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The 6 Best Ways to Advertise Your Small Business

8 mins read

Small business owners can often feel a bit overwhelmed when considering the many ways to advertise. Who can blame them? With the emergence of the internet, there are so many options to consider.

Maybe you’re in this situation right now. You know your business has a lot to offer, and that spreading the word is necessary for success. You might even have a budget set aside for marketing. But how should you go about it? What will give you the best results for the best price? What combination of traditional and digital advertising will create the results you crave?

Let’s face it – there are hundreds of ways to advertise, and you want to pick the ones that really WORK. I picked six of my favourites to help you get started.

1. Word of mouth.

Seeking referrals and networking – also known as “word of mouth marketing” – is the most timeless way to get new business. If you make a good impression and share your small business with your network, people will naturally recommend you to friends and family!

Cost: Free (possible extra costs include referral incentives, business cards, and salesperson salaries/commission)

Pros: Builds trust, highly effective, long lasting results, low cost, can happen naturally with a positive company culture

Cons: Hard to track and control, access only one person at a time (as opposed to a large number of impressions), must build up your reputation over time


“Refer-a-Friend” programs are a great way to get the ball rolling when it comes to word-of-mouth. Give and Get promotions (eg. referral gets 25% off and referrer gets 25% off) and social media tagging contests are both great ways to amp up your advocacy efforts!


2. Facebook ads.

As of 2016, there were 4 million businesses taking advantage of Facebook advertising. With killer targeting and low cost per click, it’s easy to see why the social network is so popular with savvy advertisers.

Cost: The average cost per click ranges from $0.63 (travel and tourism) to $3.77 (finance and insurance), putting this at the top of the list for digital marketing ROI. You can check out the average for your industry here. However, unless you are a social media whiz yourself, you’ll likely need some technical and creative support to get real results from your ads. Facebook ad management options range from $100 per month with needls to up to $4,000/month for an in-house social media manager. You can read more about pricing for Facebook ads management here.

Pros: Great targeting, affordable (depending on management option used), highly measurable, helps you better understand your customers and pick new ways to advertise

Cons: Effectiveness can depend on your social media presence/website landing pages, it can take some time to optimize ads, negative comments can appear


Use your Facebook ads for more than just getting people to your website! Remarketing to cold leads, visitors who have abandoned their cart, or site visitors, can help you push your leads further down your funnel and get your more conversions!


3. Trade shows.

A great way to build relationships with people interested in your product or service is to buy space at an industry-appropriate trade show. Not only will it introduce you to future clients, it allows you to meet other small business owners in your space for future collaborations and networking.

Cost: Trade show spots can range from $50 for a table at a small mall pop-up to $300 and up for a space at larger shows. Other costs include electricity, insurance, promotional items, staffing and the design/printing of your booth. Altogether, you should plan on spending an average of $100-$150 per square foot for attending a trade show.

Pros: Visibility in your industry, opportunity to build relationships and pitch to larger potential customers, highly visual and personal

Cons: Requires a great deal of planning and upfront costs, may make more sense for vendors selling higher ticket items


Fishbowls are your friend! Use fishbowl contests to drive traffic to your booth and, if you can, make sure you have two people at the trade show. That way you can have someone to “man the booth” and another one to network on the floor. The key to success at a trade show is your pitch – so be sure to practice, practice, practice!


4. Google Adwords.

Google receives an average of 40,000 searches every second. Many of those searchers are looking for nearby storefronts and services, which means they could be looking for YOU. Google Adwords allows your site listing to show up at the top of the page when someone searches for your product or service. It’s one of the best ways to advertise your business to people ready to buy!

Cost: Adwords operates on a “bidding” model, so the more competitive your industry the higher your cost per click will be. The average sits between $1 and $2, though advertisers vying for the top spot with highly competitive keywords will see higher price tags. Like Facebook, Adwords management fees will also be involved for those who wish to outsource this process.

Pros: Great targeting, ads shown to highly qualified buyers (people who are searching for your product/service), highly measurable

Cons: Requires expertise or professional support to setup, effectiveness can depend on your social media presence/website landing pages, it can take some time to optimize ads


Google Adwords can be a bit overwhelming. To ensure you’re not overspending or not getting the most out of your campaigns, enroll in Google’s free Academy for Ads program. Here, you’ll be able to complete your Adwords certification, as well as your Google Analytics certification!

Keep in mind, there’s quite a learning curve – so don’t get discouraged if you’re having a little trouble. There are plenty of business owners who opt for organic search engine optimization instead, although the results take time to see.


5. Direct mail.

Direct mail is a great way to use the power of targeting while also getting the benefit of a physical ad right in your potential customers’ hands.

Cost: Postage, design, and printing costs can make direct mail a pricier option, though high response rates often make up for it. In Canada, plan on spending between 20 cents and $1 per direct mail piece. The more you send, the cheaper your cost per piece will be.

Pros: Decent targeting (geography, household income), lots of opportunities to be creative or personalize, high response rate

Cons: Can be costly, challenges with measuring response, hard to adjust once mailpieces are printed and postage is ordered


Use heavy cardstock (or even plastic flyers/giftcards if you can)! The sensation of something that’s quite out of place can ensure your mail will be looked at twice.


6. Email marketing.

If you have a list of people who have signed up to hear from you, well, you should be talking to them! Collecting email addresses through your website or as a daily business practice can help you reach out to potential customers and keep loyal fans engaged. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable ways to advertise your business!

Cost: Free to start with a platform like MailChimp or MailerLite. As your list grows, you may want to pay a monthly fee for a program with more features or a professional copywriter to get the most out of your emails.

Pros: Low cost with great ROI, highly measurable, can feel personal, great for promoting word of mouth

Cons: Requires maintenance and creativity to be successful (should add value to followers, not just sell), need to follow strong anti-spam laws (CASL) if in Canada

Keep your brand consistent and build a relationship through your emails. Choose a member of your team to be the “face” (or sender) of different drips email drips. Doing this will help you build rapport and increase your open rates.

Bonus #protip: Don’t forget, using an email signature is key to establish authority and credibility (both with your automated drips, and your regular ol‘ emails). You can use email signature generators, like Newoldstamp (one of our personal favourites), to create custom signatures without figuring out HTML.


How to Choose the Best Ways to Advertise for YOUR Business

Let’s be honest – one-size-fits-all solutions rarely work for all small businesses. We’ve seen some killer results from Facebook campaigns across many industries, but it’s ultimately up to YOU what will work for your brand.

So, analyze your audience. Establish your budget. Get your website and phone answering systems ready to capture leads, then take a peek at all the options available. And as always, give us a shout if you need any help along the way!


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