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How Are SMB’s Using the Digital Space?




The main reason this post has been put together is based on an experience I had literally this morning while talking to a small business owner. While we (as in the online marketing industry) talk about all the advancements and opportunities that await SMB’s in the online space we often forget to integrate the human factor into the equation. In other words, we can talk until we are blue in the face about the right things to do regarding Internet marketing and the right options for SMB’s to invest in but unless we can magically add hours to the day these sermons may be falling on ears that are not deaf but simply overwhelmed.

A recent study from Vocus and Inc Magazine revealed what tactics SMB’s are turning to the most and the results show that the vast majority are getting by with the bare minimum.

SMB's Digital Marketing Choices

Everyone would agree that a well thought out website with clear calls to action is the foundation of any strong Internet or online marketing strategy. What happens quite a bit, however, is that the business owner is also the marketing department and can be the customer service department and the list goes on. As a result, this is often all they can handle.

I have personally worked with three SMB’s recently and their story is eerily similar. They want to know more about Internet marketing and they are a bit fearful since there is a lot to know. Then when I try to give them even the basics of the discipline their eyes glaze over. This happens even as I try to wash out any industry speak or any terms that smack of being ‘technical’.

Then comes the frustrating part for everyone. A solid plan is worked out and agreed upon and everyone feels good. Then it’s time for execution. Execution takes money. With most SMB’s (and businesses in general) cash is king. And in this economy which is certainly turning around for the big guys the guys on Main Street are still finding it difficult.

Notice I didn’t say impossible or without hope. Oftentimes, there hope lies in trying something new to market their business and services. Then we hit the “the mind is willing but the wallet refuses to cooperate” part of the equation. In other words, reality.

Just looking at the list above, most SMB’s can grasp the logic of being involved in almost all of those activities if the tactics make sense for their vertical. What happens though is that the reality of time and capital come into play quickly and force them to play only where they can and the results often fall short of their expectation and, worse yet, their need.

So we come to the million dollar question that is asked by SMB’s and consultants alike all the time: What is considered a strong basic platform, how much should it cost (reasonably) and what kind of ongoing commitments are required to build success?

Mileage will vary on how these questions are answered since most SMB’s are not able to be put into a cookie cutter process (although plenty of local Internet marketing providers try to do this in order to scale their own business).

While this may seem obvious to many it’s obviously not something that has been solved since we have been talking about similar issues for close to 20 years now. So is the SMB relegated to a web presence then doing anything it can do for free? In some cases yes in others no.

I could rattle off my opinions as to what might be a solution here but I would rather turn this over to the experts; our readers. Do you have an answer to the SMB troubles in the Internet space? When it comes to the SMB market should the Internet industry continue to fish or cut bait? Since cash is scarce resource will only those who can manage a self-serve approach be the ones who conquer the online space?

Let’s get your thoughts.

  • Marco
  • Helen Taylor

    A great post Frank. Could I just add a couple of points (sorry if you think I’m being cheeky)

    There are some big differences between B2B business promotion and B2Client. I would go so far as to say that in some B2B situations SEO is a complete waste of time. Optimizing yourself on Linkedin and getting presence on your local community business websites (Chamber of Commerce etc.) is about all you need. B2Client however probably needs exposure on page one of the search engines and in other social media outlets.

    Here’s the second point. Some very serious (self important if you like) areas of trade will not likely look or find for your services on Facebook – and if they did find you on Facebook “by accident”..there is a chance that exposure there would actually cheapen your brand.

    It’s all about fitting your campaign to your profile.

    SMB’s with limited budgets could do better than understand the basics of SEO themselves, if not to actually do it but to understand what might be being done on their behalf.

    I’ve used Ultimate Demon pretty extensively over the past 14 months in my business (a temp agency for clerical staff) and found it does the job very well if used correctly. I have friends who swear by social media, which I also use, but trying Twitter and Facebook in particular was a disaster. I guess it just isn’t the place people look for admin staff.

    Helen