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Top 10 marketing tips for small businesses

Marketing your small trades business doesn’t have to be expensive. There are lots of cost-effective ways that you can use marketing to build your business, through easy-to-use digital and traditional tools:

  • Digital marketing: promoting your business online or using digital technology.
  • Traditional marketing: promoting your business offline, such as in newspapers.  

Discover 10 of the best marketing ideas for your small business, below. Plus, we’ve included links to free apps, websites and other tools that you can use for your marketing plan!

1. Email your customers

Smiling customer looking at phone

You could earn £35.41 for every £1 you spend on email marketing on average, according the Data and Marketing Association. It’s one of the best ways to reach the customers that have expressed an interest in hiring you, seeing as they’ve given you their email address to contact them on.

You could send:

  • Helpful automatic emails: To confirm when they’ve booked work in with you and remind them when their appointment’s coming up.
  • Polite ‘thank you’ emails: To show that your business is human!
  • Useful email receipts (or e-receipts): These provide another opportunity for you to engage with the customer after the work’s done. You can ask them to share your work on social media, review your business and more.
  • Interesting promotional emails: One idea is to choose a theme for each email, such as summer gardening jobs. Include pictures of your previous work that are related to the theme, to give your email subscribers visual inspiration. Photos of your work are important to potential customers!

The best email marketing solutions for small businesses include allow you to send emails to thousands of people at once, provide easy-to-use templates and let you track how well your emails are doing. MailChimp and HubSpot offer free email marketing packages.

2. Create a social media presence

Did you know that having a social media presence helps almost half of the UK’s tradespeople get more work (according to IronmongeryDirect)? Using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all free ways to reach potential and returning customers. You can upload photos of your work and reshare your customers’ photos of your work, to show future customers that you’re keeping your current customers happy. Read more about how to take great photos of your work.

If you’re a member of Rated People, tag us in your photos @RatedPeople and we’ll post them on our social media profiles to our thousands of followers!

3. Use mobile apps

Builder looking at mobile phone

Apps make marketing easier – from cloud storage apps where you can back up your photos and other assets, to social media management apps that allow you to schedule your posts in advance, track their performance and answer comments, in one place.

The best free marketing apps for small businesses include:

  • Canva: Create visual graphics and animations using free templates, to use on your social media, website and in emails.
  • Bitly: Shorten your website or social media links and track when and where people are clicking on them.
  • Mention: Get alerts when your business or other keywords are mentioned online and in the media, so you can jump at opportunities as soon as possible.

4. Be data-driven

With all the misinformation out in the world, boost your business’s credibility by sharing facts and figures in your marketing. For example, you can show your competency by sharing the ratings you get on trades recommendation platforms, like Rated People, on your website, social media and in your emails.

Data is also essential when it comes to tracking the new customer opportunities that you’re making through your marketing activity. Google has two free tools to help you do this: Campaign URL Builder and their Google forwarding number offering. Find out how these tools work in our blog post: Coronavirus: Digital marketing tips to make your small business stand out.

5. Enter trade industry business awards

Group of carpenters smiling and putting thumbs up

Business awards are a great way to raise local, national and even international awareness of your business. If you’re shortlisted or win, then the validation from a third party will massively boost your credibility and help you to stand out from your competitors.

Plus, marketing isn’t just restricted to your customers. If you have or are thinking about hiring employees, then it’s important to make sure your business appeals to the best candidates. Business awards show that your company is doing well and contributes towards making your company somewhere that people are proud to work at.

Find a full list of UK construction industry awards on

6. Brand your van

A cheap way to advertise your business is to use van branding. Customers will notice an eye-catching van over a plain one. Plus, when you’re working on a job, potential customers that live in the area will see your van often. Van branding will tell them how to contact you and they’ll be more likely to remember your company when they’re looking for a trades business in the future.

Read more about the van branding options available to you.

7. Make videos

Painter team smiling at camera

Video content is a big digital marketing trend. According to HubSpot, 94% of people watch a video to learn more about a product – and 84% of them are then convinced to buy a related product.

You can film clips on your smartphone and edit them together using the free YouTube Studio, or record quick videos on TikTok (also free). Plus, you can share your videos in your emails or on your other social media platforms. There are so many opportunities for video content!

8. Be your own brand ambassador

You and your employees are the some of the best brand ambassadors for your business. If you provide good customer service to everyone – regardless of whether they’re a paying customer, a potential customer that changes their mind after you quote or even someone that’s making a complaint – then you’ll build your reputation as a respectful business. People talk, and they’ll most likely tell other people about their customer service experience with you.

Check out 5 top tips on how to provide great customer service.

9. Grow your presence in your community

Two tradespeople shaking hands

Develop your relationship with potential customers by growing your presence in their local community. This way, you can interact with them at a place that’s most convenient for them, so they’ll be more open to hearing what you have to say.

You can grow your community presence by:

  • Attending and sponsoring local events, such as school fairs. These might be held online at the moment – you can find out what’s going on in community Facebook groups and local newspapers.
  • Partnering with other local businesses. You could team up to offer a giveaway, for example.
  • Setting up a ‘Google My Business’ profile. This puts your business on Google Maps, so when people in the areas you work in Google terms such as ‘plumber near me’, your business’s details are more likely to appear high in the search results.

10. Get creative with direct mail

Stand out from your competitors with well-designed direct mail. Direct mail is when you send something physical to your potential customers, such as a letter, postcard or brochure. You could even match your direct mail up with certain awareness days or annual holidays, such as sending a Christmas card to let potential customers know that you can help them in the new year.

Direct mail is a great way to target all the people living in the areas you work in.

For more small business marketing advice, visit our Trade Advice Centre:

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  1. Great tips thank you. But I have the opposite problem. Too many jobs and not enough staff to help fulfil. Any tiles on staff finding?

    1. Hi Kerri, thanks for reading – I’m glad you found the tips useful! Staff shortages are a common problem with many tradespeople at the moment, unfortunately. You might want to consider taking on apprentices, work placements, trainees or getting involved in the Kickstart scheme to get more staff into your business. There are also some cash incentives available if you do this, too, which you can read more about here:

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