Elliott: Even If They Don’t Realize It, Small Businesses Need Your Help

By Corey Elliott
Vice President of Research & Analysis, Borrell Associates
celliott@borrellassociates.com

They don’t need you.

Local advertisers don’t need you. Or your newspaper. Or your radio spots. Or your news hour lead ins.

They have it all figured out. Thank you.

Of course, local businesses have had a myriad of advertising options at their disposal for a while now. One of the world’s greatest broadcasting platforms, a little spry start-up called Facebook, has turned even the most average brick and mortar retailer into an actual content producer. A 2017 survey of over 3,500 local advertisers found that when forced to decide if their website or their Facebook page is more useful to their business – a full third chose Facebook.
For example, these local advertisers understand the power of social media. 46% claim that listing events on their social media pages is vital to their marketing goals. Meanwhile, 40% claim boosting their own posts is vital and 36% agree placing social media advertising is also crucial.

And then there’s the data! Dear Heaven, the data they get back on these marvelous digital efforts! Over half of local advertisers claim they like to buy digital because “there’s more data available about who we’re reaching” and “it is easy to buy, track, and understand.” Local advertisers know exactly how many likes and retweets and shares and clicks they are getting from the posts they themselves create.

So, see? Why do they need you? Right? Ummm … right?

Not quite.

Most of these advertisers are rookies.

When we accessed the skill level of the people responsible for the marketing dollars of their local business, over 70% were deemed beginners. Not only that, but for a clear majority of them, thanks to being thrown into the deep end of social media, they are now juggling advertising with promotions while trying to balance the brand new world of digital services on their nose.

In fact, digital services are now a crucial element for businesses to master if they hope to influence a potential customer to take a specific action. That is why when one adds the amount of money being spent on digital services (SEO, website design, social media management, etc.) it is nearly triple the amount being spent on advertising.

So, let’s amend the opening statement to this piece: They THINK they don’t need you.

This is a very big marketing world, and as we pointed out, a lot of local advertisers are newbie marketers. However, when big important companies like Google and Facebook load you up with “data” right after you do something all by yourself on their sites, that initially feels great and validating. Until months later, when the “likes” increase, but the cash register receipts do not.

This gets confusing.

One frustrated local advertiser said:
“The data showing digital is not as effective as promised. Frankly, our TV and Radio are doing well for us, but everything you read indicates you must put more on digital and I’m not sure that’s correct now.”

It is a very delicate balance between the worlds of digital services, advertising, and promotions.

And it is not one that novice marketers can easily maintain, despite trying.

Of those businesses who are engaged in regular email communication with their customers, 88% of them are handing it on their own.

And speaking of “on their own”, over half of all local advertisers and 70% of novices are making these complicated marketing decisions completely on their own.

Then again, they are not clueless about their own shortcomings. 55% are outsourcing digital marketing tasks. On average, they are outsourcing three different things and spending $18,259 per year. The things that they need help with most:

  • SEO. About one-fourth (26%) outsource search optimization
  • Website design. 38% outsource

And while advertising options for a local media company are fairly limited in a given market, the options for a supplier of digital services borders on the absurd.

The above pie chart is purposefully rendered to be intelligible. However, pointing out that legitimate digital service companies are in competition with wives and relatives is purposeful.

When it comes to digital services – a now very real and crucial part of the overall marketing strategy of their business, most SMBs are shooting in the dark.

OK, so let’s edit that opening line one more time: They ABSOLUTELY need you.

When local advertisers were asked what local media companies could do to establish ROI of marketing efforts, they were not shy with their frustrations with this new amalgamated world of digital services and advertising:

“Digital sources supply good data to a certain point; they can tell us who goes to our website; they can’t tell us which of them makes purchases. Print media can only help with generalities about their readership demographics; that helps a bit.”

“(I would like local media companies to) Generate new ideas to help cut through the clutter. There are so many vehicles out there and not one is a good clear choice. Create a target market and we’ll join.”

“If I were able to outsource the majority of our advertising efforts to one company, who then would provide regular reports, analyzing the results, evaluating ROI and including suggestions for improvements/changes, this would be immensely helpful. The problem, that is MY job and I don’t have much of a budget, so it all falls on me to make it come work and come together, and prove results.”

Even though local businesses in recent years were lulled into a sense of accomplishment with DIY ad solutions, the product of those very efforts, when contrasted against sales, has begun to prove as ethereal in their minds as tying a radio spot directly to a purchase.

This new world is too much. They are crying out for someone who can tie their very necessary digital efforts to their overarching marketing strategy. Someone who knows marketing AND the local landscape. Someone who they trust.

Sound familiar?