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Types of Marketing for Small Businesses

by Intuit QuickBooks Canada   |   February 11, 2022   |   Share this:  

You have fantastic products and services that add real value to people’s lives; now, how do you convince others of this?

The world of marketing is cluttered these days with ads popping up left, right, and centre. Unfortunately, people become jaded to advertising and even frustrated by it. Don’t add to the clutter. Stop making ads that don’t make an impact. Your ads should be the bridge that guides your target consumers to your small business. Each small business needs a bridge that fits their specific needs- there is no one size fits all approach. 

There are so many different types of marketing avenues for small businesses, and each type can be paired with another to make something unique and grow your business. Take a look through this article to spark creative ideas on advertising so you can make your own unique bridge through these marketing efforts.

Top Small Business Marketing Types

Each type of marketing comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Take a closer look into each type to see which one fits your objectives as a small business owner looking to reach both existing customers and potential audiences. 

Digital marketing

Digital marketing includes all marketing and advertising efforts that use an electronic device for their means of communication. Although the world of digital advertising is the newest, it is vast and expanding. There could be a stand-alone article for each component of digital marketing. This, however, is an overview to make this world a little more digestible. Below are all aspects of digital and online marketing.

Social media

Social media marketing is a great way to build conversations around your small business. It helps you to connect and engage with your audience personally because it offers two-way communication. In addition, you get instant feedback on how your target audience is reacting to your content/ads. As long as you cater your content to the kind of people you want to attract, your brand will start feeling like a friend, and the posts/ads will become a fun source for entertainment instead of clutter. 

If you choose to use social media marketing methods, you should look into each platform because they all draw in different crowds for different reasons. For example, TikTok only has options for video, and the content placed on this platform should feel organic instead of flashy and high budget. People generally react better if your ad doesn’t feel like an ad. 

If you mostly wanted to post still images (pictures of places worldwide or memes) then Instagram would be best. Or maybe you wanted to create a community of people who can ask each other questions and post their experiences. In that case, you could look into creating a Facebook page. Get the most out of your business’s social media accounts by focusing on the top platforms that possess your highest level of target audiences. 

There is a wide variety of opportunities available with social media. For example, you can use influencer marketing to attract a particular audience that follows a specific page. You can also create your own content that you know your target would enjoy. The benefits of social media marketing are truly endless. 

Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a method of marketing that places paid advertisements on a search engine’s results page (SERP). Advertisers bid on keywords that searchers might use when looking for a product, service or any search query. This gives the advertiser the opportunity for their ads to appear next to the result of those search results.

An example of this would be GoogleAds. These Google Adwords, also known as pay-per-click ads come in a variety of formats. They can appear as product listings – which are more visual and some can be small text-based ads, or even Facebook ads. The most significant benefit of SEM is that it places the advertisement of the product/service right in front of the person who just searched for it. 


Search engine optimization focuses on obtaining organic traffic to a website (instead of paid). SEO is the process of persuading search engines, like Google, that your site has quality content and getting them to place your site near the top (or at the top) of the search results page. 

SEO works for two audiences; one of them is the search engine, the other is the actual searcher – the human. Thus, SEO is the delicate balance between making sure the content on your site is geared towards your target audience’s preferences while still adhering to what the search engine is looking for. 

While search engines look for keywords, backlinks, internal links, sitemaps (the list goes on), the human user is looking for answers to their queries. Therefore, when implementing an SEO marketing strategy, as the advertiser, the most critical question to ask yourself is, “what question am I answering for my target audience?”.

SMS & email marketing

Email has been the preferred method for sending mass messages and reaching audiences for decades. At the same time, SMS marketing is a fast, cost-effective and reliable way to share promotions and updates with customers. So, when it comes to SMS vs. email, which is better?

SMS and email marketing can work together to create seamless communication for customers. And while specific messages are delivered best via email, many marketing messages are more effective when sent via SMS. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) when creating your email or SMS marketing strategy.

Connected TV Advertising (CTV)

Connected TV advertising gives small businesses a chance to get their ads on the big screen without paying the big screen prices. In addition, connected tv advertising allows you to show ads on premium content providers (such as OnDemand) to reach cable-cutting households. It also works over the internet on any device, including smartphones, tablets, and computers. 


Traditional advertising was the first form of advertising, and don’t get it wrong, it still works today. It refers to mass media used to distribute commercial messages to broad audiences. In other words, it is an interruptive form of marketing that lets businesses push their products or services in front of large audiences regardless of whether they’re interested in them or not. It should stop people in their tracks and make them look at the message you present them. 

Traditional forms of advertising include print, out-of-home (bus shelter, billboard, wall murals, in-store posters, subways posters etc.), broadcast (T.V. and radio), direct mail, and telemarketing. 

Types of Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

Now that you have become familiar with the platforms for advertising (the what), you need to start mapping out your strategy (the how). Think about how you, as the business owner, want to send a specific message to your target consumers to help you tailor your marketing strategy going forward. 

Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing leads potential customers to find your business. This generally happens before the customer is even ready to make a purchase. However, making contact early can turn into brand preference and, ultimately, leads and revenue. 

Inbound marketing is a strategy that uses many forms of pull marketing—content management, blogs, events, SEO, social media, and more—to create brand awareness and attract new business. Instead of “renting attention,” companies employing inbound marketing focus on new methods geared toward building awareness, developing relationships, and generating leads.

These methods make you attractive to customers because they don’t make people feel like they’re being sold to. The content provided by inbound marketing is educational, entertaining, and welcomed by consumers. When people find your company this way, it strongly influences their future purchasing decisions and their feelings toward your business in general. The best part is that inbound marketing consists of entirely organic leads, so it relies on brains rather than budget.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is when businesses initiate a conversation with customers by sending messages to them. Outbound marketing examples include more traditional forms of marketing and advertising such as TV commercials, radio ads, print advertisements (newspaper ads, magazine ads, flyers, brochures, catalogues, etc.), trade shows, cold calls and emails. 

Outbound marketing is the opposite of inbound – where inbound has the customers come to them, outbound seeks out the customer. 


Brand marketing is a strategy that intrigues a target audience to purchase a product or service through creating a brand persona; making a persona for your small business will make it more relatable to your target. People are constantly looking for ways of self-expression. They want to buy things or be a part of something that represents who they are and how they feel.

You need to make your target feel that by choosing your business, they belong to something that represents them or something that reflects a part of them. Learn more about brand storytelling.


Personalized marketing is the strategy of using data to send personalized messages targeted to a specific person. With sophisticated analytics, data collecting on individual prospects are growing. However, some caution needs to be taken when implementing this strategy because if it’s overdone, it can be a little bit creepy for the consumer. On the other hand, this method has numerous benefits if done right because you cater to each individual’s specific needs. 

It really comes down to a delicate balance. Technically, research has shown that up to a point, the more you remarket your products, the more likely your prospects are to buy them. The person who bought the belt two weeks ago and keeps seeing ads for the matching shoes – if those shoes keep popping up enough times –  will start feeling like those shoes are necessary to complete the outfit. 


In 2002, Sony Ericsson was one of the first companies to produce a cellular phone with a peripheral digital camera, called the T68i. They wanted a new and creative way to advertise this camera, so they hired actors to walk around the cities pretending to be tourists. These “tourists” asked people on the street to take pictures of them and handed them the T68i. This way, people were becoming familiar with the camera by actually seeing it for themselves.  

Stealth marketing is when companies advertise to their target audience, without the target knowing they are being advertised to. There are many techniques in stealth marketing, the most common being product placement in TV shows and movies and undercover marketing. The main purpose of stealth marketing is not to generate immediate sales but to create interest and excitement that will make consumers more receptive to direct advertising later. 


Affiliate marketing is the process of companies hiring a third party to generate traffic or leads to their business. The third-party publishers are affiliates, and the commission fee incentivizes them to find ways to promote the company.

The web has aided in the popularity of affiliate marketing. Amazon popularized the practice by creating an affiliate marketing program. Websites and bloggers can link to the Amazon page for a reviewed or discussed product to receive advertising fees when a purchase is made through their link. In this case, affiliate marketing becomes a pay-for-performance marketing program. However, affiliate marketing firms typically pay per scale of work and not by click. 


Referral marketing is the opposite of affiliate marketing. It is a strategy that turns loyal customers into brand advocates for your business. Many studies have shown that people not only seek referrals from reviews or people they know, they actually act on them. Referral marketing takes the organic human nature of socializing and gives marketers the tools to incentivize the process and bring in greater sales. 

The most basic type of referral marketing is when you see “invite two friends and all of you get 30% off”. But there are so many other methods. Check out this article on referral marketing for a more in-depth look. 


Whatever marketing type your small business decides to use, you can easily track your marketing expenses and resulting revenue generation with QuickBooks online. Small business owners can try this quality accounting software for free today! 

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