So, how are these millions of small businesses marketing their products or services? What marketing tactics are they using, and what marketing technologies have they adopted? These questions aren't easy to answer in a definitive way, particularly in the B2B space. Most of the freely-available research regarding marketing tactics and marketing technology adoption provides data for large and midsize companies.
Two firms - BIA/Kelsey and Borrell Associates - conduct extensive research regarding the marketing practices of smaller businesses, and both of these firms publish research reports that are available for purchase. If you need current, in-depth information about small business marketing, these two firms are good sources.
From time to time, it is possible to find publicly available research regarding small business marketing. Two recent studies - one by Salesforce Research and one by Infusionsoft and LeadPages - provide some interesting, if somewhat contradictory, insights about how small companies are marketing and what marketing technologies they're using.
The Salesforce Study
In 2015, Salesforce Research surveyed more than 3,800 sales, service, and marketing leaders in small businesses around the world. For this study, Salesforce defined small businesses as those having between 1 and 100 employees. Here are some of the major findings of the Salesforce study:
- Marketing automation - Only 20% of small business marketers are currently using marketing automation software. Another 29% plan to implement some type of marketing automation in the next 12 months. Sixty-seven percent of those marketers who are using marketing automation rate it as very effective or effective.
- Mobile marketing - Fifty-four percent of surveyed marketers said that integrating mobile marketing into their overall marketing strategy is very effective or effective. (Note: In this study, mobile marketing was defined as SMS, push notifications, mobile apps, and location-based marketing.)
- Analytics - Fifty-three percent of small business sales teams are currently using analytics in some way. In addition, 29% of sales teams are currently using predictive analytics in some way. (Note: The Salesforce study did not address the use of analytics by small businesses for marketing purposes.)
The Infusionsoft/LeadPages Study
In December 2015, Infusionsoft and LeadPages surveyed more than 1,000 self-identified small business owners in the United States regarding their marketing practices and plans. It doesn't appear that this study used a specific definition of "small business." Here are some of the major findings of this study:
- Nearly half (46.8%) of surveyed business owners said they are personally responsible for marketing at their company.
- The company website is the most widely-used marketing channel. Nearly three-fourths (71.6%) of respondents use their websites for marketing. In contrast, less than half of the survey respondents said they use other digital marketing channels - digital advertising, social media, e-mail marketing, etc. - and less than one-third of respondents use print advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, or in-person events.
- Most small companies aren't using content marketing. Fifty-eight percent of respondents post on social networks, but only 43% send marketing e-mails, only 36% publish blogs or articles, and only 16% offer downloadable content on their websites.
As noted earlier, the findings of these two studies are somewhat contradictory. The Salesforce study suggests that a fair number of small businesses are using relatively sophisticated marketing techniques. The Infusionsoft/LeadPages study, on the other hand, indicates that most small businesses have very limited marketing programs.
Image courtesy of Infusionsoft via Flickr CC.