12 Best Alternatives to Traditional Advertising for Small Businesses
To help small businesses explore alternatives to traditional advertising, we’ve gathered insights from twelve industry professionals, including CEOs and Marketing Directors. From embracing social media storytelling to distributing promotional products, these experts share their top strategies for effective and innovative marketing.
- Embrace Social Media Storytelling
- Forge Local Business Collaborations
- Invest in Content Marketing
- Strategize with Google
- Utilize Email Marketing
- Leverage Influencer Collaborations
- Focus on SEO Efforts
- Implement a Referral Scheme
- Advertise on Local Podcasts
- Use Social Media Ads
- Promote User-Generated Content
- Distribute Promotional Products
Embrace Social Media Storytelling
Small businesses should view themselves as media companies first, then secondary to that is the product or service they provide. But what does that mean? Producing social media content at scale! That’s the best and only alternative.
So, practically, what does this look like?
The most important thing local businesses must do is first to identify their unique selling point or unfair advantage and have this be a unique theme throughout their brand messaging.
For example, let’s say the local bakery offers classes for young people on baking every Thursday and becomes a social club. Then it’s important these unique propositions are covered in your social media storytelling.
Let’s face it, it’s not common to see a bakery offering classes, and that’s why you will win! Boom!
Forge Local Business Collaborations
Creating mutually beneficial relationships with other small businesses is a simple, but often overlooked, method of getting your company in front of fresh eyes. For instance, a restaurant and a local brewery might sell each other’s products and thus extend the reach of both. Doing this well with multiple local businesses can create an opportunity to tap into a community culture that brings you closer to your clients, too.
Invest in Content Marketing
One of the best alternatives to traditional advertising for small businesses, in my opinion, is content marketing. Content marketing involves creating valuable and relevant content—such as blog posts, videos, infographics, and podcasts—that resonates with your target audience. By providing informative and engaging content, small businesses can attract and retain customers, establish authority in their niche, and build trust over time.
Content marketing is cost-effective, as it relies more on time and expertise than on large advertising budgets. It also has the potential for long-term benefits, as high-quality content can continue to drive organic traffic and generate leads even years after it’s published. An example of content that continues to drive traffic to our website is our “Consumers and Voice Search Study,” which has 200+ backlinks and counting since we started doing content marketing.
Edlyn Collanto, B2B Marketing Research Specialist, UpCity
Strategize with Google
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for small business advertising, but there are several rules of thumb. If people explicitly search for the services you provide online, such as a dentist, power washing company, or tow truck, Google is the place to be.
If you have a product or service that people don’t explicitly search for, such as a product or service that is brand new to the market, social media (both paid and organic) is the place to focus.
Essentially, Google has replaced the Yellow Pages, and social media has partially replaced traditional broadcast media for small business advertising. Businesses that found success with those two channels should be able to translate that same success online.
Utilize Email Marketing
Small businesses often grapple with finding cost-effective alternatives to traditional advertising. While billboards and TV spots have their place, there’s a more targeted and intimate approach that has proven exceptionally effective, especially for B2B companies: email marketing.
Email marketing allows businesses to reach potential clients directly in their inboxes, offering tailored solutions that address specific needs. For B2B companies, where the sales cycle can be longer and decisions are often collaborative, email campaigns provide the opportunity to nurture relationships, share detailed product information, and offer value through insightful content.
It’s not just about pushing a sale; it’s about establishing trust and showcasing expertise. Email marketing is a testament to the power of targeted, value-driven communication in a world where personal connections matter.
Leverage Influencer Collaborations
Unlock the potential of influencer collaborations for your book service and small publishing business!
In a digital age, where trust is the currency, influencers wield significant power in shaping perceptions and driving actions. Identify influencers who align with your brand, ethos, and audience. Engage individuals revered in the literary community, such as popular book reviewers, authors, or literary bloggers with a dedicated following. A shared post, story, or review from these influencers acts as a glowing endorsement, seamlessly weaving your services into the fabric of their trusted recommendations.
This method not only amplifies your reach but also fortifies your brand’s credibility. With each collaboration, you’re crafting a narrative of trust and value, fostering a community of avid readers and writers enchanted by the stories you help bring to life!
Focus on SEO Efforts
For a lot of small businesses, especially those in small niches, concentrating on SEO can often be more effective and cheaper than many types of traditional advertising.
As long as the business has a modern, well-performing website, a small business can do a lot of SEO work in-house. Who knows more about a business and its offerings than those who work for or own the business? Tap into these resources to produce great content that ranks well. At some point, it’s helpful to bring in an expert to fix technical issues and find areas for improvement and targeting that the business might have missed.
No matter if it’s done in-house or with professional help, SEO produces much more enduring results than a lot of traditional advertising. You can’t just turn off great rankings.
Implement a Referral Scheme
A referral scheme for existing customers is a potent alternative to traditional advertising for small businesses. It leverages the trust and satisfaction of your current clientele to attract new customers.
By incentivizing existing customers to refer your business to others—perhaps through discounts, freebies, or exclusive benefits—you create a word-of-mouth marketing channel that’s not only cost-effective but also highly credible. People tend to trust recommendations from individuals they know. A well-orchestrated referral scheme can significantly amplify your customer base, engender community around your brand, and foster a self-propelling cycle of referrals, rendering it a savvy, organic growth strategy in the competitive business landscape.
Advertise on Local Podcasts
Local podcast advertising can be a great alternative to traditional radio and TV advertisements. With the rise in podcast popularity, it’s much easier to find good podcasts that have an audience in a certain region.
People are actively listening to podcasts during their breaks, free time, commutes, etc. Having a sponsored message in these podcasts can get you in front of many potential customers. Plus, these sponsored sections are relatively inexpensive compared to other mediums.
Use Social Media Ads
Social media ads are one of the best alternatives to conventional advertising for small businesses. Social media advertisements are a fantastic opportunity for companies trying to stand out because few organizations have yet to utilize them.
Small businesses can effectively market their goods or services and connect with their target market by using social media ads in their marketing plans. Small businesses must have a clear strategy and understand their target audience for successful social media advertising. It’s also crucial to keep up with the evolving landscape of social media platforms and their advertising capabilities to maximize the benefits of this advertising alternative.
Promote User-Generated Content
User-generated content is any form of content that is created by actual customers or users, not by the business. It is one of the best ways to build trust with potential customers. This type of content carries a lot of weight as it appears more authentic.
User-generated content includes product reviews, tweets, or even a live stream about the product. Social media contests are a great and cost-effective way to encourage users to create content. You can even mix it with interactive content, such as quizzes, to make it more exciting.
Distribute Promotional Products
Using promotional products has been a successful form of advertising for small and big businesses for over 100 years! Distributing promotional items with your logo to potential and loyal clients is an affordable and effective method of branding.
More than 80 percent of the population keeps customized promotional products for more than a year. That means your logo on T-shirts, pens, or water bottles has the potential of being seen by hundreds or even thousands of people. Most promotional items cost less than $1 each, so they are much more affordable than traditional advertising methods such as television, radio, or billboards.
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