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Small businesses and online marketing

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Sunday March 27, 2011 )

What is small business in the USA up to in terms of online marketing? Here’s a glimpse.

American Express OPEN and SEMPO recently conducted a survey among 400 U.S. small businesses that are utilizing some form of online marketing.

A company website remains the most common online marketing technique (go figure) at 86%. It’s great to see that level of participation, but I think quite a few businesses haven’t quite grasped that having a website is only the beginning, otherwise it’s a bit like having brochures you never distribute.

Interesting to see that social media is ranking pretty high at 44%. But then again, Twitter marketing and marketing via Facebook isn’t all that time consuming or difficult – if you’re not involved in either yet; best get to it.

21% also reported they are utilizing search advertising.

Small businesses participating in the survey say they plan to spend (on average) just over $5,000 this year on search or social media advertising (i.e. paid ads). Nearly half of those say they will require some assistance with implementing these forms of advertising.

Another interesting point is that although we live in a very online world, word of mouth is still the most likely way a new customer will find his or her way to a merchant. 82% report this channel as being how new customers find them, followed by search engines at 66%. Only 23% say yellow Pages, newspapers and magazine advertising drive customers to them – but how many of those 23% actually advertise via those avenues wasn’t clear.

Only just over a third are utilizing email marketing (35%) – a lot of money is being left on the table there in my opinion – very few business wouldn’t benefit from using email to reach their current and potential customers and given the email marketing software and services available now; it’s very easy as well as cost and time effective.

12% report using a blog and 4%, podcasts.

28% of those who participated are engaging in search engine optimization in terms of organic (free) results – so there’s still some way to go in raising awareness of SEO from the industry’s point of view. Although I’m sure merchants who do practice SEO won’t be too fussed if it’s quite some time before their competitors do :).

You can read the full American Express OPEN Small Business Search Marketing Survey here (PDF)


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