September 13, 2023
Case Study

Small Business Marketing Strategy: Get ideas for conversion optimization, social media strategy, and lead generation


To be an entrepreneur is to be a marketer.

Most of the folks we quote in this article don’t have an official ‘marketing’ title, but they are marketers all the same (and wear many other hats as well, I’m sure).

Get some ideas from your fellow entrepreneurs in these examples from a travel website, digital marketing agency, and a handmade soap store.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Get the power of 10,000 marketing experiments working for you. Play with MECLABS AI by signing up for a free trial at (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

Quick Case Study #1: Two-step form reduces travel website conversion by 15%, increases sales 9%

The team at Costa Rican Vacations regularly runs experiments with the aim of improving website performance.

BEFORE – One-step form

The team originally had a one-step inquiry form.

Creative Sample #1: One-step form on page

Creative Sample #1: One-step form on page

But the sales team was spending too much time qualifying leads and engaging in back-and-forth with potential customers before sending them a custom quote. “So while we spent our first two decades in business driving up website conversion percent, we established a new website goal: reduce cost per quote,” said Casey Halloran, Co-Founder and CEO, Costa Rican Vacations.

AFTER: Two-step inquiry form

So the team tested a two-step form to focus more on qualifying leads pre-inquiry.

Creative Sample #2: New form on page, first step

Creative Sample #2: New form on page, first step

Creative Sample #3: New form, second step

Creative Sample #3: New form, second step

Adding a second step allowed them to double the number of qualifying questions.

They had a vigorous debate between Sales and Marketing to determine which form fields to include. They also analyzed past sales to identify some facts gathered from clients with the highest ROI. Between anecdotal and hard evidence, they chose what they believe are the critical few fields.

“We ran multiple tests on the exact number of questions we could add without destroying the conversion rate,” Halloran said.

RESULTS – Lower conversion rate, but increase in sales

While adding an extra step did reduce website conversion by 15%, the overall result has been a 22% reduction in cost per quote. In addition, the team reduced the time to quote by 35%.

“This was a counter-intuitive and risky experiment that required us to look at metrics post-inquiry. We're glad we took the chance, as the net result has been a 9% increase in sales conversion,” Halloran said.

Quick Case Study #2: Digital marketing agency turns social media criticism into 23% increase in bookings

upMention’s slogan is ‘Wij kennen het geheim van Google,’ which is Dutch for ‘We know the secret of Google.’ The company was running a billboard with that claim.

Creative Sample #4: Billboard for digital marketing agency

Creative Sample #4: Billboard for digital marketing agency

FEEDBACK – Social media criticism

 “On LinkedIn, one of our competitors criticized our use of billboards for marketing, yet we claimed to know the secret of Google,” said Geertan Schollart, co-founder, upMention.

Schollart leaned into it and thanked the competitor for their ‘constructive criticism.’ The headline in the below post translates to, ‘I think they should be ashamed of themselves at upMention.’

Creative Sample #5: LinkedIn post shining a light on social media criticism

Creative Sample #5: LinkedIn post shining a light on social media criticism

The ensuing LinkedIn exchange brought in 303,720 impressions with 289 people commenting and 1,161 people liking the posts.

THE RESPONSE – 100 billboards

So they posted a billboard thanking the competition, i.e. up-mentioning (pun intended) the competitor’s brand and posted a photo of a person pointing upwards toward the brand.

The headline of the below post translates to ‘thanks.’

Creative Sample #6: LinkedIn post thanking the competition

Creative Sample #6: LinkedIn post thanking the competition

Leveraging the audience attracted to the virtual melee, the team seized the opportunity to put other companies in the spotlight with billboards all over the Netherlands. They allowed others to get up-mentioned with billboards thanking them for their support as well, even companies that were not clients.

“We realized that the competitor was using our brand to drive traffic to their site. We decided we will highlight other awesome brands in the country and over 100 brands joined in the initiative and allowed us to spotlight them on billboards,” said Alexander Zuidam, Head of Sales and Marketing, upMention.

The billboards simply listed the company’s name, ‘thank you’ (bedankt in Dutch), and the upMention logo.

This resulted in those companies sharing their appreciation on social media further amplifying the agency’s brand awareness.

Creative Sample #7: Social media post of thank you billboard

Creative Sample #7: Social media post of thank you billboard

RESULTS – 23% increase in appointment bookings

The results — 403 new LinkedIn followers, 1,444 website visitors from LinkedIn and 34 contact requests, which resulted in a 23% increase in appointment bookings on the agency’s website during the June-July period.

The agency is also using the initiative born out of this – talking to companies that were spotlighted in the campaign – to build a network that allows for easier collaboration among the companies. For example, if one company builds custom trailers and another is a camping site operator, it becomes easier to collaborate if the rapport has already been created.

Quick Case Study #3: Handmade soap and body products store advertises sweepstakes, grows email signups from 0 to 57

“At The Little Soap Shed we tried to build an email marketing list through Facebook ads,” said Stephen Richardson, Partner, The Little Soap Shed.

BEFORE – ‘Exclusive offers’

The original ad used the headline ‘The Little Soap Shed.’

The description referenced that the products were Cornish, in other words, from Cornwall, a county in England. The team used the copy ‘Cornish handcrafted gifts – artisan soap and many sewn items. All items are created in Cornwall. Sign up now for exclusive offers email address required.’

It had a picture of some products.

Creative Sample #8: Picture from original Facebook ad

Creative Sample #8: Picture from original Facebook ad

The team targeted women 25+ in the UK with interests like health and beauty, gardening, theatre, and cats and dogs. “We've noticed that a lot of our customers like animals – even if they don't have their own pets,” Richardson said.

The ad resulted in 121 clicks but no sign ups after ten days.

AFTER – Sweepstakes

Next, the team decided to offer a prize package of their products worth £30.

The new ad used the headline ‘Luxury Package Worth £30.’

The description read ‘Win a luxury soap package worth £30 and delivered directly to your door. Sign up for our Members’ Only Club now. Every member gets a FREE entry into our prized draw when you sign up before 11th August.’

The new ad included a picture the prize package.

Creative Sample #9: Picture from new Facebook ad

Creative Sample #9: Picture from new Facebook ad

This ad also ran for ten days and used the same audience. It got 191 clicks.

RESULTS – New email addresses

The team got 57 new email addresses with the second ad compared to no success at all with the first ad. This was on a very limited budget of just £10 – so basically each lead cost approximately 50p.

“We are just a very small business and just starting out to learn how to do successful marketing. The thing we have learned from two Facebook ads that we have run is that people value their email address and don't want to simply give it away. If you want someone to give you their email address then you will need to offer something that your audience values,” Richardson said.

Related Resources

Local Marketing: 3 strategies that worked for small businesses with physical locations

Effective Digital Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses: Discounts on TikTok, neutrality on Quora, seasonality for Google PPC

Marketing Strategies: 3 proven customer engagement strategies to try (examples with results)

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions