Do SMBs on the Web Get More Sales?

A study posted on eMarketer last week declared Small-Biz Success From Deeper Online Interaction which, in turn, leads to more sales for their businesses. The study was conducted by the American City Business Journals and segmented SMBs into five different groups based on their usage of the Web and the types of online activities they conducted.

The groups were identified as:

  • Transactors
  • Investors
  • Viewers
  • Commentators
  • Interactors

According to the study, Interactors (the most active online participants) accounted for only 15 percent of the business owners polled, yet they added up to 24 percent of the sales. On the other side of the coin, Viewers and Commenters, (the least involved with the Web) had the worst business performance of all five groups. Interesting numbers.

The study found that Interactors outpaced all other segments regardless of what type of business they were in. They were also the more likely than average to check business news (79 percent), local and regional news (75 percent) and collect information on their competitors (51 percent). The American City Business Journal used this data to show that ‘those on the Web the most reap the greatest benefits’.

Reading that, two things come to mind.

Increased Relationships = Increased Sales: The survey proves what we already know – establishing a social Web presence allows SMB owners to reach out, engage and connect with customers more easily than ever before. When you’re on hand to answer questions, provide new levels of support and entice customers with new deals, you create relationships that naturally lower the barrier needed for someone to do business with you. People buy from people. It makes sense that customers feel more comfortable buying from SMBs with whom they have a relationship with online.

Risk Breeds Reward: I think it’s more than simply being on the Web that is helping Interactors boost sales. I think the reason Interactors outpace the other categories is because they’re the SMB owners being the most present in their business. The numbers noted that Interactors weren’t just on the Web, they were using the Web. They’re doing competitive research on competitors, they’re checking out local news. They’re the group the most engaged in taking advantage of this new technology and not just “doing what’s always worked”. Deputy Director of Research at American City Business journal attributed Interactors sales success to their being ‘really serious about using technology and the Internet to help their business’. And there’s truth to that. But I also think they seem to be more aggressively hands-on and more apt to trying different techniques.

For me, the survey was less about the importance of Web usage for SMBs (though that’s obviously important), it was more a lesson to small business owners that with risk comes reward. By trying out new platforms and being engaged in your business, you get a leg up on your competition and work to increase sales. You win when you’re able to find your customers where they’re hanging out, whether that’s on Twitter, in social forums, or offline altogether. And you win bigger when you’re actively pursuing these tasks and can do it before your competitors figure it out.

What do you think? Do you think being on the Web increases sales or does being on the Web simply show a fire for trying new things?


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.

7 Reactions
  1. Wow. Viewers are pretty much worthless as far as sales are concerned. Just shows that you need to get in and participate.

  2. Great closing paragraph Lisa. With risk comes reward. Indeed. Like you, and Robert, and most of the readers, the more quality time you spend with your customers, the more likely you’ll be in the right place at the right time.

    I know most people shy away from saying that quantity doesn’t matter. That you should only shoot for quality. There is merit in that, but I was on a sales management project a while back studying sales reps and it was proven out over and over — quantity matters because within it is quality… Social tools will prove this out, too, i believe for one main reason: We’re not all on at the same time or the same platform and you simply need to have more followers, more fans, more prospects in order to reach some of them when you’re online. There is a correlation between good quality and good quantity. More is better as I’ve seen it. There, I’ve said it…

  3. Martin Lindeskog

    The description of the groups sounds similar to Forrester’s Social Technographics

  4. I think participating online is critical to any business success, and especially SMBs. It’s an extremely effective way to amplify word-of-mouth message without much expense besides time. Coming up with the plan for what to do online to help your business is usually the hardest part!

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