David Kirkpatrick

SMB Marketing in 2013: 85% of SMBs to increase use of email

January 18th, 2013

In part one of this blog post, Rick Jensen, Senior Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Constant Contact, provided his thoughts on where SMB marketers should focus their efforts in 2013.

Both of these MarketingSherpa Blog posts were prompted by research from AWeber, which found 68% of small businesses plan on increasing the marketing budget in 2013. That prompted me to reach out to experts in the SMB sector for tips and tactics specific for SMB marketers.

Today’s post offers more details from the AWeber research, along with more insight from industry experts.

The AWeber research was conducted during November and December of 2012, via an interstitial greeting AWeber customers received when logging into the company’s system. Visitors were invited to participate in the research, and 3,159 completed the survey. The methodology included randomized multiple choice options presented to respondents.

Here is an infographic summarizing the results of the survey:

What's in store for small business?
Data and infographic by AWeber


Email is the SMB marketing foundation

Hunter Boyle, Senior Business Development Manager, AWeber, says the survey found email was the main marketing channel for SMB marketers. (Hunter will be speaking in an industry perspective session – “Breathing Life (and ROI) Back Into Your Email Marketing” – at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 in Las Vegas).

He explains, “The important channels haven’t changed radically. Email is still the backbone of the SMB marketing plan, with 85% of SMBs increasing their use of email this year. Improving websites and blogging were both highly ranked, followed by increases in the major social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and online ads.”

“Print ads and trade shows had some of the biggest decreases, which points to SMBs trying to stretch the value of every dollar with more affordable, measurable channels. We look forward to seeing how those allocation changes will impact revenue in our 2013 year-end survey,” Hunter says.

Hunter adds that SMB marketers should be thinking about a variety of marketing tactics and strategies:


Design counts

From a tactical standpoint, designing for mobile and tablets, especially with email and sites, is a major priority. User experience has a huge impact on conversions and engagement, so I’d put responsive design for digital channels at the top of the list.


Get personal

At a broader level, SMBs should also play up the personal approach in their content marketing. It’s a unique advantage that distinguishes them from the biggest brands and chains, and we all want to do business with real people, not megaliths. So their marketing content in all channels should be valuable, helpful and personable.


Email shows ROI

The best channel for SMBs remains email marketing. That may sound self-serving, and we all know email isn’t as sexy as social, but research continues to show a $40 return for every dollar spent. It’s hard to argue with the affordability, ease of use and ROI – three keys for any SMB. For example, this small natural products business averages $2,000 in sales per email.


Combine email and social media

Better still is coordinating email with social media, because the personable, one-to-one approach and list building work hand-in-hand to cultivate deeper relationships. Authenticity is one of the biggest advantages SMBs have against giant companies. So a content marketing strategy that blends email, social channels and optimized sites/blogs is the winning formula these days, as this local coffee company shows.


Don’t forget about mobile and video

SMBs should also note that mobile marketing and video are becoming increasingly accessible. These channels aren’t just for big Madison Avenue brands anymore. While many SMBs are still nailing down email, social and SEO, the falling costs of mobile and video marketing should entice more SMBs to experiment with these channels in the year ahead.


I also had the chance to speak with another industry expert with a different perspective on where SMB marketers should concentrate their efforts.


Go local with 2013 marketing

Gail Gardner, Small Business Advisor, GrowMap.com, provides tips across a number of marketing channels, and then explains the value of focusing on marketing locally for SMBs (and how that strategy can provide a leg up over enterprise marketers) in our interview.


MarketingSherpa: What marketing channels should be the focus of SMB marketers in 2013?

Gail Gardner: Most small businesses still need to focus on the basics first. They need a Web presence, but as long as they own their domain, they should consider putting it on a site that already reaches their target audience. They should let those who specialize in usability, content marketing, SEO and driving traffic through social media do the lion’s share of the work. They do NOT need their own individual site or blog because if they do not have the time, desire or resources to maintain it and get it found, it will do them little good.

They need to build their list and learn to use autoresponders and email marketing more effectively. Many do not realize that most are not doing this well, and many are not doing it at all. They need to be testing subject lines to increase open rates and making their copy more compelling.

LinkedIn is the most important social network because any businesses’ highest conversions come from personal recommendations. If you want more customers or clients that come already ready to hire you, LinkedIn is the place to make that happen. It can be used for lead generation and to create local small business groups.

Everyone should use Twitter because it provides the easiest way to get past gatekeepers and introduce yourself to influencers. It is also the fastest way to spread content to influencers with whom you have relationships. Using a combination of Twitter and Skype is how influencers make things happen quickly.

Pinterest can generate sales and drive massive traffic easier than most other platforms. If you sell products or can think of creative ways to use images to attract customers, focus some of your efforts here.

If your target market is the general public, you need to be creating SHORT videos. YouTube has the largest audience, but if you create videos you may as well distribute them on all video platforms.  According to the National Adult Literacy survey, an estimated 23% of American adults are functionally illiterate. Almost half of Americans have not opened a book since leaving school. Their attention spans have been conditioned by ever-shorter television programming and commercials.

Wistia measured completion rates for 30-second videos is close to 90%, but it drops to barely more than 50% if the video is two minutes long. (Video brewery provides excellent video stats.)

More advanced small businesses might want to add these other important social networks.


MS: Are there channels that might be more valuable for SMB marketers than enterprise marketers?

GG: Anything that you can target locally. That includes directories, blogs, Twitter and any other social network that has locations in it. Why this is critical to small business success is explained at http://GrowMap.com/twitter-local.


MS: What are some maybe surprising, interesting or cutting-edge marketing channels, strategies and specific tactics that SMB marketers should be aware of in 2013?

GG: Small businesses should put aside the idea of competition, and focus on collaborating with other small businesses to educate their local communities on the benefits of diverting consumer spend from corporations and big box stores to independent, local small businesses.

There is no competition when you focus on quality and not price. As former competitors succeed, they create stronger demand, so instead of fighting over a limited pie, you are sharing a larger one.

They can pool their resources to advertise locally, cross-promote, and share case studies showing how buying local supports community needs and creates jobs that pay a living wage. Local First research showed an additional $30 out of each $100 stays in the local community to recirculate. Other local community studies have confirmed these results.


MS: What is your single best piece of advice for the SMB marketer planning the rest of 2013?

GG: Instead of focusing on maintaining organic or paid search traffic from Google, focus on finding or creating a local community site to join where local people go to interact and recommend each other. Be the kind of excellent business that people want to recommend, make that easy for them to do, and develop real relationships to make sure you get recommended.


Related Resources:

SMB Marketing in 2013: 68% of small businesses to increase marketing budget

Marketing Research Chart: Engagement rate of local mobile marketing tactics

68% of Small Businesses Plan to Increase Marketing Spending in 2013 (via .dotstoc)

2013 Predictions: B2B Will Finally Stop Ignoring 80% of Small Business (via Directory Journal)

Small Business Priorities for 2013 (via Directory Journal)

Marketing Research in Action: 84% of SMBs saw increase in business thanks to mobile marketing

Starting from Scratch: 5 Steps to Develop and Grow an SMB Strategy

David Kirkpatrick

About David Kirkpatrick

David is a reporter for MarketingSherpa and has over twenty years of experience in business journalism, marketing and corporate communications. His published work includes newspaper, magazine and online journalism; website content; full-length ghosted nonfiction; marketing content; and short fiction. He served as producer for the business research horizontal at the original Office.com, regularly reporting on the world of marketing; covered a beat for D/FW TechBiz, a member of the American City Business Journals family; and he provided daily reporting for multiple LocalBusiness.com cities. David’s other media and corporate clients include: USA Today, Oxford Intelligence, GMAC, AOL, Business Development Outlook and C-Level Media, among many others.

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  1. January 18th, 2013 at 18:48 | #1

    I agree with Gail on going local. Everyone goes for generic Google search terms. Google has gone to the Fortune 500 companies. Instead, a SMB should focus on picking up local business.

  2. January 21st, 2013 at 10:28 | #2

    Driving lots of traffic is great, BUT it has to be Traffic that is relevant to you. Once you have the traffic, then what? Sure it gets you brand recognition. But what about the bottom line? CONVERSIONS.

    Does your Call to Action pack a conversion punch?


  3. February 6th, 2013 at 14:10 | #3

    the iia recently did a study of Businesses in Ireland and came up with similar statistics as on your infograph, so it seems to correspond that more business owners are channeling their efforts towards a more digital approach.

  4. February 7th, 2013 at 17:26 | #4

    Its really surprise me to read that “$1 spent on email marketing create $40 revenue.” Email Marketing is the best way to generate more leads and deals. I would like to suggest everyone to buy business email lists (b2b or b2c or based on your business requirements). Really it will work out.

  5. October 2nd, 2013 at 17:04 | #5

    Great article. I have many small business owner clients I work with, this is good information to have.

  6. October 31st, 2014 at 15:04 | #6

    I agree, email marketing is still a very strong medium of getting leads. I offer my clients email marketing along with my SEO campaign.

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