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22 cheap digital marketing ideas for small business

Digital marketing for a small business makes a lot of sense. There are plenty of quick and cheap digital marketing ideas you can implement to increase sales on your website – and, ultimately, grow your business. Use these digital marketing ideas along with our other free business advertising ideas – plus a free ebook download below – to take your small business to the next level.

Download: Digital marketing on a budget ebook

If you’re looking for digital marketing ideas for small businesses, our ebook will guide you on everything from designing a website through to cost-effective digital advertising strategies

digital marketing for small business

Digital marketing for small business: Website optimisations

Optimisation is a fancy word that is used a lot in the digital marketing world. When it comes to websites, it’s often used in relation to conversion rates – that is the percentage of visitors who come to your site and complete a particular desired action (purchase a product, order an information pack, sign up to a newsletter, etc).

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is the process of increasing that conversion rate percentage by making changes to your website. This is particularly popular with those who subscribe to the marginal gains philosophy — that lots of small incremental improvements can add up to make a huge difference overall.  

“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

Sir Dave Brailsford, British cycling coach

CRO goes hand-in-hand with website analytics. In order for you to focus on CRO, you need to gather insights on how your website is performing. Google Analytics is the most popular service for doing this and will help you see the following data:

  • Top-performing pages by traffic, bounce rate, conversion rate
  • Audience demographics such as age, location, and gender
  • Traffic sources – ie. where your visitors are coming from (Google, Email, Social)

Gathering these key insights will give you a clearer focus on where to optimise your website and find those small percentage gains. 

For example, you might find you have a high-traffic page but the conversion rate is below average. You might find the reverse is true. In which case, what can you borrow from the page with a high conversion rate and apply elsewhere? These tweaks to the design and content across your site do not have to take time or cost money, but you’ll be able to quickly assess the impact through analytics. 

Tip: You can set up conversion goals in Google Analytics so every time a certain action is taken by a user a goal conversion is triggered. By keeping an eye on this count you can quickly tell you how well the website is performing against your goals.  

We’ve picked out some tried and tested ways to improve your conversion rates and sales. 

  • Invest in photography
    1. Photography

    If it looks good, they’re more likely to buy. Investing in high-quality product photos will enhance the visitor’s impression of your brand and increase their likelihood to make a purchase.

  • Keyboard buttons
    2. Copy

    You could be selling the most boring product on earth, but you still need to craft compelling copy that will make people want to buy from you. Review the copy across your website, including product descriptions. Make sure you’re articulating the key things you want to convey to your visitors (trustworthiness, reliability. quality, durability, etc).

  • Ecommerce Website
    3. Call to Action

    ‘Buy now’, ‘Ring us for a quote’, ‘Download your ebook’, ‘Sign up to our newsletter’, these are all examples of a Call to Action (CTA). Think about each page. What is the main action you want a visitor to take? Is your CTA positioned so the user won’t miss it? Is the text compelling enough? What colour is the button? It’s usually a super-quick change to make but can make an immediate impact.

  • Pop up form
    4. Pop-ups

    Pop-ups can be a nuisance for visitors but they are proven to increase conversions. Plus, you can set them so they only appear on specific pages, after a specific action (when someone is about to exit), or positioned in a way that doesn’t impede on the user too much.

Digital marketing for small business: Email marketing

How can I use email to increase sales?

With your website now fully optimised you’re in a great position to focus on cheap digital marketing that will increase your traffic and boost sales. Email marketing is an extremely effective way to do this. Most online retailers view it as a key sales channel and there is compelling evidence for why that is:

For every £1 spent on email marketing, there is an estimated £32.28 return.


It’s not just about driving traffic and boosting your sales, email marketing can help you in other ways:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Build trust and loyalty
  • Gather customer insights

Therefore, it’s well worth your time to put together an email marketing strategy and plan activity around your key dates. Even if you’re worried about lacking the skills or confidence, most email service providers (such as MailChimp and Dotmailer) are simple to use with readymade templates and the option to set up automated campaigns.

Here are some effective email marketing campaign ideas:

5. Newsletter

To keep your business in peoples minds, you need to send emails at a regular frequency. This might be once-a-month or more regularly if you feel you have something of value to offer your customers. Be wary, however, of bombarding your contacts as this can have a detrimental effect.

Find out more

Put together a content plan for your newsletter, considering the key events and dates in the calendar. This might be a combination of your own dates — a new product launch or seasonal promotion — as well as public holidays and busy retail dates.


6. Welcome

Every time someone signs up to your email database, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to engage with them whilst your business is still fresh in their minds.

Find out more

Welcome emails always see good engagement rates (opens and clicks) and are a great way to introduce your brand. You might want to include a limited time offer to entice your prospects.


7. Cart abandonment

Anyone who has added an item to their basket is someone who you can still convert to a sale.

Find out more

If they’ve provided their email data prior to the sale or logged in to your site, you have the opportunity to send a cart abandonment email. These can be automated and triggered after a dormant period where the customer does not complete the sale.


8. Confirmation

One of the most frequently opened types of emails are the ones sent after you’ve completed a purchase.

Find out more

As well as being an important courtesy, this is an opportunity to entice that customer to make future purchases and introduce to other offers. A common practice is to include some kind of referral code to encourage the customer to share with others. Or, to get them to leave a review.


9. Signature

This is a basic one, but often overlooked. Every time you send an email from your business email address, people will see your signature. This is an opportunity to sell.

Find out more

Make sure your signature is tailored to not only include key information about your business but also promote discounts and promotions. This can be especially effective as it will be coming from a personal email.


Digital marketing for small business: Referrals 

We’re sure there’s plenty of times you’ve made a buying decision or used a service based on a recommendation. Referrals are one of the best ways to get more sales and grow your customer base, but it’s often overlooked or just poorly facilitated. 

“To this day, referrals have been the best source of clients and custom in my business. Sometimes they’ve come naturally from word of mouth I have not been privy to. Sometimes they’ve come from me asking my best clients if they know anyone else who’d value my services. Sometimes it’s come from someone who’s read a testimonial from a client of mine who they know.”

Jen Smith, social media consultant

If you’re doing a good job, delivering a great service, and customers like what you’re doing, then you absolutely need to tap into that. 

So, how can you maximise referral opportunities to boost your online sales? 

Ask the clients you have a good relationship with if they’d be happy to refer you and which services you have the capacity to fill. This might seem cheeky but they’ll understand. Just explain you have space for more clients, and you’re asking them because of the great working relationship you have already.

Is there a client you’d really like to work with but you’re not connected yet? In that case, maybe one of your current clients is connected to that client and might be able to facilitate an introduction. You can usually find this out via LinkedIn and politely approach your connection to see if they can help make it happen.

If you don’t ask, then you don’t get. Every time you complete a job for someone, you should be encouraging them to leave a review. Ideally, you’ll build this into your customer journey so it becomes an automated process. By doing this, you’ll be building up a bank of reviews you can display on your website, Facebook page, TripAdvisor, TrustPilot or as a LinkedIn recommendation.

People are busy and helping you get referrals will be low down on their priority list. However, if you can make it in their interests – perhaps by offering a financial incentive for a referral that turns into a paying customer – they’re much more likely to do it.

Digital marketing for small business: Social media

How can I use social media to increase sales?

Digital marketing for small business is all about reaching the places where your audience is likely to be. With billions of people logging on every day, social media, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn, can be an effective and low-cost marketing channel. 

That’s not to say it’s easy. If you don’t have a social media strategy in place you’ll find yourself wasting time on activities that neither drives sales or engagement. Equally, there’s no one size fits all approach. Like so many things, you have to tweak and test your social media tactics to find out what works for your business and brand.

For a start, you need to establish which channel is the right one for your business.

Instagram in particular, is where I focus my efforts because it’s such a visual platform. For me, it’s more important to get it right on one channel than to spread yourself too thinly over a bunch of different social channels. If Instagram works for your business, or Twitter is a better fit, then focus your efforts on there.

Andy Cordina, founder of Bettie Confetti

We’ve put together some ideas for quick, cheap, and effective ways you can use social media to grow your business.

14. Paid activity

For a small amount of money, you can guarantee your business is seen by a larger audience. The more you pay, the more social media feeds you will appear in.

Find out more

Facebook advertising can be very effective with its detailed targeting options and flexible range of ads. This includes being able to grow your followers, drive traffic to your site, and gather leads.


15. Organic activity

Whichever social media channel you choose to focus on, you should have a schedule of regular activity that will support your objectives.

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Remember, most people go on social media to unwind so they don’t want content that is overly promotional. You need to make sure your content fulfills your objectives, whilst keeping it engaging (be it funny, entertaining, silly, emotional, or informative) and on-brand.


16. Influencers

One of the ways you can reach a wider audience is by teaming up with influencers. Influencers don’t have to have millions of followers, what matters is they hold a degree of influence over their audience.

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For example, there might an influencer who has a similar audience to your target demographic, maybe 1,000 followers or so. Them showcasing your product or mentioning you can have a transformative effect.


Digital marketing for small business: Online advertising

What online advertising options are there?

We’re going to focus on two online advertising activities that can be very effective for small businesses: Google Ads and Remarketing. Google Ads are a great way to drive new prospects to your website. Retargeting ads can help you convert prospects into customers after they’ve left your website.

17. Google Ads

At the top of Google results, you’ll see paid ads. To appear here, advertisers bid on specific keywords and pay every time someone clicks through from their ad. This is called Pay-Per-Click (PPC).

Find out more

By bidding on relevant keywords to your business, you can generate traffic to your site and ensure you’re reaching your target audience. Generally speaking, Google Ads will get you results quickly — by leapfrogging to the top of search results — but you also need to test and tweak to ensure your ads are performing effectively.


18. Retargeting

If people have been to your website, it makes sense they are ‘warm leads’ to target in the future. Retargeting is a form of online advertising that allows you to do this.

Find out more

Through code on your site, you can track and follow those visitors around the web and target them with your ads. It’s a highly effective way to increase conversions once a visitor has already engaged with your business.


Digital marketing for small business: Content

Content marketing is more of a long-term strategy compared to the other tactics we’ve mentioned here. We thought it would be worth mentioning, though, as it is a form of small business digital marketing that can really enhance your brand and nurture a positive relationship with your target audience — and lead to sales in the long-run. 

70% of Internet users want to learn about products through content versus traditional advertisements. 

MDG Advertising

Instead of bombarding your target audience with sales advertising, you give them content that adds value in some way, enticing them to engage with your business.

Usually, this is content you give away for free and promote through your marketing channels, however, you’ll also want to consider how you can use this content to gather leads: ‘sign up to our newsletter’, ‘download an ebook’, ‘subscribe to our YouTube channel’ etc. 

“Great content provides steady value over time. There are online guides that were written over a decade ago but still rank in Google today because they’ve never been supplanted. The companies that produced them might not even remember making them, yet they’re still getting worthwhile leads and conversions from them.”

Victoria Greene, ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer

Here are some low-cost ideas content ideas…

  • Video camera
    19. Vlogs

    Film a short video with a demonstration on how to fix something. This kind of video can rack up lots of views on YouTube.

  • Laptops
    20. Blogs

    Write a blog listing the latest trends in your industry. This might be a ‘buyers guide for 2019’, for example. You could publish the blog on your own site or offer it to other sites — this can help you reach new audiences and garner links back to your site.

  • MTD Book Newsletter
    21. Ebooks

    Create an ebook compiling expert advice from you and your staff on a particular topic. Think about the topics that generate queries and how they tie in with your most popular website pages.

  • digital tablet with a graphic
    22. Templates

    Create some useful templates that visitors can download on your website. For example, on Informi you can download business plans, budget spreadsheets, and cash flow statements. Useful, eh?

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