Marketing is one of the most essential parts of the business, one which guarantees the ability to be successful.

Having said that, there are many companies that use different kinds of marketing strategies that vary from a simple advertisement on a television station to a small but witty blurb in the morning newspaper.

However, there is a big problem that smaller businesses have, and that problem is their financial power.

Smaller businesses lack the finances that bigger and more successful companies have put aside for their advertisements and other marketing strategies.

Even though smaller businesses have these kinds of problems that revolve around the lack of financial power for a “guaranteed success” marketing strategy, there are a lot of ways the smaller businesses can market themselves and spend a minimum amount of money.

In this article, we will cover more ground about the marketing itself, focus on giving you the ideas for creative and free marketing, and provide you with a list of examples of successful marketing ideas, and a few honorary mentions of ideas that were extremely creative.

At the end of the article, you will find frequent problems that people have while brainstorming marketing ideas, and how to avoid or overcome them, if they pop up.


The definition of marketing is any action taken by a company or an individual that has a goal of promoting themselves or their products to their existing or potential customers.

Some people mix marketing with advertising, not knowing that advertising is a way of marketing. Any action that involves the betterment of your reputation with your customers is a way of marketing.

To simplify, there are three essential steps that you need to grasp and understand, in order to better comprehend the core concept of marketing.

The three concepts are Needs, Wants, and Demands. All three of these concepts are used for the analysis of your customers and the answer to “how to attract them” question.

“Needs” is the easiest of concepts, and is aimed at the basic needs of the consumers, something that the people will always need and buy.

An example would be selling notebooks and school equipment for children and adults, as education is one of the basic needs of the human society, or selling food, again a basic need.

“Wants” is entirely different from the previous one, as is concerned with something that is not a basic need, but something that makes us feel comfortable.

The perfect example of this variable concept was the Sony Walkman or an MP3 player, a contemporary example and a final evolution of the music player is a smartphone, which is, more or less, slowly becoming a need.

Finally, we have “demands”, which is basically their desire to buy an item from their “needs” or “wants” list.

If a customer wants a phone, then your job is to make them desire your particular brand of the phone through clever marketing tactics.

If you wish to learn more about these concepts, try this article, for a more detailed explanation of these three core concepts.

Marketing is important, especially if you are a smaller business, as it can boost your bottom line and your popularity.

When using marketing, focus on the product you are trying to sell, clearly state the price of the product you want to sell.

The other two particulars you need to focus on is the place where your customers can buy the product, and promotion, in the way that you state the specifications and characteristics of your product.

All in all, marketing is an unavoidable part of any business, and there are a lot of ways to successfully promote your business or products nowadays.


As a small business owner, you should carefully and analytically approach to marketing strategies. It is assumed that you are operating on a limited budget, and you should act accordingly.

You should not fall in despair, as there are a lot of ways you can market yourself, outside of other pricey ways, such as huge billboards or long TV commercials.

One of the best and cheapest approaches is using the internet and its plethora of online forums and similar social media sites with a lot of traffic.

Using social media sites is fairly simple, as the only thing you need is opening a profile for your business.

However, there is a caveat. There is an option of advertising yourself on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter.

The operation of a profile might be time-consuming and might not provide you with desirable results in a shorter time frame, so you might opt into paying to have your profile pop up in the home pages of

You yourself set the price of running Facebook ads. The amount of time running the advertisements is what you are buying fm them.

The huge plus is that you can spend even less than 100 dollars a week, but your range or longevity of the advertisement might be hindered.

As Facebook does not give a clear price for advertising on their site, some users have concluded that you will actually pay per click or engagement, and that might be a lot for a small business owner in the long run.

Same goes with Twitter, and their profile and post promotion actions, they might prove to be a bigger bite to chew than initially thought.

In the social media sense, it is best to simply open an account on your own, and post pictures of your products, post some interesting stories about your business, and slowly build your base of customers.

Another website that you can use is Youtube. A site for video sharing, it is an interesting way to promote your business through filming a video about your products.

Have in mind that you have to make a splash, so you should try for your video to not be a simple drop in the sea, but make it stand out by being either funny or interesting and engaging in a way.

There are a lot of other similar websites, like Reddit or Linkedin, which can be used for business marketing and raising awareness about your new products and small business.

However, they all pretty much require the same: you can either pay a certain amount of money to be promoted or try to maintain the profiles on your own and wait for the growth to happen naturally.

Having said that, there are a few more ways of using the internet for marketing, which is worth mentioning and might be acquired for free.

For example, you could start a blog and write SEO-optimized blog posts to gain more Google traffic to your website.

If you opened a small business, there is a chance that you have a good network of people with a wide variety of contacts.

You can use those contacts and find yourself a web designer who will make you a great website for your striving business.

The internet is a vast place and a blank canvas that you can use for marketing and advertising your business, though it may be overwhelming at times, it can be amazingly rewarding.

On the other hand, another interesting way of promotion, linked to the real world, is the rise of cross-promoting which can benefit a smaller business greatly and moderately quickly.

Cross-promotion might seem like a difficult way of marketing your products, but it is amazingly rewarding for a few reasons.

The first reason is that you increasing the network of people you know and can work with, by choosing a partner for a cross-promotion.

The second reason is that you can make a deal by skipping monetary compensations, but use your own products as a model of payment.

This is especially good for smaller businesses, as all parties will try to go for the least amount of money spent on these kinds of promotions.

The biggest disadvantage of cross-promotion is the difficulty of finding a company or a smaller business that is a great fit. You should try and link your business with something that can be easily linked with you.

For example, a coffee shop and a food joint, but not a hardware store and a boutique. Finding that fit is always difficult, but highly rewarding in the end, especially if you see eye to eye, and bond in the long run.

Of course, sometimes you might not see eye to eye, and it might be a chore to go through with the whole deal, but cross-promotion is still a popular field of marketing that you should definitely consider.

The final option of free marketing is the concept of guerrilla marketing. Guerrilla marketing is when a business uses the unorthodox methods to promote their business, usually with live interaction with the potential customer base.

Guerrilla marketing is most effective due to its cost efficiency and uniqueness, among other things. It is why it is an unforgettable experience for an unsuspecting person.

There are different kinds of guerrilla marketing, from flash mobs to simple graffiti artists being hired to draw a piece about a product somewhere visible.

One of the biggest advantages of guerrilla marketing is that you do not need to have a big budget for it, the core things to have are imagination and time.

So if you wish to fully utilize the power of guerrilla marketing, you only need a shirt with a clever quip about your business or something that will catch the eye of the people.

Another interesting approach is handing out cards that have information about your business or products but written in an interesting or mysterious way.

The number of things that you can do with guerrilla marketing, both online and offline, is astounding and should be greatly considered, as it is becoming more and more popular by the day.

Guerrilla marketing’s goal is involving the community, in a way. The final idea that you can use might be a tricky one, and it might require community involvement, but it is one of the most interesting that have appeared in the modern age.

Viral marketing is when a brand message is spread quickly from person to person, like a virus, due to the surprising or unexpected way the message has been conveyed.

Viral marketing is usually done through a video that is then shared by people over the internet.

These kinds of marketing are the most difficult to pull off due to the uncertainty of the amount of success the video can or cannot provide. It might be a fluke or an unsuccessful attempt.

There have been some viral marketing successes, the most widely known to be The Old Spice Guy commercials for “Old spice” centered around men’s body care.

However, these advertisements do have high production value, it is not always a rule of the thumb that the more money you spend, the bigger the chance to have a successful viral marketing campaign.

You can always try to film a video with low production value and have the same result, the only thing you would need is to think carefully about the various factors that will make the video go viral.

In addition, do not think that videos are the only thing that makes viral marketing become successful.

Another way is making a photo competition with people who post particular pictures online. Have a theme of taking a picture of their dog in a funny pose.

There are a lot of emotions you can hit to trigger a viral marketing avalanche, you just need to think about the start, and that is it.

Viral marketing is a new and hip thing, though it might be a hit or miss, there is certainly a gold mine of ideas in every one of us, you just need to tap into it.


There have been great examples where an out-of-the-box marketing strategy that costs little to none has transformed a smaller business into a successful one.

There was a photography store that had been opened way back in the 1950s, and it struggled to lure in customers, even after upgrading itself to an electronics store.

They desperately needed customers, but could not afford traditional marketing. They published a magazine called “Buyers Guide Place”, with the help of their friend.

The magazine transformed the business, attracted customers and much later, the electronics store called “Magnolia” was sold and integrated into “Best Buy” for 87 million dollars.

Another good example is Keith Pabley, who while working with a physician, wanted to make his own candy bars, having tasted the ones the doctors recommend and finding the taste awful.

Then he created Good Green bars, gluten-free, and dairy-free power bars. The problem arose when the customers were not interested in his newly-opened business.

Due to Keith not having a huge marketing budget, he built relationships with local bloggers and online reviewers and boosted the interest through them and his sales had a 50 percent jump over a period of three months.

Finally, there is a company called “Dollar Shave Club“, which specializes in razors and grooming tools for men’s care.

The small business initially spent 4500 dollars for an advertisement video that they posted on Youtube. The video starred one of the founders and attracted 12000 new customers in less than 5 days and helped them become a competitor to big businesses like “Gillette“.

There are a lot more examples of successful marketing strategies from companies that were brave enough to be different and try unconventional methods in advertising.


Think outside the box. That is the essential step if you want your business to be noticed. Some of these examples were not as cheap, but they are here to show you or inspire you to think outside the box.

Video game company Electronic Arts had a video game called Dragon Age 2 coming out in 2011. They promoted the game by having an iguana towing a miniature cart filled with the game copies on the streets.

It was an interesting concept that has never been seen before. There were other similar advertisements by other companies but were not as successful or socially responsible.

Finally, the “Coca-Cola Company” had an amazingly planned event called “Happiness Machine”, where students were gifted extra items when using a Coca-Cola vending machine.

Here is the article, where they explain how they got to the idea, how they approached the happiness factor in customers, and to which frequency to set your mind to when thinking about brilliant marketing ideas.


As with every serious step in your business, there will always come a few problems. One of the most common ones is the lack of inspiration for a marketing campaign.

This is a normal problem that always arises during these times. You should not think overly about the problem itself but shift your focus elsewhere, as you never know when the inspiration will hit you.

Another big problem that discourages small business owners is their budget or lack thereof. You should never get discouraged by the lack of finances.

Just in this article alone, you can find examples of successful marketing ideas that had zero to none cost to their business. You can always rely on alternative methods of advertising.

Viral marketing has been mentioned, even though volatile and depending on a lot of different factors, it still is either extremely successful or everything remains at the status quo. Nothing gained, but nothing lost.

Guerrilla marketing is your safest choice, in addition to having a nearly infinite number of ideas, constricted only by your mind, it is usually the cheapest.

Additionally, there is a problem of fear that starts growing in business owners when they have invested in or utilized a great marketing idea, however, nothing happens after a longer period.

No need to fear. The marketing needs time to work, needs time to reach other people. Companies like Dollar Shave Club that amassed a great number of people in a short time are a rarity.

Finally, one of the biggest problems usually comes after successful marketing. Sometimes smaller businesses cannot maintain the customers and turn them into regulars.

You might be thinking that this does not have to do anything with marketing, however, in order to keep the customers, a good follow up campaign must be maintained.

Send them a thank you note, or use the newly generated income to make an advertisement showing them the success you have achieved, and thank them for their support.

All in all, problems will arise definitely, the only thing you need to remember is to not give up, and build perseverance and faith into your business and yourself.


In conclusion, marketing is an important step to success for every business, no matter how small or big they are.

Marketing ideas and campaign may be difficult to come by and organize, but with the rise of guerrilla marketing, and particularly more contemporary viral marketing, there is no need for worry.

With the involvement of the internet, a greater number of doors have opened for a smaller business to advertise its products, and promote itself by improving reach.

Every internet user nowadays is a critic and a possible affiliate, which can be used by both a small and big business.

Blogs, social media sites, video hosting sites, all these platforms provide a free alternative to traditional marketing strategies that can be used.

You, as a small business owner, also have the advantage of being involved directly in acquiring those advertisements or directly be involved in the making of a marketing strategy. Remember Dollar Shave Club?

All in all, a small business owner should not worry about the lack of possibilities related to creative and free marketing ideas, as there is always a gold mine of successful examples from other companies.

Just remember to be imaginative, to strive for humor, and you should soon reap the fruits of your labor.

Creative free marketing ideas for small business owners

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