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SMB marketing survey finds only 3% use outside agency or vendor

BrandMuscle recently released a “State of Local Marketing” report for 2018. The sprawling document captures marketing and ad-spending trends among US small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that participate in co-op or MDF funding programs where brands help subsidize local marketing by their dealers, retailers and affiliates.

The report offers a snapshot of tactics and attitudes among US small business marketers as a whole. It segments SMBs into three categories by number of locations, headcount and revenues:

  • Less than $ 500K in revenues, 0 to 4 employees and a single location (58 percent of survey respondents).
  • Less than $ 5MM in revenues, 5 to 20 employees and 2 to 5 locations (26 percent of respondents).
  • More than $ 5MM in revenues, 21+ employees, more than 6 locations (16 percent of respondents).

The report finds that the vast majority of these small businesses are doing their own marketing in-house. In the majority (64 percent) of cases, the business owner is doing all the marketing himself or herself (which generally means poor execution). Only 3 percent of these survey respondents were using an outside agency or vendor; only 7 percent had a dedicated marketing person on staff.

In 2017, these SMB marketers adopted a range of new tactics. The largest group tried three to six new marketing tactics. However, the top three tactics used by all the groups above were websites, Facebook and either email or direct mail. For the smallest SMBs, direct mail substituted for email marketing in the top three tactics.

Asked about where they intended to add or decrease budget — digital, traditional media, social and (offline) events — majorities in each case were holding the line. However, substantial minorities (40 percent and above) intended to increase budgets for events, digital and social.

Many if not most of these SMB marketers have limited visibility on ROI, though they do have perceptions of effectiveness. There are various data points in the report that suggest at least some confusion or uncertainty regarding the efficacy of their marketing efforts.

One of the more interesting sets of data involves the comparison of marketing effectiveness with difficulty of execution. Messaging was regarded as the most effective digital tactic on the list, followed closely by SEO.

Effectiveness vs. Difficulty by Channel in 2017

Interestingly, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram were all seen as similarly effective. However, Instagram and Snapchat (in particular) were seen as less difficult to use.

The full report can be accessed here (registration required).


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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