The Why Behind DIY: ‘Good Enough’ May Be Good Enough for SMBs

Why do the majority of SMBs do their own digital marketing? A new survey from FreshBooks offers some suggestions as to why.

The study sample included “more than 1,700 self-employed professionals and small business owners … with fewer than 10 employees.” It was conducted online in December 2016.

The survey explored a number of roles and functions, including digital marketing. In the latter category it found that just under 30% outsourced while 50% did their own digital marketing in house. (It’s not clear what’s going on with the remaining percentage.)

It’s worth pointing out that outsourcing was lower with social media (13%) than digital marketing more generally.

Freshbooks survey of SMBs

The number of those who outsourced digital marketing was consistent with earlier LSA survey data. There were three primary reasons (or multiple choice options) for not outsourcing:

  • In-house is good enough
  • Can’t afford to outsource or don’t want to spend the fees
  • Can’t find the right firm

It’s also interesting that among those SMBs outsourcing digital marketing, there was a preference for working with a small marketing firm or independent marketing professional. The report summarized the SMB mindset: “smaller service providers are more likely to offer a better mix of value, fit and a willingness to focus on the needs of even the smallest accounts.”

By implication, larger entities don’t or are perceived not to offer those things.

In contrast to what I argued in another post about the large opportunity regarding SMBs not currently working with marketing services providers, this survey (if it can be extrapolated) suggests the opportunity could be more modest.

The vast majority of those doing DIY marketing felt their own efforts were “good enough” (unlikely) and/or didn’t want to pay a third party. Only 5 to 10% said that they were having trouble finding a marketing firm or agency.

We don’t know how fixed or hardened these perceptions are. We also don’t know what spending thresholds are seen as undesirable or unaffordable. However, if we take the Freshbooks study at face value, only the 5% to 10% (that couldn’t find the right firm) is really the addressable market.

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