9 digital marketing strategies for small businesses

January 30, 2024 | 15 minute read

Mari Smith

Written by
Mari Smith
Mari Smith International, Inc.

Mari Smith is widely known as the Premier Facebook Marketing Expert and a top Social Media Thought Leader. Mari has worked with a wide range of industries over the past 15+ years, providing strategic social media marketing consulting and training services.


Whether you are a veteran business owner or just starting, it is critical to invest in effective online marketing and maintain a strong online presence. There is a plethora of marketing strategies for small businesses available and it can be overwhelming to figure out the best option to move forward with. This guide will break down different options so you can choose the strategies that best fit your business goals. 


1. Set up a Google Business Profile

Google is the number one search engine. When people search for what your business has to offer, you want your company’s name front and center. A Google Business Profile (previously Google My Business) is an easy-to-use tool to help you manage your business’s online presence across Google. This is particularly important if you have a physical location. When your prospects and customers look for you on Google Search or Google Maps, your Business Profile will pop up with all your contact information and a ‘digital storefront.’


Google Business in action

After your profile is set up, you can regularly provide updates, such as news and offers. There’s also a spot for reviews. Reviews are particularly important since one happy customer can lead to many more! Have a system in place to follow up with your customers and ask if they’d be willing to write a review for you on Google (and/or Facebook). Then, provide the direct link(s). Having a few great reviews can make a tremendous difference to converting your prospects to leads and paying customers.


2. Improve your search engine optimization (SEO)

Search is the main way new people find your website. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and craft of getting your website pages to rank higher on search results pages. When you improve your website’s content - and improve speed, as well as making it mobile-friendly and interactive - it increases the quality and quantity of your website traffic.


How SEO works

There are many things you can do to improve your organic (unpaid) SEO. This includes: 


  • Publishing regular blog posts with keyword rich content. Once a week is sufficient, but more if you can. 

  • Consistently sharing content on your social media channels.    

  • Seeking opportunities to guest blog for high-traffic websites. 

  • Having a customer reviews process in place (as mentioned in the Google Business section above). 


Note: Search engine optimization might be an area to invest in with a third-party expert. If you have a physical address, consider hiring a reputable local SEO expert.  

While you want to use keywords and key phrases that relate to your business within the content you create, there’s a balance. Avoid “keyword-stuffing.” Instead, create authentic content in line with your keywords and phrases that search engines will reward.


SEO in action

Online content, especially content created with SEO in mind, helps a small business be found and stand out. Creating your own content, guest posting on other sites, and sharing these posts on social media also helps you establish authority in your industry. Here are the types of content to create with SEO in mind.


Written content

This includes online articles, blog posts, white papers and reports. Anything that can be read online is easily shared on your social channels. However, most social media sites are also very visual. When sharing content, be sure to include a graphic element, such as an image, along with the link to your blog post. 


Visual content

Graphics might be the easiest - and most effective - format to produce. Create eye-catching memes, infographics, charts, illustrations, or even cartoons for your website and to share on social media. Look through your own camera roll for suitable photographs. Plus, you can augment with stock footage from various stock imagery sites.


Video content

The most popular format across most social media platforms is video content, especially short-form, portrait-style 9x16 videos. The video takes up the full screen on mobile devices as if you are using FaceTime. This video format is very easy; just point and shoot.


A few things to keep in mind:


  • Short-form video is typically a few seconds to three minutes long. Formats include Reels on Instagram and Facebook, plus YouTube Shorts and TikTok videos.  

  • Snapchat and TikTok made vertical videos wildly popular. Instagram and Facebook followed suit with Reels. YouTube has Shorts.  

  • It’s fine to create longer videos in landscape format as well.  

  • Recorded video can be made on your phone or using higher-end professional equipment.  

  • Long-form video in landscape can be 3 minutes or longer and most suited to publishing on YouTube and/or Facebook.


Also, livestreaming video is a wonderful way to connect more deeply with your audience and humanize your business. No amount of sophisticated technology can replace being live and in person with others. But the next best thing is live video. Live video is very effective on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.


Audio content

Simple, live, audio-only conversations continue to grow in popularity across social platforms. In 2020 and into 2021, Clubhouse skyrocketed to the front of the social audio scene and, predictably, other tech companies quickly launched. By the end of 2021, Clubhouse plateaued and now caters to certain niche audiences. X Spaces (formerly Twitter Spaces) also appeals to certain niches. Plus, there’s Facebook Live Audio Rooms and LinkedIn Audio events, not to mention countless podcasts.



Starting a podcast is a great way to build an audience. To maximize your reach and impact - and make them easy to share - embed episodes in a blog post on your website, along with show notes. And then share the blog posts across your social channels.  

By creating original content, using the keywords and phrases that best connect with your business, you are “training” Google to send the people who are searching for what you have to offer to your business website.


3. Maximize your reach with social media

Social media platforms facilitate the creating and sharing of information, and developing communities. As mentioned above, social media helps with SEO, getting your company found via search. And, while your social media content can generate awareness - helping with visibility and reach - what you really want is more leads and sales.  

Social media can help you generate qualified prospects and convert them into buyers. You need to post consistently and engage authentically with your audience of prospects and clients. Plus, a good portion of your social posts and all ads should end with a strong call to action to help the customer know what to do next. Examples include “Sign up,” “Learn more,” “Click here,” “Download,” or “Subscribe.” 

But first things first. You need to know your way around the platforms, as well as what and how often to post.


Social media platforms

You do not need to have an account or presence on all social platforms, nor do you need to be active every single day. That’s just not feasible for most small business owners. Rather, pick two, maybe three platforms that you enjoy and where your audience spends time to consistently share content and engage. You can always add more platforms later when you have the resources and bandwidth – so long as you know your audience is on those platforms as well.

Facebook Page for your business

Most small businesses would do well to publish one post per day on their business Facebook Page. If your posts are getting good engagement, try posting twice a day. However, for most business Facebook Pages, it’s better to go with a less-is-more approach. 

Here’s what to consider: 


  • Post once per day; more if you’re getting good engagement.  

  • You can even ease off to, say, five times a week, skipping a couple of days if your reach and engagement is low. It’s counterintuitive, but less is definitely more.  

  • Monitor your Page Insights to see when your audience is most engaged and publish your posts at the peak. 

  • Use Meta’s native Business Suite or Creator Studio to schedule posts. Or use a third-party platform. 

  • Strive to publish more video than any other content for the best reach. Try vertical 9x16 format on your main wall instead of as a Reel format just on Facebook. (Instagram automatically converts all video formats to Reels on the platform. But Facebook has a variety of video formats and Reels don’t seem to perform that well yet, hence try a regular video in vertical format, along with landscape at times, too). 

  • Add five to ten relevant hashtags to your posts.  

  • Include short questions in a simple ‘colored background’ post from time to time. 

  • Include Stories on a regular basis.


Instagram Business Account

Instagram is a highly visual platform – every post should be a compelling image or thumb-stopping video. By combining up to ten images and/or videos, you can create Carousel posts. This format performs well in terms of both reach and engagement.  

Ensure your Instagram account is a Business one and not Personal (or Creator). You’ll get access to more features and insights with a Business account. It’s easy to switch in the settings. Tools like Meta’s Business Suite or Creator Studio can schedule content to both Facebook and Instagram.  

Here’s what to consider for improving reach and engagement: 


  • Post once per day; more if you’re getting good engagement.  

  • Publish more Carousel posts than single images. 

  • Reels are the top performing content on Instagram; do your best to publish several Reels per week, if you can.  

  • Always include 5-10 relevant hashtags in your posts.  

  • Include Stories on a regular basis. It’s fine to cross-post your Instagram Stories to your Facebook page.  

  • Test drive Instagram Live. Connect with your followers, share behind the scenes content, or try launching a new product.



If your audience is more business-to-business (B2B), LinkedIn is the place to be. However, it’s not so much a ‘content machine’ where you’re striving for reach and visibility. Rather, the aim is to go deeper at connecting with the right people and to nurture relationships.  

Certainly, you can embrace all the great features LinkedIn offers such as writing a weekly article, starting a newsletter, or live streaming once a week. Join some groups and have a short list of key contacts that you follow and make time to engage with their content regularly. Still, there are plenty of people publishing repurposed content from their blogs, YouTube channel, and other sources on LinkedIn. 

To get the most out of LinkedIn: 


  • Optimize your LinkedIn profile with a current, compelling bio.  

  • Create a LinkedIn page for your business.  

  • Add new contacts and make the effort to send a personalized message. This can make all the difference in building your B2B network.



Because you are creating video content for Facebook you could easily repurpose those same videos for publishing on YouTube. You can also livestream to YouTube or even broadcast across multiple channels at once, including Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Tools such as Ecamm Live for Macs, StreamYard, or Restream.io are great for this multi-casting purpose.  

Here’s how to create a YouTube channel for your business: 


  • You’ll need to have a Google account first, and then you use that to create your YouTube account.  

  • Optimize the About tab with a good, descriptive bio and links to your other social accounts.  

  • Upload one or more videos per week.  

  • Add a compelling thumbnail as well as an end card with a strong CTA, which can simply be to check out other specific videos. 

  • Include keywords and phrases in your video titles and descriptions for better SEO. 

  • In each video, it is fine to ask your viewers to subscribe and ‘hit the bell’ to make sure they get notifications.



If you’re looking to target a younger demographic, TikTok is a great platform. Not all users are young, but the majority are. TikTok has over a billion active users and is closing in on its second billion. It continues to grow rapidly and provide fierce competition for Facebook and Instagram.  

But TikTok is not for everyone. If you’re creating short-form vertical videos for use in your Instagram Reels, for example, these can easily be published on TikTok as well. Many Instagram Reels have the TikTok watermark on them, indicating users created them on TikTok and shared on Instagram. However, Instagram has stated directly that videos with the TikTok watermark may get less distribution in the feeds. So, it’s best to use a tool to remove the TikTok watermark if you are going to publish the same video on Instagram, or simply use Instagram’s native Reels creator or any third-party video creation tool.  

Here’s how to get started on TikTok: 


  • Create a TikTok account and reserve your company name at minimum.  

  • Explore and get a feel for the culture of this popular platform.  

  • Seek out basic training on best practices to maximize your time here. 


X (formerly Twitter)

X may be the easiest platform to use – just share updates in short sentences and include a photo, video or link, if you wish.  

Here’s how to get started on X: 


  • Create an X account in the name of your business at minimum.  

  • Find and follow key accounts in your industry. You can add accounts to a private list to easily monitor the content they share in one place.  

  • Reply to other people’s tweets and join in the conversation on certain trending hashtags as a way to get started.



If your audience is predominantly female and you have a visual product, Pinterest could be a great place to build a presence. Users create ‘pins’ - visual posts with a graphic or video - and these can be ‘re-pinned’ by others. It’s a tremendous search engine too, and users have high buyer-intent.  

Here’s how to get started on Pinterest: 


  • Create an account on Pinterest in the name of your business. 

  • Set up a few ‘boards’ and add content - or share pins from others to your boards.  

  • Get a feel for the culture and cadence of the platform.  

  • Check out third-party tools to augment your efforts such as Tailwind, which can help you to identify groups in which to be active. 

  • If Pinterest is for you, seek out basic training on best practices.


Sparking and maintaining interest

Once you have the attention of your prospective customers, you have to spark their interest in what you offer. This part can be the toughest, especially if your product or service is not inherently interesting or attention-grabbing. Because digital and social media are all about people engaging with people, strive to humanize your business with real storytelling by real people. Case studies of your customers, key staff members on video, ‘meet the team,’ or behind-the-scenes types of content helps to humanize your business and ensure your messaging is clear. 

As you spark the interest of your audience, you are helping them see why they need what you offer. This is best done by focusing on ‘WIIFM’ - what’s in it for me? Marketing and advertising - especially to an audience of new prospects - should spotlight the benefits more than the features. If you have a product-based business, showcase the product used in real situations.


Contests, competitions and challenges on social media

If your business lends itself to a contest or challenge, this is a fun and effective way to get a lot of attention and build interest. Ideas for contests and competitions include: 


  • How do you use our product? Post a picture for a chance to win.  

  • Go on our scavenger hunt and share your findings.  

  • Name our new mascot.  

  • Submit your creative video entry showcasing your talents. 


You can keep it simple and publish details on your social channels with a link to the official rules on your website. Third-party contest tools, such as ShortStack, Gleam or Rafflecopter, are wonderful resources for when you are ready to uplevel to these kinds of promotions. 

Challenges can really take off when done right. This could be for your audience to commit to a new daily productivity habit, take on a new fitness regime, or to embrace a new healthier way of eating, for example. Be creative and don’t make it too complicated or too long. Challenges can be 7 days, 10 days, 21 days or maybe 30 days at most. Usually, challenges are free to participate in. The easier it is for your customers and prospects to join a challenge and see actual results, the more you’ll attract a decent sized audience.


4. Run paid media campaigns

Prior to social media advertising becoming so popular - specifically on Facebook and Instagram - businesses would invest most of their digital advertising dollars on Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords). Google offers these services under a pay-per-click (PPC) model.  

Since your audience is looking for you online, advertising on Google can be a very good use of your ad budget. But, over the years, as advertising on social media platforms has dramatically risen in popularity and efficacy, it’s become less beneficial, or necessary even, to advertise on Google. Also, per the SEO section above, when you have great organic social media content, this can really help increase your discoverability high in the search results pages.

Still, it can be worthwhile to take at least a portion of your digital advertising budget and allocate it to Google Ads. Seek out training and/or outsource your Google Ad campaigns to a trusted professional or reputable agency. This can be a complicated area to master and you don’t want to waste time or money.


Paid social media campaigns

You’ve probably heard the term ‘pay-to-play.’ Starting around 2014, Facebook and Instagram changed their algorithms so fewer organic posts from your Business Page appear in your followers’ feeds. Businesses used to be able to get amazing organic reach on all Facebook and Instagram social posts, often 100%, even up to 300%, many years back. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Gradually, the algorithms reduced that down to an average of about 5.2% of your audience seeing any given post in their news feed from your Business Page.

So, since gaining organic traction on most social channels has become more difficult, you’ll want to supplement your organic efforts with ads.

The good news is that advertising on Meta’s platforms gives you access to incredibly granular targeting capabilities, allowing you to reach your exact target audience.

Plus, other platforms may have more of your audience members and be more cost effective for you to use in paid campaigns.

To maximize your results and effectively grow your business, invest in ads on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or TikTok. Depending on your audience and which platforms you’re really embracing, you could try ads on LinkedIn, X or Pinterest.

These are the paid digital tactics to consider for the top social media platforms:


Meta: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp

With a Business Page on Facebook, you can access Ads Manager. This hub allows you to create and run ad campaigns across Meta-owned apps. Placements are always automatic by default. That means Meta’s machine learning AI will optimize your ad campaigns to be placed in spots for maximum results.  


  • These are not ‘set-and-forget’ ad campaigns. 

  • You can experiment with paid campaigns.  

  • Getting professional training or hiring an expert or agency will improve your success.



The TikTok ad interface is basically a clone of Meta’s Facebook Ads Manager. The targeting with your TikTok ads is also fairly granular and can be very effective. And the costs can be quite a bit less than Facebook ads. If your customers are younger, consider investing in paid TikTok campaigns and don't worry about regularly publishing organic content.  

A blend of organic and paid digital marketing will get your message in front of the right audience to make them aware of you. 


If you’re new to digital marketing, hold off on paid campaigns until you’ve mapped out a robust strategy including building your customer personas, homing in on the targeting parameters, refining the compelling copy and assets, and understanding the channels you want to use. 

Note: If you do choose to advertise on one or more social channels, you should seek out platform-specific ad specialists. It’s practically impossible to hire a single professional that is masterful in paid media across all social channels. Unless you were to hire an agency with multiple talented professionals working on your various social ad campaigns.


5. Spread the word with influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is when you use thought leaders and experts - people and organizations who have a large, engaged following - to endorse and share your product or service. For instance, if you sell a cooking gadget, you might make a deal with a celebrity chef as an influencer to post about it on social media.


How influencer marketing works

Influencer marketing has grown significantly over the past five years. YouTube, Instagram and TikTok influencers with large followings of fans can command high fees to publish product endorsements. 

While some influencer “stars” may be out of your reach, you can identify ‘micro’ influencers - people who have a reasonable following (5,000-50,000) - on any social channel.  

When you find an influencer you like: 

  • Do your due diligence. Look at their posts on a variety of social platforms to make sure their mission and values align with yours (you may want to do a Google search to discover more about them, too). 

  • Start interacting/commenting on their social profiles. A little engagement now and you will be more recognizable when you contact them. 

  • Reach out and begin a conversation about whether they’d be interested in working with your business to do some paid posts.  

  • Create a contract with details - responsibilities, deadlines - outlined for both the influencer and your company.


More collaborations

Influencers are not the only people you want endorsing your products and services. Try collaborations, joint ventures, or co-marketing initiatives. 

Teaming up with a non-competing organization is a tremendous way to gain visibility from a fresh audience. There are a variety of ways this can work: 

  • It can be reciprocal where you promote the other party to your audience, and they do the same.  

  • Or you join forces to create an event, free webinar, online summit, etc.  


The result: Each partner gets leads. Plus, for social posts, Facebook and Instagram have a dedicated feature for tagging a collaborative partner.


6. Get to know your customers with personalized emails

Almost all of your online marketing should be geared towards generating leads. And email marketing - keeping in touch with prospects and customers through email broadcasts - remains one of the most effective ways to nurture those relationships.  

Keep in mind, email addresses get ‘stale’ for a number of reasons and email deliverability is more challenging as filters have become stricter. However, there is an art and science to email marketing.


The marketing funnel

Many businesses use the ‘marketing funnel’ to reach their target audience and turn them into prospective customers, a.k.a. warm leads. This is the top of your funnel.  

As your prospects get to know you and your offerings, they’ll make their way through the funnel by purchasing at one level, with the potential to spend more money as time goes by. However, we cannot assume prospects fall neatly into a sequential journey through your sales funnel. So be clear on your website, marketing messages and email communications what customers can buy from you. Some prospects and customers might be ready to invest much more than you realize.


Email marketing process

Start with a lead magnet

It’s important to have a number of effective lead generation strategies, such as ‘lead magnets,’ in place. A lead magnet is a free gift that you provide in exchange for contact information, typically an email address (examples include an e-book, PDF report, white paper, short video course, etc.).


Use interactive forms, surveys, polls or quizzes

Some marketers skip this step and keep pushing similar marketing messages to all prospective customers. Yet, with a little ‘list segmentation,’ you can convert more leads into customers. You'll then be able to set up customized campaigns in your marketing automation platform.  

You can do the qualification step at the beginning of the lead generation process - where your target audience is opting in - by asking a few questions. This may irritate some customers, yet those who take the time to answer your questions are ultimately the best prospects anyway.  

Required fields on sign-up forms for more information could include job function or title, company size, revenue range, etc. Try starting with a few form fields – just an email address and a first name to personalize emails.  

You can follow up with email campaigns to request your prospects and customers take a survey, poll or quiz. Marketing automation software platforms will allow you to segment and tag contacts depending on the answers provided in such surveys.


Nurture your leads

It’s not enough to have one lead magnet to get people to sign up. You need to map out an ‘email nurture sequence’ with your marketing automation platform to pre-craft each email in a sequence to release over a period of days or weeks.  

The purpose of the email nurture sequence is to keep building that KLT factor - know, like, trust. That means:  

  • Provide valuable, educational or informative content in your email messages.  

  • Showcase real customers, case studies, and testimonials. FAQs, curated news, and helpful tips are also great for email content.  

Your messages should not be long. With everyone being short on time in today’s world, a succinct and clear message is more likely to be opened and read.


Convert your leads to buyers

Throughout your email nurture sequences, you’ll provide every opportunity to purchase from you, without being too overbearing. Including emails in your sequence that highlights a fast-action bonus, or drawing attention to scarcity and limitations, can help to increase conversion. 

You’ll generate both leads and revenue with your marketing efforts with a solid email nurture sequence. Some prospects who are ready to make the buying decision don’t need to first consume your lead magnet. 

Also, if you have a physical store, your conversion process would happen in person. Or some small businesses may offer phone appointments, free consults or free trials. There are many ways to convert prospects into buyers. 


7. Create an affiliate program

If your product or service lends itself to providing commissions, consider setting up an affiliate program. Through affiliate programs, your biggest fans, collaborators, and partners have a monetary incentive to recommend your product or service to their community and customers.


How affiliate programs work

Having an ‘army’ of empowered affiliates is like having your own sales team.  

To create an affiliate program: 


  • Decide on your pricing and commission. You can create different tiers for different products and affiliate relationships.  

  • Choose an affiliate management tool. There are many easy-to-use options, such as Tapfiliate or FirstPromoter to help you handle the backend logistics. 

  • Recruit your affiliates. The first place to find ideal affiliates would be your existing happy customers.  

This type of arrangement does not cost you anything and you only pay a commission when your affiliates make a sale.


8. Offer an online loyalty program

A loyalty program isn’t so much about proactive inbound marketing. Rather, you’re incentivizing your existing customers to keep shopping with you by offering them gifts, points, rewards, etc. The goal is to motivate repeat purchases, while building trust and turning customers into super-fans.


How loyalty programs work

You’re likely aware of such programs used by your local grocery store, drug store or credit card company. When you make a purchase with your club card, you gather points, which can be redeemed for future purchases.  

To create a loyalty program: 


  • Give it a name that is aligned with your business.  

  • Decide how you are going to reward your customers. For instance, a local coffee shop may offer a card that gets punched with each purchase. After every 10 purchases, the customer gets a free coffee or pastry.  

  • Create content - on your website and through social media - announcing your initiative. Promote it regularly. 

  • Add a digital sign-up option on your website and/or notices about the program in your physical location. 


A loyalty program is another way to increase advocacy from your current customers. To reap all the benefits of offering benefits, find a way to track sign-ups and responses (rave reviews, perhaps) to the program.


9. Provide online giveaways, coupons, and incentives

Whereas loyalty programs are great for existing customers, online giveaways, coupons, and incentives work for both new and current customers.


Online incentives

The easiest way to deploy an online incentive is on your website. When someone visits, you can place a prominent popup offering a 15% discount code, for example, in exchange for their email address. This is a wonderful way to build your email list and convert visitors to buyers. If you have a physical location for your business, perhaps you can ask customers for their phone numbers and/or email addresses to keep in touch with special offers and news. 

You may also want to offer an incentive for writing a review. For instance, “Review my business and receive a free gift as a thank you.” 

There’s also the popular method of getting a free gift on your birthday, such as a dessert at a restaurant, or a beauty product, chocolates or just a special voucher.


The key to making a positive impression

Once you get someone new on your email list, keep them engaged by sending them a welcome letter with helpful and valuable content. This is not an opportunity to sell, it’s all about making them feel happy they trusted you with their contact information. Valued customers become repeat shoppers.


Choosing the right digital marketing strategy

The digital marketing world is a fast-moving space. Platforms, features, and tactics can change often, which means you need to stay flexible and nimble, and adjust your strategy when needed. At the same time, strive to keep your approach as SIMPLE as you possibly can; otherwise, digital marketing can get incredibly overwhelming. Pace yourself!  .


Start with picking just one or two ideas from this extensive guide and begin to implement. Then, come back to this resource time and again and keep chipping away by rolling out more of the ideas presented here. 


It costs FIVE times as much to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one.  


Remember, it’s much easier and 5x less costly to retain your current customers than it is to attract new ones. So, although you certainly want to both nurture your existing customers as well generate new business, one of the key areas you have the most control over is providing absolutely stellar customer experiences. When you do this, your customer base becomes your built-in word-of-mouth marketing tribe and it doesn’t cost you anything for referrals.  


And finally, to stay on top of the changing online marketing landscape, subscribe to a few excellent blogs, email newsletters and/or podcasts. Here are a few suggestions: Social Media Examiner, Inside, MarketingProfs, eMarketer, Content Marketing Institute, and Social Media Today.

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