21+ Free and Effective October Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
If you’re into sweet treats, smiles, and social impact, then you’ll find October to be a fun month for creative and quirky marketing. Using holidays and observances as focal points of your content and promotions helps to add a touch of excitement and gives you the opportunity to express your brand voice. Read on to get some October-related ideas and inspiration—for your blog, email, social media, website, and more.
P.S. Still stuck in September? We've got a post for that.
October awareness marketing ideas
Marketing around the awareness causes of any particular month affords your business many opportunities—to support a cause, to help your customers accomplish something fulfilling, and to build up the community around you. The more you can familiarize with and strengthen your local audience, the more natural and effective you can become in your messaging. That being said, let's go over the awareness themes of October. Here are a few that you may be familiar with:
- Fire prevention
- LGBTQ history
- Breast cancer
- Sustainable energy
- Down syndrome
What you might not know is that October is also:
- Bilingual Child Month
- Church Safety and Security Month
- Eat Better, Eat Together Month
- Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
- Emotional Wellness Month
- Employee Ownership Month
- Financial Planning Month
- Global Diversity Awareness Month
...and also, there is
- American Cheese Month (what?)
- Bat Awareness Month (oh.)
Let’s take a closer look at these causes and flesh out some free and creative local marketing ideas for each.
1. National Bullying Prevention Month
According to this USA Today article, 49% of children in grades 4-12 report being bullied at least once a month. This October awareness cause is particularly relevant to schools and education-based verticals, but also to businesses whose target market is made up of parents of school-aged children. You can promote this cause through your marketing by:
- Posting stats to social media or providing your followers with anti-bullying resources or organizations they can donate to.
- Donating a portion of your profits this month to an anti-bullying nonprofit.
- Running a contest where kids can submit drawings or stories promoting safety, peace, and acceptance.
2. Domestic Violence Month & Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is both Domestic Violence Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Get involved with a local charitable organization to support these causes and get your name out into the community. Host a Facebook campaign where you donate $1 for every “like” your page receives during the month to a local domestic violence shelter or breast cancer group. Use charitynavigator.com to find one near you.
3. Energy Awareness Month
If you’re in the industry, write an article sharing industry stats or your own perspective, and promote it on LinkedIn with key takeaways in the post itself. Make sure to include a #sustainableenergy hashtag, as this is a specific topic that will get searched by those who are interested in reading about it.
Another approach would be to share some DIY sustainable energy ideas, whether in the home, office, or classroom.
4. National Business Women’s Week
Business Women’s Week is a time to acknowledge and applaud female leaders in business. During this week, post relevant articles, stories, and stats that encourage and empower women in the workforce—like this one we wrote debunking myths about women in business.
Or you may want to conduct interviews with influential women in your company, network, or industry and publish a write-up on your blog.
5. National Customer Service Week
Customer Service Week occurs the first full week of October. This week affords local marketing opportunities both internally and externally:
- Spotlight a different customer service team member each day of this week on social media.
- Offer something a little extra special for your customers, such as a coupon or a branded freebie.
- Give a shoutout on social media to a business that exhibited exemplary customer service for you personally.
- Request feedback about your customer service, whether through a survey, a poll, a social media conversation, or—wait for it— social media poll!
These initiatives will highlight the importance you place on quality customer service, and consumers are attracted to customer-centered businesses.
Observance day marketing ideas for October
As with every other month of the year, October is jam-packed with plenty of national [insert just about anything here] days that can take you 90% of the way when coming up with unique marketing ideas. All you have to do is find a way to tie it back to your business. Let’s take a look.
6. World Vegetarian Day
World Vegetarian Day occurs every October 1st. This is, of course, a great time for restaurants or shops with a largely vegetarian audience to give themselves a good ol’ pat on the back on social media or their website.
But regardless of industry, you can still get creative with this one:
- For the more carnivorous restaurants, offer discounts on vegetarian dishes.
- Health professionals (ideally who are vegetarians), run an AMA via Facebook Live or Instagram Live on vegetarianism
- In your office (after the pandemic has passed), you could have a vegetarian potluck, with a prize to the best voted dish. You could also simply encourage people to be vegetarian for the day and share their experiences on your social media feed.
- If applicable to your business, publish relevant blog posts containing recipes, information, experiences, resources, and more.
7. World Smile Day
World Smile Day is celebrated on the first Friday of October every year. This is ideal for dentists but not limited to them by any means. Promote your best-selling products and services as something to smile about, or use the day to announce the return of a seasonal favorite or new offering.
8. National Cake Decorating Day
National Cake Decorating Day is held every October 10th. Instead of a cake decorating contest, maybe invite your followers to post their cake decorating fails on Instagram or Facebook with a custom hashtag.
This particular neighborhood market didn’t do exactly that, but they did ask their followers to share their favorite confection creations. Remember, asking your followers to share their own experiences and perspectives on social media strengthens your personal connection with them and helps them to feel valued and heard.
9. National Boss’s Day
This Facebook-friendly (and potentially LinkedIn-friendly) holiday occurs every October 16th. You could give a shout-out to your boss. What if you are the boss? All good, choose another boss you know...
10. Get to Know Your Customers Day
Get to Know Your Customers Day occurs on the third Thursday of the first month of every quarter, and only when the earth is tilted at 23.4 degrees (just kidding on that last part). This is a blatantly awesome marketing day in October, January, April, and July. Engage your audience and collect valuable feedback by sharing surveys and short polls. Ask about items or services they would love to see you offering. Like with this example...
...or this one:
You could also search your company’s hashtag or location on social media and find some user-generated content to repost.
General October marketing ideas
If you’re too scattered during October (or all the time) and don’t have it in you to coordinate a promotion during a specific week or day, try out any of these general October marketing ideas that give you some more flexibility.
11. Showcase a fall product or service
While September has songs of summer and November has the whispers of winter, October feels like the only true fall month (P.S. why did I get so poetic just now). This month may be the time to really focus on one of your fall-themed products or services.
- Interior designers can feature fall-themed projects in their portfolio.
- Flower shops can display fall-colored bouquets.
- Restaurants can offer a cinnamon-spiced sangria (anything but pumpkin, please).
- Landscapers can promote fall specials on Facebook or their Google Business Profile.
To get even more participants, make it a limited-time offer available only for the month.
12. Send out a fall newsletter
If you rolled out new customer loyalty programs, ran start-of-school-year specials, or hosted any events during September, share pictures and results in an October email newsletter. You can also include a calendar of any additional specials you are running during the month or for November.
13. Dabble into the creative arts
Show customers how to make their own fall- or Halloween-inspired craft or recipe. A blog post with a DIY video showing how to decorate a mantle with fall flowers and miniature pumpkins, or a newsletter that contains menu ideas for a kid’s Halloween party are great starting points, depending on your business.
There are also plenty of opportunities for a socially-distanced pumpkin-carving or pumpkin-painting night (lots of hyphens in that invitation).
14. Participate in a pumpkin patch
Farmers markets or pumpkin patches are abundant during October, so do a little local research to see if there are any annual events where you can set up a stand, offer a sponsorship, or volunteer at. Being involved in local events and causes is a win-win, as it markets your business for you while facilitating community building.
You could also donate free products or classes as a part of any raffles the event is running.
15. Open your doors
If you’re located on a downtown Main Street of sorts; if you’re in a part of the country where the weather is beautiful at this time; and if it adheres to your community’s COVID-19-standards, literally open your doors. Get some fresh air into your building. This makes your business more inviting to passersby. A chalkboard outside with your specials, an inspiring quote, or a fun fact is an added bonus.
16. National Sweetest Day
According to this source, the National Confectioners’ Association came up with Candy Day back in 1916 as a way to celebrate and support local candy shops and bakeries. During the war in 1917, the message morphed into “Get one for yourself and one for the boys overseas!” Once the war ended, four Michigan confectioners teamed up with the Red Cross to distribute candy to hospitals, orphanages, shelters, and homes across Michigan.
By 1929, it became official: National Sweetest Day occurs on the third Thursday of October and is associated with charitable giving.
Halloween marketing ideas
What kind of October marketing ideas post would this be if I didn't mention Halloween? Many of these ideas are traditional, tried, and true, but with a little brainstorming and brand voice, you can always add that creative twist to catch your customers’ eyes.
17. Embrace the Halloween garb
Get your business in the spirit of the season by decorating your office, store, or even your website and social media pages with all the good stuff: mums, pumpkins, gourds, hay bales, burlap, skeletons, spiderwebs, ghosts, and the list goes on. This is more of a cliche marketing idea, but that doesn’t make it any less effective.
When you’re proactive with your business’s appearance, this signals to customers that you care about the impression you leave on them, and reminds them that yours is not just a business, but a passion. You might even get really crazy and carve your company logo into a jack-o-lantern to place in your storefront with a[n electric] candle at night.
18. Host a candy counting contest
Run a guessing contest to get customer email addresses in store. Put a giant canister of whatever sugary Octobery sweets you choose, and have customers provide their email addresses with their estimate, or write it on the back of their business card. This can be done virtually, too. The winner gets a prize (perhaps all of the candy) ((unless you’re a dentist)) or coupon or discount off their next purchase.
19. Dress up for Halloween
I cringe slightly upon giving this suggestion, but I think this could be a great idea for businesses that cater to children. Plus, you don’t have to be in a full-blown clown suit. Dentists and hair dressers can make otherwise scary appointments more fun with a friendly scarecrow, farmer, or cowboy costume. Clowns and vampires might scare the youngsters, so stick with safer or more neutral options.
20. Host a Halloween costume contest
This one is also pretty cliche but it’s never not a fun time. Have a costume contest for your students, customers, staff, or even customers’ pets. Share the pictures on your blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and ask customers to vote for the winners. The winner gets a prize and is featured in next month’s newsletter.
Who said the costume contest had to be for humans?
21. Participate in a Halloween event
Participating in any Halloween events going on around you—zombie 5k’s, trick-or-trunk nights, kids trick-or-treat afternoon in the office, or any building-wide Halloween activities if you work in a shared space. It’s tough to stop when you’re running a business, but more often than not, the break away from your tasks and the added laughter can actually recharge you and lead you to be more productive in the long run. Plus, the more you can interact with the people in your community, the more you can learn about how to serve them and really make a name for yourself.
Easy, effective, and inexpensive October marketing
Running an October-themed marketing campaign is a great way to authenticate your brand, interact more with your local community, and try out new tools and platforms. While they're fun and creative, they're also effective and can help you to increase your exposure, attract more customers, and build up your reputation. Try out one of these easy October marketing ideas and get yourself armed and ready for your holiday campaigns.
For more monthly marketing ideas, check out our other posts:
- 17+ Free and Creative September Marketing Ideas
- 21+ Free and Effective October Marketing Ideas
- 19 Simple Yet Superb November Marketing Ideas (with Examples)
- 20 Super-Festive December Marketing Ideas
- 15 January Marketing Ideas to Start the New Year with a Bang
- 20 Fabulous (and Affordable) February Marketing Ideas
- 30+ Creative and Cost-Friendly March Marketing Ideas
- 20+ Free April Marketing Ideas to Freshen Up Your Content Calendar
And for a year's worth of marketing ideas, check out this marketing calendar template from our friends at LOCALiQ.