For all the talk of social media, the importance of the communication revolution and the industry spouting on ad nauseum about how the social web is changing the way we breath, you would think that SMB’s are getting it.
There are some that absolutely are. They have embraced the web and the options it provides. The trouble is that when we parade these success stories around there is a perception that all SMB’s are on board when nothing could be further from the truth at least according to a recent study. In fact most SMB’s are spending more on getting their website right than anything else. How Year 2000 of them!
According to eMarketer, Zoomerang and GrowBiz Media 39% of the SMB’s surveyed were planning to spend 20% or more of their online budget on their websites while only 14% would do the same with social media.
The never-ending saga of trying to get the SMB market to more fully embrace the online space continues. Why is it such a battle?
In the realm of word-of-mouth marketing, SMBs relied mostly on the traditional: 70% said they used in-person networking and 50% customer referral rewards, while a comparatively small 34% used social media.
This is nothing new for sure. What needs to be new, though, is how we as the online marketing industry approach this huge market. I think the fault lies squarely on our shoulders for the initial “all of nothing” message that was given to the SMB and the virtual discounting of how these people have traditionally done business and how they still do business today.
Many local businesses are still driven by referral and word of mouth. That’s a good thing but we talk to them as if that is the antiquated way of doing business. That’s short-sighted and arrogant on our part. What we as an industry should be doing is accepting how these businesses do business, recognizing that the “old-school” way is still effective even in the world of mobile computing and that the digital channel can be an incredible complement and/or supplement to their current efforts. They don’t need to scrap “business as usual” for a digital re-working of their marketing to be more successful. They need help in integrating these new techniques into their old business fabric in a way to strengthen their business.
The result of this compulsion by the online industry to continually move to the next great thing without ever truly figuring out the last great thing is a large sector of businesses trying to figure this out on their own. As a result, they appear behind the curve when you see a chart like the one below.
The reality is they are doing the best they can without much help from companies like Google, bing, Facebook. Twitter and others. I’m sure some of you are saying that these companies are providing services and opportunities for these businesses like never before so how can I say this? Well, that’s just the problem, there is incredible innovation going on all around us by these and other tech players. The trouble is they almost all have a “built it and they will come” approach and even worse they think that because they built something cool from an engineering standpoint that everyone else will get it. Guess what? Most people don’t get it and it’s the fault of the industry from the producers to the service providers for not putting all of this opportunity into words that the regular person can understand and, more importantly, apply.
So while this is a rant of sorts, I think it’s an important one because there is a significant amount of opportunity being left on the table by not truly helping the group that makes up over 90% of the business in the US. If we continue to talk amongst ourselves and pull the “If they don’t understand how cool we are then screw them” act then we will stunt the growth of our own industry.
Everyone talks about scale as the big deal. Well, until we scale beyond the big brands and largest players who are the Madison Avenue type clients then even that growth could be hampered because if SMB’s aren’t getting it do you really believe that all 500 million account holders in Facebook do too?