Two Events Illustrate Widening Gap between Marketers and SMBs
October 15, 2018 | Contributed by: Greg Sterling
Last week we held two back-to-back events in New York at Yelp’s offices. The first, Localogy, was for agencies and focused on advanced local marketing tactics and other issues, such as automation and machine learning. It was a great event and many of the attendees were especially appreciative of a highly technical presentation from Moz’s Russ Jones on data-driven landing pages.
Our SMB digital marketing bootcamp took place the next day. It featured similar topics, but presented in the most basic way to local business owners. Reflecting on the two events over the weekend I was struck by the widening gulf between the technical sophistication and demands of digital marketing and the struggle of small business clients to understand how everything fits together — let alone DIYing any of this.
While we do see some very sophisticated local business owners at these events, Friday’s gathering brought together a group of people who were grappling with issues at a basic level:
- How to capture and respond to reviews
- How to use GMB
- Basic email marketing
- Capturing customer information
- Basic questions around Facebook advertising
As I have at all of these events, I spoke to numerous small business attendees. I’m always struck during my conversations with these folks by several things:
- Business owners need basic, trustworthy information about online marketing
- They don’t know where to get it
- Even if they intellectually understand what they should be doing they struggle to execute because time and personnel constraints
- Most of the people talking to local businesses don’t speak their language, they speak jargon
In fact, from my observation, most of the companies trying to sell services to local businesses owners lack basic “empathy” — to use the overused word. They see local businesses in terms of “acquisition,” “retention” and “churn.” They tend to see them as numbers in a spreadsheet or on a dashboard and not as human beings facing basic challenges.
It’s my conclusion that most of the SaaS companies and marketing companies serving the “SMB market” simply don’t care at a basic level about the success of their customers. They just want their money.
The logic of the market creates this situation; it’s not efficient to spend lots of time with SMBs — talking to them, understanding their issues and delivering a high level of service. That’s simply not profitable in most cases. I get it.
But these business owners really need help from people they can trust, who are truly trying to help them — not just sell them. And while machine learning and automation may make DIY online marketing eventually simpler for local businesses in some cases, I’m not optimistic. I don’t see a solution to the challenges facing SMBs any time soon.