It almost feels like it’s much easier for a small business to get their name out there nowadays. Thanks to the Internet and social media, any business with an Internet connection is able to let the world know that they’re around and waiting to offer a marvellous product or service.

Of course, it’s not always so straightforward, and businesses that attempt to use an online medium to get the worlds attention often have the whole thing blow up in their face. In Auckland, New Zealand, an automotive mechanic came under fire by posting a photo to their company Facebook page that depicted a young man with Down syndrome in a car and made a crude joke about the Special Olympics.

Numerous complaints were made to the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority, who promptly directed the company to remove the offensive post. Did the Facebook post improve the company’s profile? Of course. Did the Facebook post improve business? Definitely not- in fact a number of customers have opted to boycott the company in question.

While perhaps the company was attempting to be provocative and creative with this marketing ploy, it’s obviously not the best way for a small business to promote itself. So what are some big ideas that will help a small business to get noticed?

Remember Your Budget

Many larger scale enterprises can afford to have a generic onslaught of advertising that a small business simply can’t envisage. For every Hollywood blockbuster that costs $100 million, there will be at least another $50 million spent on promotion. Naturally, a small business doesn’t have those kinds of resources, so it’s important to approach the situation in a creative way.

Social Media

Utilizing the Internet is vital when it comes to a small business, and social media can also be very helpful. Your company’s Facebook updates doesn’t have to be limited to your products and special offers, and you can also make the page “fun” by sharing quirky jokes, videos and photos. Don’t make the same mistake as the New Zealand automotive company- you need to always remember your customer’s sensibilities and aim for cute humor, instead of nastiness.

Online Efforts

Yes, you’re going to need a website. Websites don’t have to be overly complex, and depending on what your business actually offers, remember that people don’t need to watch an aesthetically pleasing yet ultimately useless flash video before your site allows them to see actual content. A website can be designed quickly and inexpensively, and should you should also utilize search engine optimization (SEO), where certain keywords are used to push your page higher in Google search results, meaning more people will see it.

Start a Blog

A blog isn’t necessarily for frustrated individuals sharing their views with the world at large- they’re also being recognized as an effective marketing tool. If you’re not much of a writer, you might need to enlist a few employees to actually take care of this for you, and so a style guide about what is actually appropriate is important. A funny, quirky blog can be shared online countless times, and you might find yourself reeling in customers who were previously unaware of your business.

Costumed Charm

It used to be so common, but you don’t see it so often nowadays- someone in a funny costume handing out flyers and brochures for a local business. Costumes can easily be rented and your staff can all spend time being “the man behind the mask.” Customers are familiar with the idea, but the novelty of doing this will give you a fun, cheap, retro form of advertising.

Signs, Signs, Signs

Invest in an outdoor banner that’s bright and enticing- and this is even more important in the early days of your business when people might not know that you’re actually there. In London and other UK cities, it’s a common sight to see a person actually standing on the street with a sign advertising a small business, often with an arrow to point people in the direction of the company in question. This is not seen so much outside of that part of the world, so it can be a unique way to get customers walking in the right direction.

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This is a post by Ashley Williamson. Ashley is a freelance writer and an occasional guest-blogger. When she is not working she likes to travel and do yoga.