How Do Small Businesses Really Market?

July 1, 2015 · Analysis

Small business owners believe online advertising and email marketing deliver the best results for their businesses, but few of them are using sophisticated enough tracking methods to know for sure, according to a recent survey of 500 small and very small businesses by Street Fight and Thrive Analytics.

The Local Merchant Report 2015 marks the third time the companies have surveyed small businesses about their marketing habits, desires and expectations. Street Fight and Thrive Analytics talked about some of the survey results this week in a webinar.

One point the companies made is that important trends that affect SMB marketing show up in consumer behavior first. For example, said David Card, research director of Street Fight Insights, 60% of consumers currently use mobile devices to search for local information online. And they’re often looking for just-in-time information that influences local purchase decisions: While they’re standing in retail stores, 54% look for deals, 51% compare prices and 39% look at reviews.

But even with these compelling statistics, only 22% of the small businesses surveyed said they use mobile advertising, and just 23% are using geotargeting. When asked which marketing methods they do use, 57% cited online advertising and 51% named email marketing. In fact, more of the small businesses surveyed still use traditional advertising like newspapers (32%) and yellow pages (31%) than mobile or geotargeting.

What do SMBs think works best?

When asked which marketing methods were most effective for their businesses, local merchants said online advertising (55%), email marketing (47%), coupons (31%), and loyalty programs (29%) deliver the best results. But follow-up questions about how they were tracking the ROI of these programs showed that those responses were likely more anecdotal than data-driven: More than half the businesses surveyed don’t use any technology at all to track marketing ROI, and the rest leaned heavily on the basic analytics that come with social media platforms like Hootsuite.

Other interesting findings:

  • Small businesses say they need help with all aspects of digital marketing, with SEO, ecommerce and social media slightly higher on their priority list than search or traditional marketing.
  • More than half of small businesses are getting 3+ calls per week from companies selling digital marketing services.
  • The small businesses surveyed say their biggest challenges with digital marketing are lack of time (42%), lack of expertise (33%), and limited ad budgets (33%).
  • 63% of small business owners prefer to hear from marketing services providers by email, but they want those messages short and sweet. 40% want to hear about cost in the first email, and more than 30% said case studies and data-based stories would help close the deal.

For more statistics, download the entire report at http://streetfightmag.com/product/the-local-merchant-report-2015-b/ ($449).

 

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