Think you know small business marketing? Think again; it changes fast. Here are five fun facts to list off the next time you want to sound smart at a meeting—or the next time you want to adjust your marketing strategy.
1. Half of all small businesses still don’t have a website
Given how much business is done online—but more importantly, how often consumers search for local business services online—it’s surprising so many businesses don’t have websites, especially given how important websites are to customers.
However, SCORE found that 51% of small businesses have websites, and our own 2017 research found that only 56% of small business owners say they have a website.
Some of the resistance might be because small business owners worry creating a website will be an expensive technical headache. But we’ve come a long way from the ’90s, when setting up a site was a big undertaking. Now, with services like Wix and other simplified website builders, it’s quite possible to build a site in a day—with no coding skills and a modest budget.
If you’re among the small businesses that still don’t have a website, this article from the National Federation of Small Businesses might be helpful. It walks through the price points for four different types of small business websites and outlines what you can expect from each option.
2. Only three out of ten small businesses invest enough in marketing
We learned this when we surveyed 1,100 small business owners for our own 2017 State of Small Business Report. As a general group, 42% of the small businesses we surveyed invest 3% or less of their revenue in marketing. Compare that to the recommendation of the Small Business Administration, which says, “As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7 to 8% of their revenues to marketing.”
That’s actually a low figure, according to many marketing experts, who recommend anywhere from 1% to 10% or 12% of revenue be dedicated to marketing, especially if you’re in a competitive industry.
But what really gave us the chills was to see how little microbusinesses invest. Among companies with five to 10 employees, 52% invest only up to 3% of their revenues to marketing; only 21% of these very small businesses invest 7% or more to marketing, the recommended level according to the SBA.
3. Small businesses don’t outsource their marketing
Here’s another interesting thing about how small businesses handle marketing: They’re starving it both budget wise and time wise. We found that only 14% of small businesses outsource their marketing, public relations, and advertising.
But it’s not like small business owners don’t know how to outsource—54% of them outsource graphic design and website design. These tasks are so complementary to marketing that it’s surprising more small business owners don’t outsource work that they probably aren’t very enthusiastic about doing in the first place.
We know they struggle to find the time for marketing. “Finding time and resources for marketing” is their biggest challenge, according to research from Infusionsoft.
4. Email marketing is still alive and well
With all the talk about social media and so much talk about how “email marketing is dead,” we were surprised to see that more small businesses are using email marketing versus social media. But it was a close tie; 50% of the small businesses we surveyed use email, while 48% of them use social media.
So email is far from dead. It is actually one of the most popular tools for small businesses. If you know a bit about email, it’s not too hard to see why:
Email marketing is affordable.
You can get started for free with a bare-bones account, or pay $25 a month or so and get enough features for many small businesses.
Email marketing is reasonably easy to do.
There are certainly some rules of the road to learn with email marketing, but you don’t need to spend weeks studying it before you can do anything. You can get up and running in a few days, if you’re willing to keep things simple at the start.
Email is consumers’ preferred channel of communication from brands.
Studies have amply documented that email is actually the preferred way to get news from companies. Surprisingly enough, millennials are more likely to respond to emails than any other generation.
Email gets results.
Here’s just one of the many studies documenting how well email works:
5. Word of mouth generates more business than any other marketing tactic
Word-of-mouth marketing comes in just behind search as a way for customers to find businesses—and it brings in twice as many customers as social media.
One of the most important ways word-of-mouth marketing plays out for small businesses is online reviews; according to a recent survey of U.S. consumers, 91% of them regularly or occasionally read online reviews. In fact, the stat about word of mouth could be larger because so many people use online reviews, which are really just a digital version of word of mouth.
Reviews greatly affect whether or not a customer will support a business, too. According to that same research, 86% of customers will not even try a business that has less than a three star review; 55% won’t bother with a business if it’s gotten less than a four-star review.
Small businesses have to be frugal. They don’t have the deep pockets of their larger competitors, and they obviously have smaller staffs, which means everyone tends to juggle a lot of different tasks.
Yet despite the lean resources, small businesses obviously get by, and they’re smart about how they market. They leverage word-of-mouth marketing, and many of them of them know to use email to communicate with their customers, rather than with advertising or even social media.
But the lack of a budget dedicated to marketing worries me, especially for the smallest businesses. When times are tight, marketing tends to be the thing that gets cut first. Yet most of the smartest, most successful people in business know this is a bad move.
Invest in marketing if you want your business to grow—especially when times are tight.