In December 2015, marketing automation technology company Infusionsoft, along with LeadPages, a maker of landing page software, conducted a marketing tactics survey of more than 1,000 small businesses across the U.S. regarding their use of digital marketing and published the findings in the “2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report.”
The report created from the marketing tactics survey covered five main topic areas:
- Goals and Priorities. What small business owners hope to achieve with their marketing in 2016;
- Challenges. What small business owners are struggling with and seek to improve in 2016;
- Tactics. What tools and techniques small business owners are trying out (and succeeding with) as they move toward their marketing goals;
- Opportunities. What advantages small business owners can seize in 2016 that will help them reach their goals and get ahead of the competition;
- Trends and Predictions. Trends that Infusionsoft and LeadPages predict will come to the forefront of small business marketing in 2016.
“We took our two companies collective knowledge and databases and put together a piece that had some solid research behind it, which we feel will be helpful for small businesses,” said Jake Johnson, managing editor at Infusionsoft, in a telephone interview with Small Business Trends. “The report highlights the fact that digital marketing is changing and that small businesses need to focus on these changes to achieve success going forward.”
Top Insights Gleaned from the Marketing Tactics Survey
Small business marketing can be a lonely job. Nearly half (47 percent) of small business owners handle marketing efforts on their own, the report found.
Digital marketing is far from universal in the small business world. One of the more surprising findings from the survey was that nearly one in five small business owners does not plan to use digital marketing at all in 2016.
Tracking the return on their marketing investment is a major struggle for small business owners. Nearly half of those surveyed said they do not know whether they are marketing effectively, and 14 percent know they aren’t.
“This is an analytics issue,” Johnson said. “Many small business owners don’t know what tools are available to them and how to properly set up and interpret their data streams.”
Following up with leads and customers is also a tough task. Twenty-one percent of small business owners don’t store contact information anywhere while only 24 percent use customer relationship management (CRM) software and 20 percent use an email marketing service provider. Forty-five percent don’t maintain an email list to which prospective customers can opt in.
“I would suspect that most small business owners are focused on a few tactics they’ve learned — social media postings, blogging, etc. — but don’t have an overall marketing strategy for executing their digital marketing tactics,” Johnson said.
Most small businesses still use a fairly unsophisticated digital marketing stack. Forty-one percent use only one or two software applications in their marketing, and another 26 percent use three or four.
About half of small businesses plan to invest more in their websites in 2016, and half plan to increase their web advertising budgets. But that doesn’t mean that analog marketing tactics are dead. About a quarter of small business owners plan to spend more on print ads or direct mail, and 14 percent will spend more on telemarketing or in-person marketing.
Fifty-eight percent of small business owners are using social media in their marketing, but less than half are creating any other kind of content to help them get leads and sales.
Digital Marketing Goals and Priorities
In 2016, small businesses say they plan to look at digital marketing primarily to meet goals at the top and bottom of the customer acquisition funnel. Fifty-one percent of respondents named “driving sales” as a top goal for their digital marketing while nearly as many (48 percent) chose “building brand awareness or conveying information.”
“This heavy focus on the top and bottom of the funnel suggests that many small business owners may be missing opportunities to improve other parts of their customer acquisition and retention process,” Johnson said.
The survey asked which marketing channels small businesses expected to budget more for in 2016. Fifty-one percent listed improving their website as a top priority.
“Given the number of companies who named building brand awareness or just conveying information as a top marketing goal, it makes sense that 51 percent of small business owners planned to spend more money improving their websites in 2016,” the report said.
The overarching theme, according to Johnson, is that small business owners want a “slick-looking website,” but what they need is a sales and marketing strategy to accompany the site.
“It’s of no use building a website if you don’t have a sales funnel and a tech stack that integrates with it,” Johnson said. “There is now enough scale and options for small businesses to put together the technology to make the site work from a sales perspective. You can take a beautiful website and make it do something useful for you.”
Opportunities for Small Businesses
The report emphasized five areas where small business can utilize digital marketing technology in 2016:
- Content marketing;
- Customer relationship management;
- Email marketing;
- Landing pages;
- Marketing automation.
“We see some small businesses starting to use these techniques, and feel that most should do it,” Johnson said. “Our customers who have implemented these practices are experiencing measurable growth as a result.”
Trends and Predictions
Regarding trends and predictions, the report recommended that small businesses focus on:
- The use of paid social placement and mobile friendly assets;
- Understanding the website is a sales tool, not just a marketing brochure;
- Integrating all technology to serve the sales funnel seamlessly;
- Establishing KPIs for data and acquiring the knowledge and tools to derive conclusions from that data.
Johnson concluded by saying, “It can be easy for a small business owner to read a report like this and feel overwhelmed. The key is to focus on one or two aspects initially, do some testing, see what works, and then iterate from there.
Image: Infusionsoft, LeadPages