December 19, 2014

SMBs Moving Toward Digital, Diversified Marketing

Internet marketing as a small business owner sure has gotten more complex over the past few years. It used to be that direct mailers and newsletters were the way to go. Then you needed a website and an online presence. Now? Well, turns out it takes a bit of everything to be effective and small businesses owners are ready to take it on, changing their marketing efforts to not only be more digital-based, but more diversified, as well.

eMarketer reported on a survey of 300 SMBs in the US conducted by BIA/Kelsey which found that small businesses are adopting a multichannel approach to marketing, and that 40 percent of SMBs plan to increase their digital spending budgets within the next year. Not surprisingly, less than 4 percent said they were would decrease digital marketing. Small business owners know where their customers are and, increasingly, it’s online.

They also recognize that channels are becoming more fragmented. The fact is, we’re all using digital channels, but we’re not using the same ones. That means small business owners now need to focus on building a presence on multiple sites to hit their customers. Marketing efforts must be spread out. This year the average small business owner is using 5.8 channels to reach their customers, almost double from five years ago.

Where are SMBs moving toward?

  • Facebook – 52 percent
  • Newspapers – 31 percent
  • Community sponsorships – 27 percent
  • Email Marketing – 25 percent
  • Google Places – 21.3 percent
  • Video (on website) – 17 percent
  • Online banners – 14 percent

As small business owners trying to stay afloat in a more fragmented market, it’s interesting to take notice of where they’re moving. Facebook is an obvious standout with its low barrier to entry (Matt McGee recently shared 12.8 million local businesses now have business pages), and the promise of an already-existing user base. Newspapers, sponsorships, and email marketing are all areas familiar to many SMBs. And now eyes are turning to Google Places, video (on website) and online banners to engage and entice a potentially new audience, as well.

While it’s arguably harder to be a small business owner right now, it’s also incredibly exciting as the opportunities that exist are great. Personally, I love to see that SMBs are beginning to integrate a multi-channel marketing approach because it’s through the integration of all these different services that you’re really able to stand out and take advantage of the Web’s benefits. It’s also how many SMBs will be able to establish a level of credibility and brand awareness they haven’t had before.

What’s interestingly not on the list above is mobile. According to the survey, for as much talk as the idea of SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) has received since 2010, most SMBs don’t yet understand how to link mobile to their local marketing efforts and may not even be aware of the benefits of doing so. This is definitely an area where business owners will want to pay more attention. There are an incredible amount of tools out there to help SMBs take advantage of mobile and use it attract consumers on the go, that to not leverage mobile really is doing your business a disservice.

How has your marketing adapted to a more digital, diversified audience?

8 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

8 Reactions

  1. Successful SMBs have always had multi-channel approaches. While you might be able to time a channel just right to hit its explosive growth phase, longevity is achieved with a diversified approach.

  2. So that means we need to get social media operations consultants on board, right?

  3. SMBs have to adapt their marketing, social media policy into leveraging multiple channels in order to get successful. There are multiple social networks and avenues, you just can’t reach your customer using 1 or 2 channels as it used to happen in past. Also, this leads to a need of having better content and user engagement which is (at least as per my experience) only possible via using a social media tool.

    Excellent and full-of-insights article. You are right, this is a fast evolving area – and we are living in exciting times!

  4. I agree with Robert Brady – multi-channel approach is nothing new, since integrated marketing has always been effective, regardless of what is in the mix. The breakdown by channel is interesting, but I would prefer to see how each compares to 5 years ago, for a better idea of the actual trend.

  5. Hi Lisa,

    A nearly all of my traffic to my blog comes from social media – the majority coming from Facebook. I believe that it’s important for small business to focus more on building a presence and a customer base on FB and Twitter than any of the the other social channels – as these are the most popular social media channels.

    A a blogger who does most of her own social media marketing, I find it difficult to manage more than 2 or 3 marketing channels, however, I do understand the importance of having several outlets to reach a larger and more diverse audience.

    And a word about mobile marketing – I would like to dive into this as well as I know that this is a huge untapped market for more traffic and exposure. However, like you said, I’ve yet figured out how to incorporate this into my marketing arsenal.

    Thanks for sharing your insight and this info with us. I appreciate it!

  6. Presently, I’m focused on getting the content and writing right. If I’m not doing a great job of connecting with my audience through my words, then it seems few of the digital marketing outlets get worthwhile results. I really liked this article. It seems some smb’s are not sure what digital marketing strategy to employ. I’m right there with them :)

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