Marketing Channels, Marketing Planning & Reporting

Meet the Underdogs: 10 Underrated Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

underrated marketing ideas

All my life, I’ve rooted for the underdog. When I was seven, I chose to support a rather mediocre football team because everyone seemed to be cheering on the champions. And the same goes for marketing, especially for small businesses: I often prefer underrated marketing ideas to the trends, buzzwords and hype of the small business marketing world.

So it’s no surprise that I decided to write about my favourite underrated marketing ideas for small businesses. Check them out!

1. Awards

You might need to do some research, fill out a few forms and prepare for a site visit. But if you manage to get shortlisted for an award or even win one, it can be used in your marketing for years to come.

An award not only adds credibility to your claim of expertise. It also builds trust in your abilities and the PR that surrounds award shows and winners increases your brand awareness considerably.

Additionally, awards shows are often a great opportunity to network with other business owners and potential clients, as well as celebrate your achievements with your team. Be sure to prepare well in advance and put the dates of any relevant application deadlines in your small business marketing calendar!

Read more about how to use awards to grow your small business.

2. Promotional items

Photo by Maria Tyutina from Pexels

They’re often dismissed as a waste of money, but well-chosen merchandise can work wonders for your small business marketing. There are more options out there than bog-standard pens (although even those can make a good impression if their quality stands out from the crowd).

To make the best of this underrated marketing idea, think about what your target audience needs and what could link them to your business. Let’s say you’re a letting agency. How about some nifty key rings? Are you having a Christmas do for your clients and business partners? Everything is possible from a cute Santa rubber duck to a practical branded wall calendar.

As long as it’s relevant to your target group and of good quality, there’s nothing you can’t do with promotional giveaways.

3. Roadshows

When I’m talking roadshow, we’re obviously not talking Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour dimensions. But a little roadshow in your area is a great way to drum up new business for your company.

Having a physical presence to promote your small business leaves a lasting impression. Regardless of if you’re planning a product launch, celebrating your business’s anniversary or entering new markets.

As long as you’re focused on helping potential customers rather than just broadcasting your marketing message, this underrated marketing idea can do wonders for your small business.

4. Exhibitions

Photo by riciardus from Pexels

One of my favourite of all underrated marketing ideas is exhibiting. All you need is a couple of roller banners or a pop-up display and you’re good to go.

Local trade shows, conferences and even AGMs offer space for small local businesses to put up a table and show off their wares. It’s a great way to give your small business exposure to attendees. And you could also offer a workshop or hold a little training session to prove your expertise.

In my experience, conferences also often attract people who normally don’t network, so you will meet a lot of new people.

Find out how you can make the best of your exhibition stand.

5. Cold calling

If marketing belongs to the dark arts, this must be the devil’s work: Contacting people and companies that have never heard of you to sell your products or services. But who says you have to do it this way? And who says you have to do it yourself?

First of all, there are call centres out there specialising in high-quality appointment and lead generation. And they will deliver a highly personalised service that’s a million miles from those nightmarish sales calls.

Alternatively, you can target specific companies and get introductions at a local networking event. Find and establish something you have in common, It’ll make it easier to contact the person you need and start a conversation.

New to networking? Here are 7 important lessons I’ve learned networking for my business!

6. Vehicle branding

Photo by Hrayr Movsisyan from Pexels

Of all the underrated marketing ideas for small business, this gets overlooked most often. If you have a car, a bike or a motorbike that you use for work, put your logo on it to increase brand awareness.

There are multiple options to get your company logo on your vehicles. From temporary magnetic signs to longer lasting vehicle wrapping, everything is possible.

For example, I’ve even seen a trader who turned his bicycle rack into a rolling advertising platform. It even held flyers and business cards for people to take with them. Another one drove a motorbike with branded panniers to advertise motorbike trips through the Scottish Highlands. It’s as easy as that!

7. PR

A lot of people think that using press and media to spread the word about your small business only makes sense if you have a large budget or are trading internationally.

But I’ve seen a lot of small businesses benefit from a mention in the local newspaper or an advertorial in a special interest magazine. And it didn’t cost them an arm and a leg.

It doesn’t matter if your audience is still into print publications or online all the time. An article about your latest award-win or that you’re among the top 10 shops in your industry doesn’t cost much. And it’s proven far more effective than placing an advert in the same publication.

Check out my 5 top tips on getting your press release noticed.

8. Loyalty schemes

Photo by Leylaynr from Getty images Signature via Canva Pro

We all know them from coffee shops: Stamp or loyalty cards that give you a free drink for every nine you buy. And that’s just one way to increase repeat business.

You can also start an exclusive club for your regular clients. All they have to give you is their email address and in return, they get first access to new products, early bird offers or anything else that works for your business.

And how about surprising your clients with a little discount for their birthday or adding complimentary extra time to every tenth appointment? Like all the other underrated marketing ideas, this can give your small business a great boost.

9. E-mail signature

You wouldn’t believe how many small businesses let this underrated marketing idea go unused. And it’s such an easy win.

Taking into account how often people send and read emails every day, it would be lazy to miss this opportunity. And I’m not suggesting animated GIFs dancing at the bottom of every email.

Just include your contact details, company website, social media accounts and the sign-up link for your newsletter and you’re golden. Also, if you have a special offer or an event coming up, add a link for more information to generate more interest.

10. Product packaging

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Of all the underrated marketing ideas, this has an enormous impact. Never underestimate the power of good product and packing design for your customer experience.

Just think about it, how does a plain envelope or parcel make you feel when you finally receive your long-awaited purchase? And the importance of your product packaging increases with the prices you charge.

You don’t have to custom-print packaging right away. But consider ways to make the wrap match the (idealistic or actual) value of the content. Also, make sure it reflects your company’s brand: If you are a green business, for example, your packaging should be recyclable.


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
Small Business Marketing Ideas
24 Small Budget Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business
What’s Your Plan for the Next 6 Months? — 11 Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business
Your Small Business Marketing Plan: What is it, Why Do You Need it & How Do You Get One?

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.