The preference for particular digital marketing channels, among small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMB), often shifts when the primary marketing objectives change. Recent research has pointed out that social media marketing has consistently been rated the number one digital marketing channel to promote a small business. But other digital marketing channels quickly emerge as the preferred channel when the main marketing objective is new customer acquisition or lead generation.
SMB Business Promotion
In its latest survey market research firm by BIA/Kelsey found that among the 1,000 SMB advertisers they polled, more than three-quarters (77.6%) reported they were using social media to promote their businesses, up from 73.2% last year. Facebook continued to dominate as the most popular social media channel. Almost half (45%) of SMBs indicated they had a Facebook Page and 25% said they use Facebook Ads. The survey data also revealed that nearly a quarter (24.5%) of the survey participants maintained a presence on LinkedIn and 23.9% on Twitter.
The BIA/Kelsey survey data also indicated that SMBs have become more sophisticated in their use of social media as a key method to target and engage with customers. They have moved from a basic social presence to social ads and video and are seeing the best ROI from these formats on Facebook and Twitter. Snapchat specifically is starting to gain favor among SMBs, as this platform is generating the highest ROI.
But less than 18 months ago, when 1,000 SMB’s were polled by Thrive Analytics on which marketing methods had been the most effective in promoting their business, company websites were ranked number one, at 45%. This was 6% ahead of social media and more than 30% ahead of Google Adwords paid search ads and SEO/organic search.
SMB New Customer Acquisition
A recent survey by Borrell and Associates, among a slightly broader survey base of US local advertisers, found that participants rated referrals as the best channel for acquiring new customers, followed by the company website and social media. The firm surveyed, from April to August 2016, 7,564 US businesses that had purchased local advertising in 2016 and found that 85% had a presence on at least one social media platform. They also found that Facebook was by far the social media platform of choice. 96% of survey participants said they had a page or profile on Facebook, 51% on Twitter and 41% on LinkedIn.
SMB Lead Generation
In August of 2016, market research firm Ascend2 conducted a survey among 244 US marketing professionals representing primarily SMBs. They reported that email marketing (45%) and content marketing (45%) were rated the most effective digital marketing tactic for generating leads, followed by social media marketing. The survey also revealed that landing page and website optimization has not reached mainstream status yet. Slightly more than one-third of survey participants felt that boosting the conversion rate of visitors, who were already on the website, was an effective tactic for generating low-cost leads.