Just because you’re rocking the small business life doesn’t mean you can’t steal a few marketing tactics from the big guys. We’ve scoped out the top marketing trends big brands are paying attention to right now, with ideas for how to make them your own.

Here are 5 ways to give your small business a boost:

1. Create content people love

Content marketing, or inbound marketing, is all about offering something useful to your audience (like informative blog posts, videos, free eBooks, social media posts, podcasts, etc.) without the immediate expectation that they’ll buy. It helps establish brand authority, invites engagement from potential customers and clients, and expands your audience.

It’s why Equinox launched the digital magazine Furthermore, Patagonia shares environmental stories on The Cleanest Line, and SoulCycle curates Spotify playlists.

Big companies have entire marketing divisions dedicated to creating and curating content. But you can start small—perhaps, by setting up a WordPress blog or Medium account and posting a couple monthly articles—and slowly invest more time and energy as your business grows.

Where to start? Think of something your customers ask about a lot, and share your expertise. A bike shop might post about finding the perfect bicycle for your height, a personal trainer might create a free eBook full of healthy breakfast ideas, and a consultant might create a series of quick videos around her area of expertise.

Not sure what your customers are asking about? Visit Quora and type in a few terms that relate to your business and see what the top questions are. Create a blog post with your own answers. To take it a step further, post the link to your blog post as an answer to the original Quora question and watch the web traffic roll in.


2.  Stand for something

People want to buy what they believe in. That’s especially true today: customers are more likely to support businesses that in turn support the causes they care about. Take TOMS as one example: their One for One program turns every purchase into an opportunity to help a person in need, whether it’s providing shoes or improving access to water. Starbucks has pledged to hire veterans and military spouses (and more recently, refugees), and Lyft is letting riders round up their fares for charity. These initiatives aren’t just good corporate citizenship: they’re good for business, too.

Your small business can get into the same spirit. Think of the causes that are important to you, your customers, and your community. How can you help them thrive? You may not have a Starbucks-sized budget, but you could make an annual donation on behalf of your customers, show up to help at local events, or offer free services to those in need.


3. Collaborate with influencers

Big brands are collaborating with social media influencers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat to tap into existing communities of followers. It’s how Naked Juice  gets exposure to lifestyle blogger Kate La Vie’s 200K+ followers and Amino Vital reaches the Holderness Family’s 210K+ YouTube subscribers.

While these collaborations can cost thousands per post or video, small businesses can still get in the game by working with “micro-influencers” who often charge less than $250 per branded post. These micro-influencers still have impressive engagement but their mentions are more affordable.

To start working with them, you can do a search with tools like Buzzsumo. Just type in some key terms that relate to your business. For example, if you own a web development business, you could type in “Web Development Trends” to find a relevant article. Then click “View Sharers” (you nee to pay for this feature) to uncover the sharers with the biggest social followers. From there you can reach out in an email or direct message and ask the influencer if they would be interested in collaborating. 


4. Experiment with mobile video and live-streaming

Video is taking over newsfeeds everywhere, and most of it is mobile. In fact, mobile is now eclipsing desktop views for the first time and live-streaming is becoming particularly popular. If you’re not prioritizing video over image and text-based content, you may be missing out: video leads to 1,200% more social shares than images and text combined. It’s why Tough Mudder has been live-streaming training events and Dunkin Donuts has been showing off its “test kitchen”, demonstrating in real time how they create new treats.

Can you think of fresh ways to add mobile video or live-streaming to your marketing mix? How about giving a “behind the scenes” glimpse into your workspace, sharing quick product tips and inspiration, or live-streaming from an event you’re hosting (or attending)? It’s worth taking a couple minutes to brainstorm how you could use services like Facebook Live to get creative and get in front of customers in real time.

Often, we hear from small businesses that they just don’t have the funds to invest in camera and editing equipment. But these days, most people are walking around with all the camera and editing equipment they need in the pocket of their pants—it’s called a smart phone. And tons of major brands got their start with video just by using a phone. Once you’ve validated the marketing channel, you can invest in the fancy equipment.


5. Make it personal

Big brands have been segmenting audiences—and personalizing content for them—for a long time. But the tools available to small businesses make it just as easy for you to do the same. One easy way to segment out your clients is through your newsletter lists, and that’s simple to set up with services like MailChimp. Segmentation works because it gives your clients and customers exactly what they want to see: content that feels personalized specifically to them and what they care about.

As a simple example, let’s say you’re a personal trainer. You might break clients down into two categories: those who want to lose weight quickly, and those who are training for endurance events. Obviously these are two very different groups with different needs, so you’d want to separate out the content they receive from you. Take a look at your current client base and think about the different “groups” they fall into. Could you segment them out to create a more personalized experience? Tailoring content to your customers’ preferences shows that you care about them and their needs, and that reflects well on your business.

Irena Ashcraft

Irena Ashcraft

Irena Ashcraft is a freelance writer who helps brands connect with their biggest fans in ways that are fresh, relatable, and fun. She loves people, tech, education, and the creative hustle.

More Posts