Early in March, eMarketer discussed how small and medium businesses in the United States are shifting marketing dollars to digital advertising. Social media is a significant part of the growing digital strategy, though mobile, video and paid search are also getting attention.
In that report, eMarketer touched on the highlights of two different studies, and we’ll dig into them here to learn a little more about the goals, strategies and challenges of ramping up small business digital advertising.
Economic Optimism Means More Digital Ad Dollars
In early 2016, Thrive Analytics released its 2016 Local Pulse Report™, which found that small to medium-sized business (SMB) marketing budgets are rising in general as a reflection of increased economic optimism. Local marketing budgets were up 42 percent (from 35 percent in 2015).
Top areas of growth include:
- Mobile marketing, up 49 percent from 2015’s 34 percent
- Online display, up 44 percent from 2015’s 33 percent
- Paid search, also up 44 percent from 2015’s 33 percent
Newer businesses, especially, are focused on digital media as an advertising channel, while older businesses still see value in more traditional advertising methods. For the SMBs, it’s the local marketing that’s seen as a source of leads and essential to staying competitive, so they’re investing dollars there, and across a variety of channels.
Within digital advertising is social media marketing, which is a must-have for that local business marketing. Many SMBs use social media, and more often than they use websites: 60 percent of Thrive Analytics’ respondents had websites, but 80 percent use social media (mostly Facebook).
A major reason for the imbalance is that social media is seen as a free marketing platform. In fact, only 19 percent of SMBs have paid for it.
And here is where we get to one of the challenges. When SMBs are doing the social media advertising themselves, they have very limited time in which to do it. So, then, to do it effectively, they might have to hire someone to do it.
Another aspect of digital advertising is mobile marketing, which 49 percent of SMBs see as a top area of growth in 2017. However, almost half of their websites aren’t optimized for mobile and the brands often don’t even have a mobile strategy. Further, only 38 percent can accept mobile transactions.
This all sort of culminates into the question…
Are Small Businesses Ready for More Digital Marketing?
According to the summary of Infusionsoft’s 2017 Small Business Marketing Trends Report, perhaps not:
- Seventeen percent of small business owners don’t plan to use any digital marketing in 2017.
- Less than half of small business owners use digital marketing tactics like email and content marketing, digital ads and SEO.
- Forty-nine percent of small business owners handle marketing themselves, and many others say they simply don’t have time for it.
- Small business owners aren’t embracing the tools, such as apps for social media management, analytics and customer relationship management, that could support their digital marketing efforts.
Social media is a top marketing priority – 56 percent plan to invest more in 2017. Almost 75 percent do use Facebook, though less than half use any other social media platform.
Small Businesses Face Challenges in Digital Advertising
Let’s look at some of the specific challenges of integrating digital advertising into a small business marketing strategy.
Most often, small businesses say the biggest obstacle to digital advertising is simply finding time to get the work done. Then, attracting people and turning them into customers is also a significant challenge.
More than 18 percent say converting leads into customers is the biggest hurdle, while almost 15 percent have trouble generating web traffic. Almost 10 percent struggle with understanding digital marketing tactics and trends.
Much of this goes back to the fact that small business owners often take on digital marketing themselves (49 percent), and don’t have the expertise that would make the tasks more efficient.
How Small Businesses Can Win with Digital Advertising
Infusionsoft is more upbeat about small business’ efforts with social media, saying they’re “finally getting the hang of” it. Social media is number one when it comes to preferred tactics and plans for investment in 2017.
Not far behind is digital advertising itself, perhaps helped by social media’s improved advertising platforms. More than 42 percent of small business plan to use it as a tactic in 2017, and almost 33 percent plan to budget more for it.
Infusionsoft offers a few tips for small businesses who want to do more digital advertising with their limited resources:
- Look into marketing automation to do more in less time.
- Create personalized email marketing that stands out in an inbox.
- Employ social media management tools.
- Use content marketing to help customers learn before they buy.
- Integrate SEO efforts.
- Get started with video marketing.
Most importantly, start small, but be precise. No longer do you have to put an ad on TV or rent a billboard to reach the masses. Instead, you can spend very little to target your specific audience. Figure out how to get that right, and you’ll be on your way with digital advertising.