Social Wins, Paid-Search and Display Lose in SMB Marketing Survey

BrandMuscle has released the 5th edition of its “State of Local Marketing” report (registration required). The report is dense and covers a range of small business marketing topics. It also has an extensive discussion of Co-Op/MDF issues. We’ll tackle the findings in multiple posts.

At the highest level the report finds that a large majority (84%) of local businesses surveyed want to learn more about marketing. However, only 29% believe “their marketing program includes a variety of tactics and is up-to-date.”

Websites and social media are the top 2019 marketing priorities. That’s followed by local events, direct mail and email marketing. What’s really striking in the graphic below is the low priority given to paid search and online display. This is undoubtedly about the challenges of proving ROI to local businesses for these channels.

BrandMuscle Local Marketing Report

The report investigates perceptions of channel effectiveness. In the graphic below tactics on the right (esp. upper right) are perceived as effective (and are utilized); on the left are tactics and channels that are not utilized, not perceived as effective or are being reevaluated.

It’s important to point out that this is “perceived effectiveness,” which may not and in some cases undoubtedly does not reflect actual performance — although it may reflect performance for SMBs that don’t know what they’re doing.  Websites, Facebook, email marketing, sponsorships and events are perceived as most effective. Traditional media and Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube are either not widely utilized or are perceived as less effective.

BrandMuscle Local Marketing Report

For purposes of this post, I want to point out one more finding. The survey asked about how local businesses decide on their marketing strategy. The responses are segmented according to marketing sophistication levels.

Past experience was the dominant driver of strategy, followed by ROI analysis and then consultations with third parties. In last place is “marketers on staff,” which mostly indicates that there aren’t a lot of marketers on staff in local businesses.

BrandMuscle Local Marketing Report

Inertia would appear to be the biggest driver of marketing decision-making. In some cases this makes sense, if tactics are working. But in others it may just be sticking with what’s familiar and not experimenting with anything new.

The overall picture conveyed by the report is of an SMB market that wants to learn and do a better job with marketing but is overwhelmed by all the channels and tactics and hampered by a lack of expertise.

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