Here's Why Small Businesses Aren't Hearing You

on under Digital Strategy.

According to a recent study by Cargo, 44 percent of small businesses claim they aren't being marketed to effectively. In other words, odds are good that almost half of the marketing dollars you spend on small business are being thrown out the window. Why is this money going to waste, and what can digital marketing agencies do to change it?

Let's find out.

The Message Doesn't Connect

Are you sending the right message to small business owners and decision makers? Your "audience profile" might not fit reality. Here are a few important takeaways from the Cargo study mentioned earlier:

  • They are optimistic - It's probably a good idea to stay away from mentioning "these troubling times," the recession, or anything similar. While optimism about the future has dropped by about 10 percent compared with 2012, that still means 65 percent of them are either extremely optimistic (23 percent) or optimistic (42 percent). Another 27 percent are neutral, meaning only 7.3 percent are pessimistic.
  • They want to spend money on you - If it seems like small businesses aren't interested in spending money on marketing, it's an illusion. Twenty-six percent of small businesses plan to spend more on marketing, PR, and advertising over the next twelve months. That figure is higher than any other category, with the runner-up being "business development," at 25.3 percent.
  • Employee costs are the biggest challenge - When asked which three challenges were most concerning, the cost of employee benefits (38.6 percent), finding a competitive advantage (37.3 percent), and deciding how to market the product (28.6 percent) topped the list. Marketers who can find a way to leverage this will find a favorable position in the marketplace.
  • The single hardest part of running a business: You'll cover this for fifty percent of small businesses if you address cash flow (18 percent), forecasting expenses (18 percent), and keeping customers happy (14 percent).
  • They want to be understood and supported - When asked what frustrated people most about the marketing campaigns that targeted them, fifty percent were frustrated with the speed of response (21 percent), how well they understood their business (17 percent), or customer service (12 percent). Similarly, when asked which marketing mistakes were most common, the top three were poor customer service, failing to understand needs, and trying to sell instead of communicate.
  • What SMBs want from marketing messages: When asked which three things brands should change when marketing to SMBs, the top three responses were "show how the product benefits my company" (46.6 percent), more relevant messages (42 percent), and easier access to info (38.6 percent).
  • They do their research - 90 percent of SMBs research three or more alternatives when they choose to switch brands. Eighty-three percent spend more than a week researching options.
  • Search engines are huge - Search engines were the top source of information that SMBs used to research options, with 51 percent of them saying search engines were "very important."
  • PC is still king - Eighty percent of the respondents said they "can't work without their laptop/desktop PC." Fifty percent said tablets are helpful but they don't depend on them, and a full 37 percent said they didn't own tablets and didn't think they mattered. Still, 61 percent said they used a tablet or smartphone at least daily.
  • Everybody uses email - Ninety-nine percent of them said that they used email for business every day.
  • Monday tops internet use - Forty-five percent said they were online the most on Mondays. The most active time of day was between 10 AM and 2 PM. Forty-two percent said they spent 1 to 3 hours online every day, and 17 percent said they were online for over five hours every day.

In short, if you want to reach small businesses, you'd better make them feel supported and understood, target them with relevant messages, give them more access to information about what you have to offer, and make the most of search engines and email. Reach them when they're most likely to be online, and recognize that they are going to do plenty of research before they settle on an option.

Image credit: Ran Yaniv Hartstein

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