Where would we be without the Internet? We’d still be using paper maps, calling restaurants to make reservations, listening to CDs and reading newspapers. And Business.com, like millions of other companies, wouldn’t be around.
Clearly, the Internet isn’t going anywhere, but it’s taken quite some time for the mom and pop shops of America to really get their heads (and wallets) around marketing on this juggernaut. Year over year, small business Internet marketing spend increases, and according to the SMB Internet Marketing Survey by BrightLocal and Chamberofcommerce.com, 37% of these SMBs are planning to increase their spend on internet marketing yet again in 2015.
Of the 736 SMBs surveyed, 29% allocate more than 70% of their marketing budget to online channels. This stat alone is an indication that Internet marketing has become of increasing importance to the local businesses of America as technology and opportunities improve. In fact, since 2013, “there has been a 16% rise in SMBs that plan to increase their Internet marketing spend over the next 12 months.”
The reasons behind the increased spend can be many, but one of the most important is the increasing effectiveness of Internet marketing. 75% of those surveyed find it to be “effective” or “very effective” at attracting customers. Only 20% said it was not effective, and 4% don’t do any Internet marketing at all. In their analysis, BrightLocal said “it is this increase in trust towards internet marketing that has persuaded 37% of SMBs to up their spending levels over next 12 months.”
So which channels are these SMBs finding the most success on? Next to word of mouth, they said that SEO (20%), online directories (15%), and email marketing (10%) are the most effective marketing channels. In our experience at Business.com, we’d agree that email marketing and SEO are effective channels, but the online directories stat gave us pause upon reading. But, given that the majority of the businesses surveyed in this report are self-taught and not in the business of the internet, it’s not surprising that they’d be a few years behind in their perception of what’s working versus what’s trending in Internet marketing.
Though word of mouth is considered to be an offline channel in this survey, review sites like Yelp are contributing to word of mouth marketing for businesses: “the impact of a great reputation which is shared widely online can earn businesses lots more customers.” The growing importance of online word of mouth will continue to fuel Internet marketing spend for SMBs as they realize the impact it has on their business.
Though the majority of the SMBs surveyed consider a phone call to their business as the best success metric of their marketing efforts, 40% of respondents said that traffic to their websites and search rankings are the most important. Another 14% said that website inquiries are of the highest value. When compared to the “in-person” success metrics of phone calls and actual customers walking through the door (45%), the online metrics are the clear winner (54%). This is a clear indication that spend will continue on its upward trend as SMBs pursue improvement in these metrics.
Of the 18% of SMBs that use a consultant or agency to handle their online marketing efforts, only 11% are not satisfied with the results. Most impressive is the respondents that “love them, think they’re brilliant”—up 30% from last year from 9%! This surprised me. Because small businesses tend to have small budgets for marketing, it could be deduced that when they do empty their pockets on an agency, they have high expectations. For so many SMBs to feel satisfied with their agencies not only indicates that the consultants are not only doing their jobs better, but perhaps that SMBs better understand what value they bring and how they do so. This is great news for Internet marketing agencies.
Similarly, with each passing year SMB owners are becoming more interested in Internet marketing, and are making efforts to learn how they can best apply it to their business. Many SMBs struggle with limited resources including time and money, but the majority of those surveyed are dedicated to taking a DIY-approach to Internet marketing. Only 2% say they’re not interested in Internet marketing for their business.
As we get well on our way with 2015, one thing is very clear about Internet marketing for small business: it’s here to stay. This is good news for all of us in the business of making money online, but to me, the most important takeaway from the SMB Internet Marketing Survey is that we continue to see an increased understanding and investment in online marketing efforts across the board from big brands to your favorite family-owned restaurant. With this outlook, the only way to go is up. Here’s to a year full of Internet marketing for ALL!