5 Outside-the-box Marketing Ideas for Small Business

Traditional marketing channels are tired. And less effective than ever. Let’s kick your creative juices into gear with some fresh ideas. 🙂

Now, I’m a digital marketing guy, so brace yourself for ideas biased in that direction. If you advertise in the Yellow Pages. Stop! The Yellow Pages are dead. If you spend thousands of dollars on newspaper advertising. Please stop! You are throwing your money away. There are many newer advertising methods and platforms where your ROI will be much higher, such as email marketing or Search Engine Optimization.  And please, make sure you do, in fact, track your ROI.

Ok. Let’s start thinking outside-the-box, with different, non-traditional ideas to spread your brand and company message. What I’m saying is, if you do everything the same as your competitors do, you’re dead in the water. You may not know it yet, but you are. And – you’re no fun!

Here we go:

  1. Aerial Photographs.

Think about it. Everyone loves to see their community and others from a different perspective. I know I do. And it’s not as expensive as you might think. You need a decent or talented, burgeoning photographer and a pilot to take you up for an hour or more. You can often work yourself into free picture time from the air by volunteering for charitable events – help coordinate the local air show, police night out (with National Guard helicopters), or charitable golf tournament with a golf ball drop. I’ve taken lots of aerial photos and I’ve never paid once to do it.

Have the photographer edit the pics and then load them onto your website in a new gallery. You may need to have your web developer help you with this. Share the gallery on social media. You may want to boost the Facebook post you create with $30.00 or so to reach a wider audience.

Many of the people you reach will visit your website to view the photos where you can introduce them to your business, make offers, etc. You could realistically undertake this marketing initiative for $500.00 depending on the market if you shop around – certainly less than $1000.00.

If you have a small list of prospects, you could have the pilot fly by their houses or office buildings and take some shots. Have those pics edited, printed, and sent out with a unique message introducing your business. I guarantee it gets opened, and you most likely get responses from half of the recipients without any need to followup.

2. Re-publish School Announcements For Your Community.

In the small town where I live, we have five schools that are constantly pushing out email messages for various things from sports schedules to open houses and community events. Tons of emails go out. And guess what, I can’t possibly keep track of, or read all of them – nor do I want to.

Now, they do have separate lists you can join so you don’t receive quite as many, but I still can’t keep track of them all. So wouldn’t it be nice for the content to be stored on a website somewhere so you could search, sort, and filter only the things you wanted to read about and not have to worry about catching every important email?

The software packages the schools use should include this functionality, but most don’t or at least they don’t bother to set it up. So why not provide this service on your business website or on a community website you create that has your company message all over it? Having a college computer science student write the code to put this together costs about $500.00. I know, I’ve done it.

We simply setup a Gmail account as a recipient for the various email lists, used the filtering tools available in Gmail to sort the emails, and then wrote some code to grab the emails and post the content on the site automatically. It’s that simple.

Once you’ve got this process setup and working fairly well, publicize your creation on Facebook (especially to town related groups) and other social media outlets. You will most likely be able to send out an email about the service you’ve created via the email channels your tracking! 🙂

3. Keep Online Stats for the Local Little League.

Hire a couple of high school kids for $500 each for the season (or an enthusiastic parent or coach) to keep the stats for each little league game – scores, league standings, batting averages, etc. There are many stats apps and software packages available such as iScoresports.

Now, depending on how you set it up you may need that computer science major again to take exported score reports and load them onto the website where you keep them and set that process up to take place automatically. I haven’t personally executed this idea so I don’t know exactly how I would do it, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard. And it would be well worth it – much more worthwhile than a static sign in the outfield.

Once you do get your league stats website up and running, be sure to email the league, the coaches, and parents if you can to let them know about it. Also, don’t forget the schools email broadcaster – try and send a message about your service to all the parents in town.

4. Hire an artist.

We hire Dan Vasky from time-to-time to create illustrations or cartoons that will generate some buzz. We paid less than $500.00 for the image below and it created lots of buzz for us.

A series of images would be even better. And if you commit to doing a series of images you’ll be able to have each image drawn for less money. You’d be able to have fans subscribe to your email list or Facebook page. And guess what? Each of those emails will contain your company message and have Calls-to-action promoting your products and services.

Mayor Menino waving goodbye

5. Go to the Dentist.

No really – go to the dentist, or the orthodontist, doctor, chiropractor, etc. If you are a good customer of a business that could use your help then you have the right ask them about utilizing your services in return. If the dentist won’t meet with you about your product or service that will help them (it will help them right?), then you take your business somewhere else. But they will – if you ask nicely.

Growing up, I didn’t go to the same orthodontist, for example, as my siblings. We all went to different practitioners of those types of businesses. The reason was my dad (the Wizard), knew he could get each practice we went to as a client. He only needed a foot in the door, which he got as a good, timely paying patron of their business. My dad got all of them as clients by the way, and you should too.

Expand this idea to other places where you’re a good customer – your mechanic, landscaper, florist, hair salon, pizza place, etc.

I don’t realistically expect you to undertake all of these or even any of them, but I do hope they will spur your creative juices and help you realize there are many opportunities to promote your business outside of traditional channels. And, many times you will spend less and get more.

So good luck and let me know how you do in the comment section below. Thank you.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kiloni

    Thank you for writing this article! @Buymaster appreciates it as well, being a new Boston startup app company. But keep them coming!

    1. Ben Vincent

      Hi Kiloni,

      Glad you enjoyed it! You have a very cool product, I’ll be sure to check it out more.

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