9 Small Business Growth Marketing Strategies for 2021

Think Like a Growth Marketer to Make Your Marketing Dollars Work Harder

The way startups go from being a clever idea to a household name – often without a big advertising budget – is through creative, data-driven marketing strategies known as growth marketing, also sometimes called growth hacking.

The basic method behind growth marketing/hacking is to look at an assortment of standard and non-traditional marketing strategies, pick a handful that look promising, and then test each of them for effectiveness using the sophisticated tech and coding tools now available.

A good growth marketer basically experiments to see what works and then does more of it to grow the user/client base quickly, eliminating those long and uncertain waits for results and making every marketing dollar work harder.

Growth marketing is so powerful because it allows you to target exactly the clients who are looking for your services or products and find the strategies that work best to actually bring in customers and drive sales.

You could spend hours reading about growth marketing campaigns and hacks that led to legendary successes and dive deep into case studies and the tech tools that made them possible.

But if you’re just looking for some new marketing approaches to help grow your business, we’ve got some good ones for you.

Try adding these 9 highly adaptable strategies to your marketing toolkit one by one and see how they affect your customer reach and sales.

  1. The Ideal Customer Angle

They way this works is, you home in on who your ideal customer is and then do everything with them in mind.

Figure out things like:

  • Are they younger, older, a mix of both?
  • Mainstream tastes or more creative?
  • What are their income levels and habits?
  • Tech-savvy or no?
  • Highly knowledgeable about your industry?
  • Where do they live?
  • Where and how do they shop for/do research on products like yours?

How to do it:

Brainstorming. Think about who your target market is, create a general profile.

Buyer Persona Tools. Use market research and real data about existing customers to help you determine your ideal customer and figure out their habits.

Existing Customer Data. Look at who’s actually buying your products already. Use site analytics or start collecting demographic info on your customers if you don’t have any.

Surveys. Ask people who’ve shown interest more about who they are.

Why this is useful, and why it’s a growth marketing technique: You won’t waste precious resources marketing to people who aren’t likely to buy your products. You can then finely focus your efforts and tailor them to the people you most want to reach.

You’ll see better value for spend this way, and it can help you fine tune everything from branding to messaging to how you spend on paid advertising.

Note that your ideal customer profile may change as your company evolves. It’s important to keep rethinking who your target customer is/will be as you grow.

  1. The Core Marketing Channels Approach

The goal here is to identify just a few core marketing channels to really concentrate your time, effort and budget on for serious growth.

This is a very cost-effective growth hack, and some of the biggest startup success stories have come about by using it.

You’ll want to experiment with many channels at the beginning and then use analytics to identify what’s yielding big gains and what’s a drag on your limited budget.

How to do it:

Start by thinking of several different marketing channels that may make sense for your business.

Here are some channels that work well for many small businesses:

Website/E-Commerce site: A dynamic and interactive site with regularly updated content, and a fully functional online store if you sell products.

Social Media Channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Use targeted, keyword-researched content to drive organic search results toward your website and listings online.

Search Engine Marketing/Pay-Per-Click Advertising: Pay to be seen in search.

Google Local Services Ads: Lead generation for local customers. For local service providers only.

Paid Social Media Ads: The extensive demographic databases of the social media platforms let you micro target or mass target the people you are trying to reach.

YouTube Brand Channel and Ads: Use the world’s second largest search engine to increase your visibility, engage through video content, and build trust.

Email Marketing: Use creatively to inform, build trust, stay in touch and generate referrals. Boasts one of the highest ROIs – $38 for every dollar spent in 2020, according to HubSpot – of any marketing method.

And those are just the beginning.

Newer marketing channels like apps, SMS messaging, strategic brand partnerships, viral/word of mouth campaigns or event-based channels like product drops and flash sales are becoming a big part of how startups and small businesses market for growth.

Now, a few of these will be must haves/no brainers for your industry – maybe you know email marketing or Instagram works really well for your competitors, for instance – while others may simply be new approaches to test drive.

Narrow down the list by asking yourself:

  • Do they fit your brand?
  • Is your ideal customer likely to use them?
  • Are they within your budget?

This will eliminate several and point you in the direction of some good options to shortlist.

How many should you choose? Maybe start with three or four just to keep things simple.

You can choose more if you have the budget and the time, but don’t take on more than you can handle – you want to be able to do a good job with each or your tests won’t yield useful results.

Experiment to see which channels work best to achieve the goals you’re after right now – whether that means the most profit, the greatest ROI, the biggest new user engagement, an entrée into a new demographic or something else entirely.

Then, laser-focus your resources on one or two of the most profitable channels.

That’s the core channels approach in a nutshell – pick some marketing channels, implement and analyze them, then invest heavily in the best ones.

  1. Get Creative with Content Marketing

What it is, where to use it, and how it helps:

Content marketing is the creation – and sharing – of useful, relevant and engaging content that you use to attract your target audience.

How-to guides, in-depth articles, infographics, videos, free e-books, blog posts, newsletters and more are all examples of content marketing you’ve probably encountered.

Content marketing may be one of the most important tools in a growth marketer’s toolkit, and it provides an excellent value for spend because you can use your content across several of your core marketing channels.

Why is it considered a growth marketing tool?

Posting a video or article to, say, your website, social media and email newsletter works to draw eyes and attention and build your brand.

Plus, good content encourages likes and sharing, which can help you amplify your reach and even possibly go viral. Get creative with the content you’re offering and always provide your audience with something that’s fresh and new.

You can also carefully tailor your content to align with your ideal buyer’s needs and tastes, which makes it a much more agile strategy than something like a regular PPC ad.

But the real growth factor comes from SEO. You can drive organic search results and traffic your way with keyword-researched content designed to find exactly the people who are in need of your services or products.

  1. Experiment with Newer Media

So, while we’re on the topic of content marketing, it’s important to mention the importance of exploring new media.

It takes innovation and creativity to really drive growth, so don’t be afraid to try new things and get out of your comfort zone.

Try your hand at one or more of these:

  • YouTube Channel/Ads: Take video marketing to the next level with your very own YouTube Channel. It’s free, versatile – you can link to it from everywhere – and can massively impact who sees and shares your content. Paid YouTube Ads can be part of this strategy, too.
  • Podcasting: Engaging and cool, podcasting attracts younger and older audiences alike. You can also sponsor podcasts to reach your desired audience.
  • Social Platforms beyond Facebook: start with Instagram and Twitter, but consider branching out with SnapChat, TikTok, Clubhouse, and anything else that’s generating a buzz. Or try new things like hosting an event or AMA on your existing social channels.
  • Mobile Apps: Consider building your own app to enhance the user experience, entertain or just keep up with the competition.
  1. Make Your Website Work Smarter

Your website shouldn’t just be a parking spot for your business’ information on the web – it needs to work hard to draw new leads, engage with useful and interesting information, and spur contacts and sales with calls to action (CTAs).

That means a dynamic, interactive site with the regularly updated content your potential clients are searching for.

Your website must-haves include:

  • A great visual style and user-friendly design.
  • An optimized landing page with CTAs designed to convert leads into customers.
  • Written Content: Articles on topics relevant to your ideal customer, FAQs, blog posts, downloadable guides.
  • Videos and podcasts are a great way to inform and help people get to know you and your products.
  • Testimonials/reviews/case studies are crucial to building trust and convincing leads to get in touch or do business with you.

You want to make sure your website is working to drive conversions, too.

Luckily, there are lots of tools out there to help you identify weak spots and make your website work harder for you.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) helps you understand how people are moving through your site, what actions they’re taking and what’s stopping them from doing what you want, whether that’s signing up, buying something or just checking out the rest of the site.

You can use powerful analytics tools like Google Analytics to achieve this, or employ user-focused tools like on-site surveys or user experience testing.

Whichever method you choose, take your results and use them to fix the problems that are holding your website back.

  1. Have SEO Do the Heavy Lifting

Ranking in organic search is one of the cheapest ways to drive traffic to your website.

So before you spend money on paid search and other advertising, make sure you employ SEO best practices in everything you do.

Some of the SEO Basics:

  • Good website build with logical structure and no broken links or missing pages.
  • Website optimized for mobile users.
  • Good meta titles and descriptions on pages, videos and images.
  • Keyword researched and optimized written content with title tags.
  • Regularly updated content, including things like blog posts and video.
  • Backlinks from other sites.

Google has a wealth of information on good SEO practices, including this great list of tips for businesses and marketers just getting started.

  1. Let Others Do the Talking with Reviews and Referrals

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful (and cheap!) ways to drive conversions. You don’t have to just wait around and hope your happy customers will send others your way – a few thoughtful nudges can work wonders here.

Here are some easy and budget-friendly steps you can implement right now:

  • Register with Google My Business and fill out your profile. This will help you start collecting Google reviews and get your business to rank on GMB.
  • Send review links to every customer.
  • Include case studies/success stories on your website and social.
  • Try referral bonuses/perks or just ask your customers to refer others if they liked your product.
  • Encourage people to talk about you on social.
  • Recruit influencers, paid or otherwise, to spread the word about you. Swag or free product samples can be a great motivator.
  • Cultivate partnerships with other businesses that serve your target demographic.
  1. Learn From Your Competitors

Look around you and see what others in your industry are doing to fuel their own growth.

Notice any good ideas? Try them out for yourself, preferably with a creative twist that sets you apart from the competition.

Follow others in your industry on social and pay attention to their tactics. Are they using video in new and unique ways? Do product giveaways and influencers play a prominent role in their outreach?

Even simple things like how-to videos or a personalized response to questions on social media can become useful growth hacks. Always keep your eyes open for new and creative ideas and don’t be afraid to try them out yourself.

  1. Perfect Each Tier in the Growth Hacking Funnel

AKA Pirate Metrics (AARRR, get it?)

Do all these things better than your competitors and you’ll find yourself on top of the growth game.

Go through them one by one and find and fix weaknesses while doubling down on strengths.

The Growth Hacking Funnel

Acquisition: Help potential customers discover you.

Activation: Convince them to try your product.

Retention: Keep them coming back with an excellent product and great customer experience.

Revenue: Make money – now or later, after you’re established – but make sure you eventually get there.

Referral: Get people to tell others.

The Big Picture View

Once you’ve tried some of these techniques and seen good results, you may be tempted to just stick with what worked so far and enjoy the new user growth and revenue you’re seeing. And that would be fine.

But you should always remember that the mantra of growth marketing is adapt, adapt, adapt.

A real growth marketer will keep trying and testing new tactics, continually monitor key performance indicators, and change as needed to always stay ahead of the competition.

Don’t be afraid to keep trying new things, and don’t hesitate to hire help for the things you don’t know how to do or don’t have time for.

Use Marketing Growth Strategies to Help your Small Business Take Off

Ready to try some new techniques to grow your business and make your marketing budget go further?

We’ve helped a lot of companies like yours, and we’d like to assist you, too. Talk to a growth marketing specialist about the best strategies for your small business. Fill out our Contact form or call 800-692-4037 for a free consultation.

Marc Apple

Marc Apple

Digital Strategist

I like inbound marketing strategy, creative design, website development, analytics, and organic and paid search. That's what I write about.