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SMBs Embrace Digital Marketing; Poised for Growth

new study SMBs embrace digital marketing poised for growthAlthough we are still trying to fully understand the depth, nuances and capabilities of digital marketing, it is a trend that no longer feels like a trend but the norm. While larger companies are presumably in a better position to make this shift in marketing practice, I am please to report that the 2013 Inc./Vocus Digital Marketing Survey found that more than half of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are embracing digital marketing tools. Brendon O’Donovan, Product Marketing Manager at Vocus, gets it right when he says digital marketing “creates a personal connection, establishes a dialogue, and delivers a customer experience previously unattainable with traditional marketing.”

Here’s a rundown of key findings from the survey:

SMBs embrace digital tools. 

Although everyone loves the nostalgia of a little old-school marketing – pasting flyers at the local grocery store and placing a Sunday newspaper ad – SMBs are coming around to the “new,” must-have digital marketing tools. According to the study, a website, social media and email for marketing/promotions were used in 87%, 77%, 66% of SMBs’ marketing strategies, respectively. These numbers make sense, especially given that a website is the de facto focal point of most brands' online presence, and social media is a low-cost tool that can turn big results, whereas SEO practices tend to require a bit more investment of time and resources when it comes to researching and tracking; smaller SMBs might find SEO a bit daunting.

SMBs are practical.

Not surprisingly, the top business objective for digital marketing was to drive sales, ranking a 4.45 on a 1-5 scale - the bottom line is what counts, right? However, identifying usable customer insights ranked at only 3.60 in importance, which seems to be a bit low for the amount of value derived from having a better understanding of your target audience. While sales is an obvious metric, and a rewarding one at that, the insights you can gain about your customers through analytics and data is the real gold, if you will, of digital marketing. Perhaps with more exposure to integrated digital marketing analytics systems such as those offered by companies like HubSpot, SMBs might begin to invest more in these tools.

SMBs are resourceful.

While many SMBs find that they just don’t have the money to hire a complete digital marketing team, this study has some encouraging news. About 30% of SMBs have 2-5 full-time employees working on digital marketing, 35% have one, and 21% have none. While they may not be able to do everything, with the right tools, a small team or even one person completely devoted to an SMB’s digital marketing strategy can accomplish a lot. This is a nice perspective that hopefully helps SMBs eat the elephant just one bite at a time.

The Takeaway

While it seems like the importance of digital marketing – websites, social media, email marketing, SEO, etc. – is talked about to death, it is encouraging to see SMBs begin to adopt such practices in earnest.

As the study shows, it seems that SMBs as a whole are just on the cusp of digital marketing. Though they seem to be keen on social media, there is a lot of potential in tools such as SEO and content marketing that SMBs have yet to fully embrace. Therefore, it would seem that SMBs are poised for significant growth in the coming years as their trust in and experience with digital marketing rises. I’ll be excited to watch as the marketing strategy of SMBs evolves with the evolution of digital marketing.

You go little guys, you go.  

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