The One Marketing Thing That Has Made the Most Difference For Your Business

Recently I asked small business owners to share the “one marketing thing” that has made the most difference for their business.  I received some fantastic responses that range from practical to creative.  Here are 31 of the best marketing “things” that have generated the most customers and leads for these businesses.   There’s bound to be a few marketing ideas in here that you could use.    PS.  Please leave a comment, would love to hear about your best marketing thing!

1. Establish Yourself as the Expert

The one marketing thing that has generated the most customers for my business has been establishing myself as an expert. In addition to teaching continuing education classes via accredited universities, I also write articles and conduct seminars/workshops within the industries I have interest and experience in. As an expert, I sit on panels at industry-related conferences and events and conduct radio interviews related to my areas of expertise. Those who do not use me directly, will refer me based on what they hear, read or experience.

Isha Edwards, Brand Marketing Consultant & Business Instructor
EPiC Measures, LLC

2. Video Email Marketing

I have experimented with many marketing tactics (mostly online) to drive customers to <> and one of the most effective techniques I have found is combining regular email marketing with
the use of video content. Though video content in general has been great for us, I have found that a simple linked video thumbnail in an email is irresistible to recipients and grants us an easy and effective way to funnel customers directly from our emails to an associated landing page where the video resides (along with a strong call to action). Since doing this we have
seen significant increases in lead generation and new customers.

Matt Fellows, Content Strategist & Copywriter
Rightlook Creative

3. Create a Contest

I think the most effective low cost marketing method is to conduct a giveaway online. Studies have proven that simple online contests make consumers 96% more aware of a brand (Razorfish study). I’ve conducted giveaways of all sorts of products from t shirts to electronics and have realized that I get the most “bang for my buck” through these sweepstakes.


4. Connect with Facebook

I took over the Saco Drive In Theater (Saco, ME) this past Summer and revamped the marketing strategy to increase patrons and decrease the average age of our patrons. We relied very heavily on Facebook. We used Facebook as a tool to tailor our offering to please the masses. It was understood that not every week we could please every customer but our mission was to please every customer at least once. We ran promotions and special through Facebook consistently. We would poll our fan base when we couldn’t make up our minds on which movies to play and that clearly increased customer satisfaction. They had a felt ownership over the entire operation. Facebook was our preliminary feedback generator. We also implemented text message marketing that worked WONDERS. Customers could opt in by texting our keyword to 33938 and then every Friday they would receive the movie titles with a discount in the concession stand. was who we used for this service.  AWESOME!

Ry A.K. Russell, President
Brophy, Russell, Wells LLC

5. Customer Referral Program

The one hidden gem that we’ve used to generate customers is our customer referral program. It empowers customers to take matters into their own hands and promote it on their social media (Facebook & Twitter etc.) for which they get a credit towards future orders. Thousands of people have tweeted about it. It has brought in thousands of dollars of revenue for us!

Suzy Kendrick, Public Relations Manager
Canvas Pop

6. Have Fun With Your Brand

The one thing we did with our marketing that’s been most successful has been to have fun with our brand! As a start up, we relied on creativity and fun to create marketing campaigns to get our name out and drive business during our busiest season (February-April).

Jolene Loetscher, Chief Doo Officer

7. Let Them Try it For Free

The one marketing thing that has generated the most customers for our business is letting them try it for free. In our eyes, it builds credibility and trust because why buy if you’re not sure? Instead of doing the talking ourselves, we give them a promotional offer with a little guidance and let the results talk for themselves. Giving customers free press releases or discounts off our premium packages as an incentive to try us results in sales after their free release and even subscriptions to our release packages. We give free press release coupons on our social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and once-in-awhile on our email lists as well. It’s good for a new customer as well as for customer retention-giving a customer who has been loyal to us a free press release keeps them using our service as well.

Stacey Acevero, Social Media Community Manager

8. Create an Infographic

I wanted to reach out to share the one ‘thing’ that has been best for Lab42. We started creating our own infographics based on data that we obtain running our own market research studies.  We have been able to get these infographics published on major news outlets (Mashable, CNN, Huffington Post), which has led to many new sales and even more new leads.

Jonathan Pirc, President

9. Invest in Your Current Customers

It does no good to invest time or money in gaining new customers unless you’ve got your current customers dialed in and satisfied. And referred customers are the best kind to have, since they are coming to you with a certain level of trust already instilled. Give your current customers an incentive to send you referrals: offer them a referral bonus. People love being rewarded.

Sara N. Schoonover, Vice President

10. Ezine Tips and Trends

I have been an interior designer for almost 20 years. I began writing an E-zine with decorating tips, trends, and other lifestyle information in 2008 and that has generated more customers for my business than any advertising I have ever done. I love to write, produce all original content and do a lot of networking and community service to build my distribution list. Currently
it goes out to over 1000 readers, and they in turn forward it to their friends. It is the best thing I have ever done to develop relationships with potential customers.

Barbara Green

Sensibly Shic!/thedesigndiva

11. Participate in Online Forums

I am a meeting and event planner. There is a forum of about 3000 planners. We share advice, info, sources, etc. I don’t “market” per se at all as there is no official marketing allowed on the forum. What I do is answer questions, give advice, offer info, sources, etc. I really participate and put myself out there.  Then when people are looking for someone who needs meeting planning services I am a go-to for them.   This has allowed me to secure national level business as well as grow my business overall!

Dianne Davis, Meetings and Marketing Consultant

12. Build Relationships Online and Offline

Whenever this question is asked I realize that the hope is that there’s a quick formula that can be deployed, leads flow in and sales made. While I think that may be true if you’re selling a product widget, but in my experience when you’re product is a service it doesn’t work that way. I could tell you that the “thing” is twitter. I’ve actually received a good amount of work through that channel. I could tell you it’s speaking at and attending conferences as you could connect the dots back to many of those too. But that’s not the real answer, not for me. The number one thing is relationship. I love what I do and the people that I work with, and the fruit of that is more work but more importantly better work and working environments.

Michael Buckingham

Holy Cow Creative @holycowcreative

13. Throw a Party

For 19 years, on the second Tuesday of June, we have thrown a party for 600 of my peers. The vendors that participate all donate their services and it has brought huge name recognition and referrals for me. Different theme, different place and lots of fun for 19 years.  The entire event only cost me around $1000.

Dave Forman
Pour Masters Bartending Service

14.  Targeted Publicity

The one marketing thing that helped jumpstart sign-ups for ShareAndTell Pro, a social promotions and loyalty platform, is targeted public relations. Getting exposure on AllFacebook, WebmasterRadio, and WebProNews helped bring in people that understood why it’s important to reward your loyal customers, and were eager to get their promotion campaigns live with our platform.

Sandra Proulx Rand, Marketing Manager

Share and Tell Pro

15. Set it up so Customers Can Invite Others

We own a competition weight loss website that members use to create their own weight loss challenges similar to what they do on the Biggest Loser television show.  We set up our customers with an invitation engine so they can invite their friends via email to participate in their challenge.  They really enjoy and get a kick out of inviting their friends to join with them and be members and to use our site.

Pete Maughan

16. Post Flyers Door-to-Door

I remember when we started the company we had no money, no clients, no hope. We decided to pay a guy to run some flyers for us, after about 6 weeks we had to stop him because we could not handle the call volume. It has always been like that every year. Whenever business slows down I always tell the staff to run flyers and magic will happen. There has been nothing that has beaten those flyers to date. We have tried everything else from newspaper to TV, but pound for pound flyers are the key.

You also have to have a very professional flyer too. It can’t be a call me today here’s the number type flyer. We use all different colors with bright pastels that are so loud you have to open it up for you pitch it and the flyer is very professional. I just collect all of the good looking flyers from my door step and I made ours look better. In closing the best marking is a person who just doesn’t stop marketing. They have to eat and sleep the marketing. A good business is a good marketing business.

Duane Draughon
PaverStone Design Group

17.  Turn Your Customers Into Your Sales Force

As a stylist and salon owner of Mosaic Hair Studio in Orlando, Fl. our corner stone marketing plan has always been to turn our clients in to our sales force. Every client that refers us receives a thank you card and a $10 Starbucks gift card. This one simple idea in conjunction to doing beautiful hair and excellent customer service has allowed us to thrive, even had a price increase during the recession. It always amazes us on how influential some people are and once you get those clients as fans they can have a strong impact on your business.

Mike Van den Abbeel, Owner

Mosaic Hair Studio

18. Become a Business Referral Source

I owned a CPA firm for 14 years and have recently launched my practice as a Business Coach. In both genres the same marketing “thing” is working. I
became known in my circle as being the one who knew everyone. I keep a card file of trusted professionals. When anyone needs a service or a contact, I probably have someone who can fill the need and would pass their business card along. It is not unusual for clients and friends to call me for a referral to someone who could fill a need totally unrelated to accounting, because they were so accustomed to me saying. I know someone who…

Karen P. Johnson, CPA, MBA

Certified Business Coach
FocalPoint Business Coaching of Louisiana

19. Answer Questions on Social Media

The one marketing thing that has generated the most customers for my business in 2011 is participating in social media and answering others questions. This lets them know I am an expert in my field and know what I am talking about which has resulted in people purchasing my books and consulting and attending my webinars and live presentations.
Michelle Dunn, author of The Guide to Getting Paid, weed out bad paying customers, collect on past due balances, and avoid bad debt

20. Write a Book

I wrote a book, and it’s generated more “SERIOUS” leads and closes than anything I’ve ever done. I try to get all my clients to write books to establish their expertise. Most don’t, though they could. I followed my own advice. Without question, the single best thing I ever did for myself and my business.
Tom Perić, president
Galileo Communications Inc.

21. Get Quoted in the Media

I am the owner of a fashion, beauty, and finance PR and marketing agency in New York City. The most important marketing/PR action I’ve taken as a small business owner is getting quoted and writing bylined articles in business magazines, industry journals, and trade publications these include Entrepreneur,, and WWD. I generated this publicity by sending pitch letters to the appropriate editors and journalists.

Kristin Marquet
Marquet Communications DBA Marquet Media LLC

22.  Build Your List

From almost day one , I’ve focused on growing my prospect/customer list and regularly communicating (at least once a week) with educational information. I primarily use e-mail to deliver information to my list, but I also use snail mail to send a monthly marketing tips sheet. My lists have allowed me to cut marketing’s most costly expense, which is getting in front of new

Not only have my lists help me get customers, they also led to my first marketing book getting published (I’m currently working on book #2), speaking opportunities and exposure in several offline/online periodicals.

Tom Trush
Direct-Response Copywriter
Write Way Solutions

23.  Business Leaders Lunch

We get 45-70 business owners each and every Tuesday of the year to come together. I share a topic on how to build a business, and ask them to give me questions, input, etc. We don’t charge for the talk, they just pay for their own lunch. We make nothing off the lunch and bill it as a free service to the Denver business community. It has been the single best marketing thing we ever did. It is a low entry barrier for tasting what we do, our loyal clients can bring their friends, and we get at least 75% of our business as a result of what spins off of this lunch.

Our business – We are business advisors who work with small and local business owners only – to help them grow their business (I built six businesses myself over the last 25 years). Five years after starting this business, we now have outlets in Virginia, Ireland, Kenya, South Africa, and China.

The key – the most significant marketing tactics are going to be the most relational. The close you can get to being face2face with people, the more likely they are to get comfortable with you and buy from you.

Chuck Blakeman
The Crankset Group

24. Tap into Your Personal and Professional Networks

When our company was just starting up, our networks were the big thing that made us excel. Our personal and professional networks (extended through who knows who) helped us in two ways:

  • People could help us with referrals, and building new connections
  • Recruiting the best talent in development and designThe marketing principle of networking and connection building has been the most valuable asset to our success.Jennifer Butson
    Marketing Director | @JenButson

25. Become an Intentional Networker

For me, the “One Marketing Thing” is to be an “Intentional Networker”. This entails several things:

  • Knowing who you are and what you do best and are most passionate about
  • Knowing what you want
  • Having an authentic image, brand, and reputation that aligns with who you are and what you want
  • Remembering that success is not so much a factor of the size of your database or customer base, but of the quality of your database or customer base
  • Knowing what opportunities to say “yes” to — and what to say a firm, but gracious “no” to
  • Knowing where and how to build quality, long-term connections and relationships with colleagues, prospects and customers
  • Knowing how to stand out from (and above) the crowd in a positive and memorable way
  • Being generous, appreciative, honest, and forthright in all your dealingsPatti DeNucci
    DeNucci & Co. LLC
    Business Networking & Referral Expert, Speaker, Consultant
    Author of The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business

26. Ask for Referrals

It seems so simple, but ask for referrals. Every client I have, I really shake down for referrals – multiple times. Getting them to say they’ll tell someone to get in touch with you isn’t enough, either. I ask my clients to do an email introduction to me, as well as give me their referral’s phone number so that I can call to follow up. Far and away, this has been the best source of new clients for my business.

Michael Kaiser-Nyman
CEO & Founder, Impact Dialing

27.  Give Them More of What They Want

We expanded our Member News (small newsletter format, published three times a year) into a full, 64-page magazine format (still published three times a year). This increased membership for us dramatically, up 20% from the previous year. The articles and images give our members (customers) more of what they want from the Museum.

Kristin Kautz, Director of Marketing and PR
Georgia O¹Keeffe Museum

28. Create Your Own Reality Show

We were planning to attend the Magic Trade show in Las Vegas. When we received our booth placement it was in horrible all the way in the back of the hall. We were not near anything or anyone! My sister and I completely freaked out because we did not have set appointments. Therefore, we decided to call around in Las Vegas and we hired a production company to film us for 4 hours each day and say that we were part of a “REALITY” TV show that was going to be on a huge national network.

This worked like a charm. We had tradeshow models giving out postcards that said “come to the Footzyrolls booth and receive a free pair of Flip Flops and a chance to be on a reality TV show.” The line to get into our booth was insane. People were waiting to meet the owners of Footzyrolls and be part of the reality TV show. We even got a few real celebrities to stop by our booth that were at the show because they wanted to be part of the filming too!

Sarah Caplan, Co-Founder


29. People Love Us and We Love Them Back

We’ve created the “EggHead Breakfast Club” which is an internal, custom card visa swipe style loyalty and rewards program. We recognize our guests’ birthdays, anniversaries, spending habits with rebates and award certificates, invite them to exclusive VIP parties, and send them handwritten cards and letters in the mail among other treats and surprises.

As of today, in a program just over three years old, we’ve got 19,702 members to opt in. That’s pretty bad ass for a little mom and pop restaurant company, now with three locations.

The Omelette Lady

Misty Young

The Squeeze Inn Restaurant

30. Word of Mouth

The “one marketing thing” that has generated the most customers for our business has been through word of mouth/references. While this may not be what marketers want to hear, my advice is that you focus on over-delivering high quality work, acting as a business partner & mentor for your client, and delivering exceptional customer service. If you deliver what the customer wants, are seen as a “friend & Partner,” and give your client the best service ever, they will gladly recommend you to someone else. And typically great references give your prospects confidence in doing work with you.

Becky Boyd
Vice President, MediaFirst PR

31. Free Teleseminars

Free Teleseminars have been a great way to build my list and to reach people I normally would not have been able to reach just by using Facebook & Twitter alone. It is an easy way to promote any upcoming events and new products and services. Furthermore, once those people have signed up for the tele-seminar, I have instant communication access to them!

Kelly Green
Insider Branding Secrets

Wendy Kenney is the bestselling author of How to Build Buzz for Your Biz, Tap into the Power of Social Media, Publicity and Relationship Marketing to Grow Your Business, available on  She has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street JournalUSA Today, and Newsday. She lives in Mesa, Arizona, with her husband and three very hungryteenage sons.  One of her goals in life is to visit all of the Major League ballparks in the US before she turns 49.  So far she has been to 13. Grab your free ebook; How to Build Buzz for Your Biz; 23 Creative and Inexpensive Marketing Strategies That Will Get You Noticed at

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