Small Business Marketing Strategy Guide

4. Five Marketing Channels For Small Businesses

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Small Business Marketing

Five Marketing Channels For Small Businesses

Jul 07, 2023 • 10 min read
Startup Marketing
Table of Contents

      “What marketing channels should my small business use?”

      We get it: there are seemingly endless ways to market your small business. How do you know which is right for YOU? 

      While there are many different ways to go about marketing, not all of them are right for everyone. Certain businesses perform better than others on some channels. Some of it comes down to the target audience, some of it comes down to the industry, and a lot of it comes down to marketing strategy.

      Let’s talk about different marketing channels and how they can work for small businesses.

      What is a Marketing Channel?

      A marketing channel is a medium by which you can advertise your company and its products or services. Marketing showcases your expertise and brand differentiators to encourage prospects to buy from you over your competitors.

      The four main types of marketing channels are:

      • Free
      • Paid 
      • Digital
      • Traditional 

      It’s worth repeating that different channels work differently for individual businesses. No singular channel or strategy works for everyone. And of course, in order to succeed, you need to have a strategy per channel. Marketing doesn’t work without strategy!
      Here are five marketing channels that can have a big impact on small businesses.

      Email Marketing

      You’re probably familiar with email marketing. You know those dozens of sales emails you get in your inbox every day? Those welcome emails you get when you sign up for an email list? Those are all part of email marketing!

      Email marketing is an excellent way to educate and nurture your audience. Educate them on who you are, what you offer, and why your services or products are different from (and better than) others.

      Why send emails? Marketers consider it one of the most effective channels, with a rate of return as high as 36:1.  That’s pretty huge! 

      Types of emails you can send include:

      • Sales
      • Subscription reminders 
      • Welcome emails
      • Newsletters
      • Product or service alerts 
      • Events

      To make email work for your business, you need to start by building your list. People need to be opted in in order to send emails (legally), so you can create an opt-in form on your website for site visitors to sign up. As an incentive to join your list, you can offer special benefits for subscribers. You can offer exclusive sales to your list or you send out a coupon as a thanks for signing up, for example. 

      As your list grows and your email marketing evolves, you can segment your list by location, interest, or other elements to run more targeted campaigns. Remember that the most important thing is to have a consistent send schedule and engaging emails! 

      Testing is another important facet of email marketing. It’s important to keep an eye on your overall metrics to see how your emails are performing. As you get more email data, you can begin testing different elements to see what’s most effective for your audience. You can A/B test different subject lines, header images, or types of sales (10% vs. $10 off, for example). Don’t test more than one element at a time, otherwise you won’t know what influenced the outcome.

      Affiliate Marketing

      Affiliate marketing uses partners to market your business. Essentially, two or more businesses market for each other through a partnership. For many small businesses, affiliate marketing means teaming up with a complementary business to bring each other more customers. For example, a plumbing company might affiliate with an electrical company to work together on renovation projects. We also see big brands do this: think about Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell or Uber offering Spotify streaming on their app. 

      Small business affiliate marketing can be a great way to increase your company’s visibility and develop key partnerships. It might feel a lot like word-of-mouth marketing, but it comes with the structure of a formal agreement and the power of a fellow business. Affiliates receive commission for referrals, often through a percentage of the overall sale. 

      To have a successful affiliate marketing partnership, make sure your affiliate is a trusted, respected business. It’s worth taking some time to ensure they’re running a solid operation inside and out with both happy customers and employees. As you create your affiliate agreement, outline your commission structure, as well as your shared goals and target metrics. These numbers will help you track how much money the partnership is bringing in and if it’s an effective strategy for your business, so you can decide if it’s worth continuing after a trial period.

      Social Media Marketing

      Social media is everywhere, and for good reason. It presents a crucial channel between businesses and customers to build community and brand loyalty. You can connect with your audience and really let your brand personality shine. Over 93% of businesses in the U.S. use social media, and, specifically, 77% of small businesses are on social media. These platforms can help you build brand awareness and trust.

      Social media channels include:

      • Facebook
      • Instagram 
      • Twitter
      • LinkedIn 
      • TikTok

      Sixty-four percent of customers on Twitter say they would rather message a Twitter account dedicated to customer service than call the business on the phone. And positive customer service interactions on these platforms can boost customer loyalty! While social media might feel overwhelming, it does present a unique opportunity to go above and beyond to stand out to customers.

      Like all other marketing channels, social media success is contingent upon strategy. It’s not enough to share pictures or videos on their own. The content you post online needs to be strategic, guiding your followers to deepen their relationship with you through engagement and interaction. 

      Keep this in mind when posting on social media:

      • Be consistent – Post at regular intervals instead of sporadically.
      • Share with intention – Your content should have a strategic mix.
      • Aim for quality over quantity – Spammy content will do more harm than good.

      Not sure how to get started on social media? Check out your competitors and see what’s working for them. Take note of what you like, what you don’t, and what you think you can emulate. Keep all of this in mind as you create your initial strategy, so that you can be confident your content will perform well and you’ll enjoy creating it.


      SEO stands for search engine optimization. This entails updating and optimizing your website to increase traffic from search engines to boost overall awareness and leads. Organic search can be a powerful tool for your business when people are looking for your services but might not yet be familiar with your specific business. This is what makes a search like “auto repair near me” so powerful. The websites that show up for that specific search have been optimized with keywords so that relevant customers can find them. 

      SEO works for both local and national businesses. Local businesses may find SEO particularly powerful due to how well Google understands search intent (the intention behind what someone is looking up on Google). If a user is looking for auto repair, as mentioned above, they’re probably looking for auto shops in a nearby radius. That’s why optimizing your website for local search is so important.

      The crux of SEO is keyword strategy. Keywords are the terms people use to find your services, and these terms should feature throughout your website to help it show up for relevant searches. How? Keywords have a role on all your site pages, but your primary pages, like your homepage, should definitely include your top keywords, which should include your bread-and-butter services or products. Headers are also a great place to include keywords.

      Blogs are a great way to incorporate keywords and build your overall site authority. Your blog topics should be strategic, answering questions often asked by your target audience and demonstrating your expertise in the subject.

      Traditional Marketing

      This might not seem as glamorous as digital marketing, but rest assured, traditional marketing is still alive and well! In fact, digital channels are so crowded these days, traditional marketing channels can give businesses an unexpected edge. 

      Here are some traditional marketing channels your small business can try:

      • Direct mail
      • Print (magazines or newspapers)
      • Broadcast (radio or TV)
      • Outdoor (billboards or posters)
      • Window displays

      How can your small business leverage traditional marketing tactics? Use direct mail to build brand awareness or re-engage past customers. Create a radio ad to increase your reach. Put up window displays in local businesses to win more local customers. 

      Traditional marketing tactics can have some advantages over digital channels: They are often more memorable, more permanent, and more impactful than their digital counterparts. They can, however, also be more expensive, and it can be difficult to know their exact ROI and effectiveness, unless you use a survey asking how customers found you.

      Keep in mind that traditional marketing is typically most effective for brand awareness. If your priority is increasing sales, focus on digital.

      About the author
      Maeve Ginsberg

      Maeve Ginsberg is a copywriter & storyteller. She is a marketing strategist a Picante Collective where she helps businesses with marketing strategy and brand voice.

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