Small businesses have more marketing options than they have ever had before. Low barriers to entry on marketing automation and social media platforms present massive opportunities for smaller businesses, yet it also means increased complexity and more channels to keep on top of. This can be a big problem for smaller marketing departments which can quickly become overwhelmed.
To give an idea of the scale of the problem, just last year the number of marketing technology companies doubled from around 2000 to 4000. In our infographic of digital marketing tools we identified 35 categories. That means way more options and loads of great new tools, but it also means there are twice the number of solutions to get your head around. How are you meant to know which tools you need and which are superfluous?
Understanding trends across the key marketing techniques for small businesses will be crucial to your success in 2017. A report from Infusionsoft and Leadpages surveyed more than 1,000 small business owners to find our their goals, priorities, challenges and tactics. This information is invaluable for small business, as it provides a way to benchmark where you are at and see how you can improve.
Over half of SMEs rated in this latest research said driving sales is a key goal for their digital marketing. Surprisingly over 1 in 5 aren't going to be using digital marketing at all, which surely will leave them missing out on a huge number of potential customers in all but a select few industries. After all, even Luddites United have a Facebook page.
When asked what marketing channels you expect to allocate more budget for next year most SMEs reported increased investments in their websites and social media. We can't fault this, as they are key areas which can help drive growth. However we repeatedly find email marketing driving the highest ROI of digital channels, so we think it might be wise for more of the three-quarters of SMEs that aren't planning on increasing their email marketing budgets to reconsider.
When asked what their biggest digital marketing challenge is going forward, SMEs gave a diverse set of answers, suggesting there are many areas presenting problems. Turning leads into customers was the most pressing issue, with generating web traffic in 2nd and turning web traffic into leads in 4th. This makes it clear that SMEs need a plan that takes in the whole marketing funnel, which helps fill the funnel with traffic, interact with that traffic and then convert it to sale. One in ten said that they had a problem retaining customers. This is exactly what the Smart Insights RACE planning system does, helping your plan strategies to increase your ability to Reach (attract web traffic), interAct (turn traffic into leads), Convert and Engage (retain customers).
When asked if their marketing efforts are effective, a whopping 48% said they didn't know. That means small businesses need to get an awful lot better at utilising their analytics data to understand the value of different channels and model where they are receiving their revenue from. If you don't know what channels are performing the most effectively you will make sub-par decisions about where to invest your resources and won't be able to grow as fast as you otherwise would.
Knowing what kind of marketing channels are effective for small businesses can help you target your resources and benchmark your efforts against the rest of the sector. Over 70% of SMEs had websites set up, whilst social media and digital advertising were the second most common form of digital marketing employed. Email marketing came in third, which is an area we suggest SMEs should look at if they aren't already using it, because of its track record of delivering ROI.
We've seen that small businesses all too frequently are missing out on some big opportunities. Most don't use email marketing, which could be a great way for them to overcome their biggest challenge: turning leads into customers. Too many aren't measuring the effectiveness of their marketing effectively and some aren't event using digital. This will leave them missing out on some huge opportunities. Digital marketing levels the playing field and means for the first time SMEs can compete with the bigger players. SMEs need to seize the moment and plan to make the most of it.
If you want more insights about SME/SMB marketing, you can download the full Small Business Marketing Trends report from Infusionsoft. For in-depth, practical guidance, see our Complete guide to Digital Marketing for startups and small businesses.
By Robert Allen
I am the Editor of Smart Insights. I manage the Smart Insights blog and write on a range of subjects- Marketing Technology trends and latest tech developments are a regular focus, as well as exploring key marketing concepts. You can get in touch with me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.
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