The SMB Digital Media Attitudes vs. Adoption Gap Is Closing

While SMBs always tell surveys they’re increasing spending on digital media, they don’t always follow through. But this may now be changing.

According to a survey of 200 SMBs by GetResponse, 70% of SMBs said their digital marketing budgets will increase this year. Only 2% said budgets would decrease.

SMB digital spending growth is largely being driven by social media, with 59% saying networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the primary reason for their spending increases. Following social media was “mobile marketing, either app or web-based” which could be referencing mobile banner ads and the like or owned mobile apps and websites. It is likely the latter.

While small businesses are generally aware of the influence of digital media on consumer buying behavior, this knowledge hasn’t always translated into action. While one LSA survey shows that over half of SMBs find email, SEO, social media and websites “essential” marketing methods, another survey finds that SMBs only account for about 14% of all digital marketing services spending.

Several variables may account for this “attitudes vs. behavior” gap and the still-slow adoption of digital marketing. These include limited budgets, lack of know-how or time, indecision driven by complexity and, in some cases, too-aggressive sales practices among service providers. Too many providers and confusion can reinforce inertia.

Though roughly half of SMBs don’t have formal websites, that’s no longer the proxy for digital investments that it used to be. New CapitalOne data found that more SMBs have a social presence (mostly Facebook) than a website, suggesting that SMBs are dedicating more resources and time to social media marketing than their own websites.

The fact that some SMBs aren’t investing in websites therefore doesn’t mean they aren’t spending on digital as a whole. The great majority of Facebook’s four million advertisers are estimated to be small businesses. The social platform accounted for 43% of all growth in digital advertising in the first half of 2016.

All of this is to say that while SMB attitudes toward digital media and behavior haven’t always lined up in the past, SMBs now appear to be putting more money into digital in actuality — although sometimes in very limited or specific places (e.g., Facebook).

Getting SMBs to broaden their digital investments beyond these few places will be one of the challenges for SMB marketing services providers this year. After all, a more diversified media marketing mix is ultimately more valuable for SMBs — and their providers.

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