and plants, and paint them with something eye catching?

You are trying to create something that people stop and look at, preferably take a picture of, and straight away add to social media with a catchy hashtag.

How many of these creative marketing ideas for small businesses will you try?

We’ve reached the end of this blog, I really hope it has been a useful read for you

I’ve taken you through why you need to find the ways that work for you to have the best ideas.

Whether that's going for a walk or listening to music, you need to be proactive about putting yourself into the right thinking space to be creative.

We’ve also covered the need for even the most spontaneous and creative people to plan their marketing.

I would love to know if you try any of the 7 creative marketing ideas I suggested. You can find me on social media here:

Thanks for reading


P.S If you would like to receive blogs like this straight to your inbox you can sign up here for my mailing list. I mail once per week on a Friday.

Would you like more help with your marketing? My new book is out now

If you would like a book of 100 Marketing Tips written just for small business owners then do have a look here. I wrote this book to be easy to read cover to cover or to be kept as a reference to dip in and out of! About Me

Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in SE London.

Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.

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