Lessons We Can All Learn from Small Businesses Struggling With Marketing ROI

Technology has leveled the playing field for startups and small businesses. Competing with big business marketing budgets has traditionally relegated fledgling and local businesses to eternally small market shares. Today, however, with digital tools and marketing automation, even a one-man band can put itself in front of thousands of potential customers – every day – and manage a contact list ten thousand strong. With a modest budget, it is possible to implement a successful content marketing strategy and experience business growth.

That’s the theory at least. What an endearing one it is.

So how are small business marketing teams standing up against their potential? In reality, small businesses aren’t, as a whole, achieving those groundbreaking ROI numbers. Nor are they leveraging the digital assets that are at their fingertips. A recent study published by Drip, the 2017 Small Business Conversion Marketing Report, has uncovered a very telling trend.

Small business marketers are missing the bigger picture. They aren’t developing long-term, holistic strategies, and are missing out because of this oversight. This is a lesson we all can learn from. When marketers aren’t getting the results they’re looking for, is it because a specific tactic doesn’t work, or because the supporting tactics aren’t in place to allow it to work?

What small businesses are doing is focusing on one or two aspects of a complete strategy.

  • Running powerful social media campaigns – but having weak landing pages, if any at all, to capture leads.
  • Building an enviable email contact list, without the regular customer delights and a strong social media presence to keep those leads engaged.
  • Developing a strong lead generation strategy with a consistent, value-driven blog and viral video campaign. Watching site traffic grow, and wondering where all the sales are because there’s a barely-there lead nurturing strategy in place and no plan for retaining existing customers.

Where Small Business Marketing Is Falling Short

Looking at the responses of 1,011 small business owners and managers, there’s a major challenge this sector faces. Time poverty. With limited time and resources, they are struggling to enhance their marketing knowledge, let alone to create and implement effective strategies.

As a result, most are focused on the typical small business digital marketing starter kit used to generate brand awareness. A business website and social media accounts. 71.2 percent have a website. 67.8 percent have a business social media account. 16.2 percent aren’t using a digital strategy at all.

Less than a quarter have branched out into other digital assets, such as landing pages, PPC ads, or even a blog. Not surprisingly, those that only have a website and social accounts aren’t experiencing success with lead generation, customer acquisition, or retention.

While 79.8 percent make the effort to capture leads on their websites, only 13.8 percent say they see a noticeable difference in their business.

Those who do have landing pages, a blog library, and other assets, experienced about double the success rate in their lead generation efforts. When it came to conversion, only 16.4 percent felt they were successful at converting customers online. But when even just a landing page was present along with the website and social media, nearly one-third of small businesses were successful at online customer conversion.

For customer retention, there was a literal void. Less than half of respondents said they collected contact info at all. How they are storing and then leveraging this customer data is where the real problem lies. Most use an email account to save contacts or use an offline system – only 11.7 percent use a CRM. This leads to wasted time copying and pasting and searching for information. It also makes anything other than haphazard customer communication next to impossible.

Small Business Marketing ROI

Less than 40 percent of survey respondents were happy with their marketing ROI. Another 40 percent had no insight into this crucial figure. The rest felt their return on investment was unacceptable.

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This doesn’t sound like small businesses are living up to the potential of what digital marketing can do. Nor are marketers in general achieving breakthrough numbers. Only about 22 percent of businesses are happy with their online conversion rates. Only 13 percent believe their lead generation strategies are very effective at achieving their primary objectives.

Whether you are running a small business and are trying to determine the best in-road to digital marketing success, or you are an experienced digital marketer, could the answers to our problems as a whole be found within the struggle of SMBs?

The Lesson Learned from the Struggle

Small business owners are failing to go further. They are time poor, but are largely missing out on the time management and productivity benefits of marketing software. They are resource strained, but are putting time and money into one-sided digital assets that aren’t bringing in a great ROI. They are making short-term plans, without understanding the overall picture of how each piece of the digital marketing puzzle goes into creating results.

And those who are taking a few steps further down their road of successful marketing, are doubling the results of those who aren’t. Just by using a landing page or launching a quality blog, or even diversifying their strategy with digital advertising, they are getting more leads and more sales.

What would happen if they took a few more steps, or better yet, a step outside of their actions to get a clearer picture of their overall strategy? Then the solutions –   utilizing better software, measuring more of their marketing, adopting a better content plan, finding ways to improve upon the digital assets they are using – would be much easier to see.

What would happen if all marketers did this?  When there’s a chink in your startup marketing strategy, maybe it’s time to pause and step outside your plan so you can see the obvious. Perhaps your website CTAs are ineffectual. Maybe you are marketing on Instagram and your buyers love Pinterest, or your website content isn’t addressing your target audience’s pain points well enough.

Rather than diving into trends or going into complex and expensive directions with your marketing, like influencer marketing or worrying about investing in high-quality promotional videos, maybe a couple simple steps towards improving the basics is all you need to get a better ROI.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

1 thought on “Lessons We Can All Learn from Small Businesses Struggling With Marketing ROI

  1. Businesses large and small are failing to understand the importance of mobile and the fact that 60% of searches are now mobile. Is your website optimized for mobile? Is your SEO optimized for local SEO since that’s what Google is looking for when someone searches on a mobile device.

    This is low hanging fruit that every business can harvest.

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