As a marketer, you’re a storyteller. The hero of your story isn’t you or your business. It isn’t your product, either. The hero is your target audience, your future customer. Your product (or your service) is the love interest. You’re going to tell the story of how they meet and live happily ever after.

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You won?t find any foolproof paths to marketing success, and traditional marketing materials may not always be enough to boost your brand. But telling your story in less-commonly-used ways just may get you where you want to be while the competition lags behind.

Get Ready for Your Closeup

You might be under the impression marketing and advertising are the same thing. You can recognize the distinction like this: If war strategy were marketing, a cavalry charge would be advertising. If brand awareness is the goal of marketing, a 30-second television commercial is one targeted avenue that can help you attain that goal.

Ah, but you are running a small business, and you don’t have the budget for television commercials, do you? That’s why we’re talking about marketing and not advertising. The war strategy behind expensive television spots can be implemented through less expensive avenues better targeted to your audience.

We’re talking about online videos, folks. They’re almost as good as face-to-face interaction. They turn strangers into friends, and friends are a step away from becoming customers. With a minimal investment in audio and video technology, they let you talk about your business and show potential customers how you can meet their needs and solve their problems.

Don’t worry about getting top-notch production values at this stage. Just get something done and out there. You can make improvements later. You could even start with a $5 investment at Fiverr, where a “spokesperson” will read your prepared script. Bam you now have your very own commercial to incorporate into your website and send out via email.

Tag your online videos to help people find you. Use relevant keywords in your title and description. And be entertaining if you can. Finding the next Star Wars Kid or Numa Numa Dance could make your video go viral, giving your biz more exposure than a Super Bowl commercial.

Be a Social Butterfly

You’ve known about social media for years. Your business already has Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts (Right? Please tell me it does). Social platforms such as Pinterest and Etsy can be used to market your business by showcasing tangible creations and projects from your portfolio (Pinterest even has business accounts available to help with brand-building and driving traffic to your website.) If your business is real estate, Trulia has incorporated social elements for agents, including listing check-ins and sharable tips.

The thing that makes social media a marketing workhorse is the very thing small business owners often ignore. “Social” means “relating to society.” It’s about interactions. It’s not about slapping up an account and walking away.

Interact. BE SOCIAL. Open a Yelp account and respond to every single review you get (the good ones and the bad ones). Make sure you keep the comments open on your YouTube channel and on your blog (delete the spammy and abusive ones and respond to the rest). Answer the questions your potential customers are asking, even if the answers ultimately send them to your competitors. You’re building trust here. You’re setting yourself up as a thought leader.

Sure, being social takes time, and when you’re busy running a business time is something you don’t have much of. But reaching out and making yourself available online and in real life is the first step toward owning your market.

Turn Customers Into Your PR Army

What’s more credible: A business tooting its own horn, or a satisfied customer doing it for them? If you can use your loyal customer base to recruit new “fans” you’ll have a self-sustaining PR and marketing army singing your praises.

Keeping a customer is easier than winning a new one. A psychological phenomenon called the Ben Franklin effect is all about asking small favors of people with the larger overall goal of building a lasting relationship with them. The small favor you will ask for is word-of-mouth testimony about how great your business is. That recommendation takes only a few minutes for your customer, but for you it’s priceless. It will build your reputation and introduce your brand to a new network of potential customers.

We’re not just talking about “word of mouth” here. You need content for your website, so why not write customer stories? These don’t have to be very involved or formal at their most basic, they are case studies that show how your business helped a customer solve a problem. If your customers are other businesses, getting them to work with you to create case studies should be even easier. They’ll get more visibility for their own business by talking about how they benefited from a partnership with yours.

If your customers are individual consumers, think about offering newly-launched goods and services for free. People love to be included in “beta testing” groups. It makes them feel special to get something and to be asked for their opinion, so invite your customers to try out new products from time to time. Try the age-old customer loyalty program (“buy nine burgers and get the 10th one free”). Another approach is a customer referral program (“invite nine friends and get a free service”). The word-of-mouth campaign you build will depend on your business and its goals. You’ll have to be creative to come up with something that works. But when you do, it has the potential to drive new business exponentially.

Marketing is crucial whether you’re a one-person startup or an established company. You may not want to do it. You may not feel like you’re capable of doing it. But ignoring marketing isn’t an option. Invest some time and do it right. You might find yourself getting excited about the possibilities.