Posted June 16, 2008 8:48 am by with 7 comments

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By Frank Reed.

In today’s Wall Street Journal , Stephan Tornquist of MarketingSherpa, Inc. discusses the importance of small business and marketing during the current downturn. I don’t like to use the word recession because it seems like every time the word is printed people believe more and more we are in doom and gloom times. Self fulfilling prophecies of this kind should be avoided.

Sure, times are tougher with gas and everything on the rise but does that mean that small business marketing just has to be put in neutral and wait it out? During a survey conducted in February and March of this year (which in internet terms seems like a decade ago) the folks at MarketingSherpa found the following that companies of 100 employees or less (which is the majority of firms in the US) fell into three main categories:

  1. Putting their marketing efforts on hold before budget changes
  2. Taking this time as one of opportunity
  3. Pulling back on their marketing budgets

As a small business owner myself I can see an argument for all three options and it will be very dependent upon an individual firm’s situation but if the budget exists I would have to encourage option 2. Tornquist goes on to give the traditional argument for search because of its efficiencies, measurability and manageability. While this is not anything earth shattering to those in the internet marketing industry it is STILL news to small business owners.

There is still a lot of fear of the unknown for the small business person regarding search marketing in particular. I don’t think the search industry as a whole has done a good enough job of outreach to these businesses. The stories with most search marketing media are on the big boys (Internet Retailer 500 types etc) but that’s actually a small part of the story. Since about 95% of the businesses in the US is defined as small why aren’t there more local / small players taking advantage of search?

One refreshing insight from Tornquist was his expansion on the idea of conversions, content and usability as the focus of search campaigns rather than traffic. Since many small business folks are new to search they may have a somewhat outdated idea of traffic being the only important factor in search. While it means something for sure it’s the right traffic that brings bottom line results to the small business owner.

If you are a search marketing provider the small business community needs your expertise. Adjust your programs to accommodate these folks (without sacrificing quality of course) and help be a part of the solution during this recess ……. Oooops……. I meant downturn.

About Frank Reed

Frank Reed is a partner at bnr marketing in Raleigh, NC. bnr provides SEO, PPC and blog marketing services.  In addition, bnr produces SEO tools like SEMCheck for the search marketing industry. Frank’s blog on internet marketing is at