Email and Social Media Preferred SMB Digital Marketing Channels

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Small business owners and marketers at small-to-medium-size businesses (SMBs) may not always have the same skills and resources as their larger counterparts, but that doesn’t mean that digital marketing is not important to them. To find out which digital marketing channels are preferred among US SMBs we looked at the results of three SMB digital marketing surveys conducted by digital marketing outfits Clutch, LSA Insider and WBR Digital / Emarsys over the last 12 months.

Note that this post is about the use of digital marketing channels by US SMBs, not the effectiveness of these channels, which is often lower, primarily because many SMB’s do not properly track and evaluate the ROI of these channels. We compared the survey results of the top four channels used by SMBs for active digital marketing ‒ email, social media, organic search/SEO and social media ‒ and excluded websites. The main take away is that email and social media are currently the preferred digital marketing channels for SMBs followed by organic search/SEO and paid search. Social media was rated most used digital marketing channel by the Clutch and LSA Insider surveys and least utilized channel by the WBR/Emarsys survey.

SMB digital marketing

WBR/Emarsys Survey

In February and March of this year, content and demand generation services provider WBR Digital and email marketing automation platform Emarsys surveyed 254 SMB digital marketing professionals in the US and found that email continues to be a powerful digital marketing channel. According to WBR Digital’s survey data, 81% of survey participants cited email marketing as the preferred channel for customer acquisition.  Emails popularity was followed by that of organic search/SEO (62%) and paid search (59%). Interestingly, in this survey, paid search (59%) is not that far behind organic search/SEO (62%). Social media (51%) was rated popular by far fewer survey participants.

Clutch Survey

Survey data collected in January of 2016 by market research firm Clutch suggests that overall SMB commitment to digital marketing remains low. Less than half of SMB’s in the US engage in digital marketing activities, according to the firm’s research

The SMBs participating in the Clutch survey choose social media as the digital marketing channel of choice for 2016. Specifically, nearly three-fourth (73%) of SMBs were using social media, according to Clutch. 57% of survey participants cited email as their preferred digital marketing channel followed by organic search/SEO (38%) and paid search (31%).

While social media is a good starting point for SMBs getting involved with digital marketing ‒ especially for those lacking staff and other resources – social media is most effective as part of a larger digital marketing strategy. It should also be noted that managing a social media channel is much more than setting up a free company profile. Overall, there is room for growth in SMB social media usage, according to Clutch, since only 57% of SMBs have a social media presence. The Clutch survey results show that Facebook (89%) tops the list of most popular SMB social media platforms followed by Twitter (49%) and LinkedIn (42%).

LSA Insider Survey

At the LSA SMB Digital Bootcamp in LA last June LSA Insider surveyed about 100+ local businesses to get a sense of what digital marketing channels they use. Their survey data revealed that social media (66%), email (61%) and organic search/SEO (55%) were the top 3 digital marketing channels used by US SMBs. An interesting observation here is the wide gap between organic search/SEO and paid search. The LSA Insider data also revealed that two-thirds of the survey participants were DIY practitioners.