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10 Best Low-Cost Sales Promotion Ideas for Small Businesses

Posted by Akshy Anbu on  August 21, 2020  in Marketing

Sales promotion ideas for small businesses? That’s what you’re here for? Well, it’s no surprise because a huge number of businesses and eCommerce stores end up searching for top sales promotion ideas, especially for inexpensive marketing ideas that could boost their sales!

It’s true that not all businesses have the luxury budget to promote their sales deals on billboards or mass media. Certain businesses run on a shoestring budget and a few others find it hard to meet their ends. But there’s always a way out! And guess what? It’s been proven that small businesses were always able to make it to the top and increase their sales when they followed & adopted great sales promotion ideas!

So, without any further delays, let’s look at some of the best low-cost sales promotion examples that’ll help boost your sales and revenue.

Best Sales Promotion Ideas for Small Businesses

1. Email Marketing

You might now be asking “Really? Is this your top sales promotion idea?” Honestly speaking, Email marketing is one of our personal favorites not only because of its cost-efficient factor but also because it has high success rates.

By the year 2023, almost half of the world’s population will be using emails (if you’re looking for figures, it’s 4.3 billion). And an approximate 295 billion emails are being sent and received each day. Why would someone/some business take it seriously if there aren’t going to be good results?


“For every $1 dollar you spend on emails, you’ll get a $44 return. In other words, it’s an astonishing 4400% ROI”

Now that’s definitely an affordable sale promotion idea for small businesses.

Also, Email marketing is considered a viable option by top industry giants (Amazon and Walmart use emails to promote their deals during seasonal sales). If you’re still not ready to take up email marketing as one of your business marketing ideas, here’s a sales promotion example from Grammarly.

This happened during 2019’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. My inbox was overwhelmed by emails from Grammarly. I was offered a 50% discount on the premium version. And it got me to think “Man! These guys are quite persuasive!”. Such as Grammarly’s sales promotion email campaign for the Cyber Monday deals.

And on taking an even closer look, I came to find out that almost all promotional emails had one thing in common

  • December 4th, 2019 – Wednesday
  • December 11th, 2019 – Wednesday
  • January 1st, 2020 – Wednesday
  • January 8th, 2020 – Wednesday

See that? Lots of work and effort put in! And here’s an example of how an email looked!

Since most of the email marketing platforms fall under the cost-effective section, you should have no trouble getting one for your business!

That’s enough proof to infer that email marketing is one of the top sales promotion ideas! With a good strategy and a couple of clicks, you’ll be witnessing increased sales in no time!

So, let’s move on to the next great sales promotion idea!

2. Social Media

Social media is another inexpensive sales promotion platform for small businesses. The past few years have been extremely insane – both established and startup businesses have been trying to build their social profile and audience. And for brands and businesses that we’re able to crack it, driving sales was not a problem later.

Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been the go-to choice for sales promotion – doesn’t matter if it’s a summer sales promotion or holiday sales promotion, you’ve got an audience around the year!

And as for the expense, you don’t have to spend a single penny. If you’ve got the budget, you may try Facebook/Instagram ads for a better reach. But if you’ve got sufficient followers and an audience, everything you need is already on your table then.

You can use social handles to let your followers know about upcoming events, deals, and sales and keep them well informed. Or, you can create awe and hype by completely keeping the event a mystery – it’s totally up to you!

Here’s an example of McDonald’s using its Instagram handle to promote sales.

Apparently, McDonald’s has decided that March 2nd of every year is going to be the national Egg McMuffin Day and took its Instagram to handle to promote the same. The above post was on the 28th of February, 3 days before the big day (2020 was a leap year so…).

And that was all the time McDonald’s needed to create awareness, bring in traction, and finally, sales on the big day! Cool and definitely one of the best successful sales promotion examples using social media.

All it takes is a loyal audience base and some strategies combined with visually appealing images & content. Now you might bring up the audience factor. Trust me, the better your products and services are, the more loyal audience you’ll be getting!

3. Use Website Popups for Promotion

Let’s not ignore the obvious! If you are not the greatest fan of website pop-ups, you’ve got it all wrong then! Popups have been helping websites and eCommerce stores drive conversions and grow their email list seamlessly. In fact, top brands like Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and Casio use popups to drive sales and conversions.

“Using popups for promoting sales is one of the best marketing ideas for small businesses.”

Website popups can be used for a number of reasons but I’ll list out the most prominent scenario oriented ones here,

  • Increase sales by displaying discount/promotional popups
  • Reduce cart abandonment using exit-intent popups
  • Notify visitors about sales deals/upcoming events
  • Upsell to the existing customers using personalized popups

There’s actually more to what you can do with a website popup like conducting surveys and collecting feedback but as I said, we’ll be sticking to the subject here – sales promotion examples!

Here’s an example from BarkBox

BarkBox is an eCommerce website that gives everything your dog wants as a package on a monthly basis. And they’ve just come up with an above website popup that has a countdown timer in it. The visitor would be greatly tempted to claim their free box. And the countdown timer creates urgency and motivates the visitor to complete the sale – quick & effective.

Since we’re speaking about pets, I thought why not come up with a similar example from another eCommerce store.

Wondering what the dartboard kind of appearance is? It’s a spin to win popup! Spin the wheel popups are a great way to engage visitors and increase the chances of a sale happening. And that’s exactly what Easyology Pets has done!

The above two were definitely great examples of eCommerce sales promotional ideas!

Creating popups is no big deal and you can literally get it done in minutes! All you need to do is, have a popup plugin onboard and learn how to create effective popups that convert. Since most of the popup plugins come free of cost, you’ve got the expenses covered!

4. Free Premium Product Trials

Sometimes, there might come a time when all the top sales promotion ideas won’t work! And that’s when you’ve got to make things work a different way!

Giving your visitors/subscribers a taste of the premium version can do the trick. It’s because once people get to experience what it feels like to use the better version of something, they would not want to give up so easily!

And here’s a clever sales promotion idea for small businesses by Grammarly (It’s just that Grammarly is so good at sales promotion ideas that I really couldn’t stop myself from bringing them up again).

The above image is a snapshot of the popup that appeared while I was using Google Docs. The popup reminds me that I’ve got only a couple of my free premium trial days remaining. The same would be the scenario for millions of writers/users out there. What if out of 10,000 users, there’s a 10% conversion rate? Do the math!

That’s how powerful free premium product trials can become! Here’s another example,

Spotify, the renowned online music streaming platform has come up with a free premium trial. Users get to use the premium plan free for the next 30 days post which they’ll be downgraded automatically to the free plan. But during the 30-day free trial plan, users get full access to premium features of Spotify! And it’s unlikely that they’d refuse to pay the premium price (I mean who’d want to miss the HD audio?).

So, that’s how it’s done – giving a taste of your product and luring them to buy it.

And in doing so, there’s nothing for you to lose – zero expenses and lots of possibilities!

5. Launch a Beneficial Referral Program

Though we’ve come across a couple of sales promotion ideas for small businesses, the referral program is always the classic evergreen one. The one great advantage that a referral program can give you is, that you can sit back and watch your business grow. And the famous cloud storage platform Dropbox cracked this well a decade ago and it is still one of the best sales promotion examples to date.

Here’s how Dropbox grew 3900% by coming up with a referral program,

Dropbox came up with a simple referral program that benefitted both the referrer and the referral.

Let’s consider two persons – Sam and John.

Sam who is already a Dropbox user sends his unique invitation link to John. And when John signs up using Sam’s invitation, Sam gets 1 GB of free cloud storage space.

And as for John, he gets 500 MB of free storage space just for becoming a Dropbox user – the referrer (Sam) and the referral (John) both get benefitted.

This became a viral hit and more users started inviting their friends and known people.

Eventually, Dropbox ended up having

  • 100k users during September 2008
  • 4 Million users during December 2009
  • 33.9 Million users during September 2017

That’s how powerful and profiteering a referral program can be. All you have to do is, come up with an effective referral program idea and set it into action. You can watch your sales grow when you sleep!

6. Reach out to Affiliates

Connecting with affiliates and asking them to promote your product in return for a set commission is another great sales promotion idea you should be trying out.

Stat Time: An approximate 75% of the US online shoppers visit a couple of affiliate websites before they complete a purchase.

The network has become so popular that there are even Amazon influencers out there. In fact, 81% of brands make use of affiliate programs and the reason behind it is, that it requires almost no investment and affiliates try equally hard as you to generate sales for your brand. Right from the fashion industry to Saas products, affiliates can help drive sales consistently around the year.

Here’s an example,

Semrush, the popular online visibility management platform has an affiliate program where affiliates can earn up to 40% recurring commission for every sale.

Now the basic plan of Semrush is $99.95 per month and if an affiliate gets a 40% commission for one sale for one month, it’s $39.98. And the same calculated for a year is $479.76. Let me again remind you that the above calculation is only for one sale. What if the affiliate manages to pull off 100 sales? Do the math. Crazy right?

I wouldn’t be missing the opportunity for the world. Try reaching out to affiliates in a similar industry niche and make them promote your products. Come up with an affiliate program that is beneficial to both you and the affiliate as well. And when you manage to get a few affiliates to sign up with you, you’ll see the numbers going up eventually.

Put in a few words, your affiliates would be doing all the sales promotional activities for you – definitely a clever marketing idea for small businesses!

7. Cross Promotion

Cross promotion is another great sales promotion idea for small businesses. And history has witnessed some of the most successful and iconic brands collaborate with each other in order to promote their sales.

The reason why cross-promotion works out so well is that you get an entirely different audience base to take a look at your brand. And if you’re able to collaborate with a pretty good brand, the results can be anywhere from extraordinary to immensely great!

Here are a few ideas and things you should be knowing when it comes to cross-promotion

  • Never venture far away from your brand. Cross-promotion deal with a fashion icon isn’t going to work out when you run a tech business. Try making deals with similar niche brands. For example, if you run an automobile safety gear store, you can cross-promote it with an automobile dealer – suit to what relates to your business.
  • Make sure the cross-promotion benefits both brands equally. You definitely do not want to be on the side that’s gaining fewer benefits out of the deal.
  • Come up with bundle deals consisting of products from your brand and the collaborated brand as well.
  • Send promotional newsletters with discounts to subscribers and let them know about the collaboration.
  • Come up with an informative eBook that has input from both sides.
  • Finally, use content to cross-promote – guest posts or product inclusions can be a great sales promotion idea when it comes to cross-promotion.

Speaking of cross-promotion, here’s an example I thought you all might want to see. Reebok and Adidas took the cross-promotion idea a further step ahead and came up with a new product! And here’s the promotional teaser of the same

Cool right?

So, come up with such creative ideas. It necessarily doesn’t mean you have to build a new product. Anything that’s going to benefit your business growth should do!

8. Conduct Online Contests

What’s a sales promotion idea blog when it doesn’t recommend online contests? Online contests are definitely some of the best sales promotion ideas for small businesses. It’s because an online contest is a business marketing idea that’s both cheap and highly effective.

Stats say that online contests have an astonishing 34% conversion rate and 94% of the time, participants share the promotion once they’ve registered. If that’s not enough for you, here are a few more,

  • You have the opportunity to gain an average of 34% of new customers when you run contests.
  • Every contestant spends an average of somewhere between 2:00 and 2:30 minutes playing the contest.
  • Running contests via your Instagram handle helps grow your followers 70% faster.

That’s enough statistics. So, your online contest could be anything – could be a quiz competition, a spin to win contest, or a vote to win kind of contest. Choose what would suit your business best and go accordingly. Coming with a top-notch contest idea will not only drive sales but also participants from all around the world.

Here’s an example of a quiz competition run by Amazon,

Amazon came up with a quiz contest promising contestants a chance to win an approximate $250. And as you could see, it was a series of 5 questions (which I, unfortunately, couldn’t get through) and the lucky winner gets the prize money. With the huge customer base Amazon has, there’s no need to talk about participation or conversion rates here.

And here’s another online contest example – this time, it’s Starbucks

Starbucks came up with a summer sales promotion idea where every Starbuck customer gets to take part in the contest for every subsequent purchase he/she makes. And the prizes are crazy – 30,000 stars (roughly $1,100 and stars are the reward points by Starbucks). The more the customer purchases, the more chances they get to play!

The above were some serious sales promotion examples! Now, what online contest ideas have you come up with already 😉?

So, moving on to the next great sales promotion idea.

9. The Big Day, Discount Codes, BOGO Offers & More

Discounts and coupon codes have always been a clever marketing idea for small businesses (92% of shoppers end up buying products when there’s a discount or use a coupon code for the same). And maxing out huge discounts on a specific day is a time-tested great sales promotion idea. Yes, I am talking about Amazon’s Prime day here!

Here are a few things about Amazon’s 2019 Prime Day sales that can help you understand how offering huge discounts on a specific day can help grow your business

During Amazon’s 2019 Prime Day,

  • An approximate 20 million transactions happened over the 48-hour period.
  • The conversion rate was slightly higher than 10% which means 1 in every 10 products that were viewed was bought.
  • An astonishing 4.43 million purchases were made in the Electronic category.
  • And an approximate 21 million people purchased products from Amazon during Prime Day week.

That should be giving you the idea and insights! Similarly, you can choose a specific day, and make use of all the above sales promotion examples and ideas to make it a huge success! just like Amazon did with their discounts and Amazon coupons.

Come up with deals and discount offers like

  • Store-wide global discounts
  • Product-specific discounts
  • Buy One Get One Free Offers
  • Bulk Purchase discounts
  • Percentage based discounts and more

Having a discount rules tool on board should be making the job easier!
P.S. Let us know if your store has one such special discount day! We’d be glad to come by!

The final one on our list going to be,

10. Guerilla Marketing

Sometimes, you’ve got to step out of the digital world to make things a bit more interesting! And that’s where Guerrilla marketing comes in. Guerrilla marketing is nothing but the use of unconventional, inexpensive marketing ideas to promote your sales. This includes anything from constructing a huge billboard next to the Statue of Liberty (if you can, that ain’t going to be cheap) or having a poster up your local gathering place.

Guerrilla marketing is more of an advertising firm where the physical environment gets to play a part in your business marketing idea! Here, this image should help you understand better,

You get the idea right?

So, if you’re interested in stepping out a bit and you are able to come up with more creative ways to market your business, guerrilla marketing should suit you!

That’s pretty much it! We’ve come across some of the top sales promotion ideas and examples used by renowned brands and small businesses. But wait, here’s something else you should be knowing,

Few Things You Should Be Doing Simultaneously

Publish New Blogs Consistently

Writing blogs continuously can bring huge benefits to your business growth. You get higher visibility and will rank better in the long run. And in the meanwhile, you’re keeping your audience engaged and informative. Also, blogging can be extremely helpful when it comes to cross-promotion. You can simply include products in your blogs in return for the same on your collaborator’s web page

Create a Separate Landing Page for Sales Deals

Having to display website pop-ups and banners about your sales deals on multiple pages is okay but you should also take the extra effort to create a dedicated sales deals page. Doing it this way can help your visitors/customers understand your offers better. Also, make sure you direct traffic from multiple sources to the particular sales deals page. This helps in building page authority (SEO factor) and a clear roadmap plus a clutter-free experience will definitely help increase sales!

Targeting & Segmentation

Personalization always works well when it comes to sales promotion. The more refined and targeted your sales promotion campaign is, the better will the sales results be!

For example, come up with a separate email campaign for your subscribers and another email campaign for your paid customers. Display different kinds of popups to your first-time visitors. Similarly, find out other possible ways where you can segment visitors and induce the personalization factor within!

Lots of information! We’ll wrap it up!

The Bottomline

Like I already said, we’ve come across a huge number of sales promotion examples from both top brands and small businesses that’ll help you come up with your own version of sales promotion ideas.

But there’s this one thing you’ve got to remember when it comes to marketing ideas for small businesses – it’s not necessary that you should always stick to what’s being practiced. You can push the boundaries and come up with more creative ways to market your business.

For example, you can come up with an affiliate program that comes with both recursive commissions and premium product usage or tie up with local retail stores and launch a free giveaway! As I said, you’ve got to push the boundaries of existence.

The more creative you are, the better your sales promotion ideas are going to be! And who knows, there might be a day where one of your ideas will get quoted as “top sales promotion ideas” in a blog!

So, get to work and start promoting!

Good Luck!

Author Bio
Akshy Anbu 
Akshy Anbu
Akshy is a Content and Growth Marketer who loves to peddle dreams across the globe. And he specializes in the eCommerce Sector. His blogs are mainly focused on the E-commerce sector, Content Marketing, Growth Marketing and Growth Hacking Techniques. When not glued to his notebook, Akshy loves to watch movies, cook, read and explore the wilderness all by himself!

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