Are You Ready For The Coming SMB Marketing Boom?

Without a doubt, 2012 has been an insane year for small business marketing on the Web. Most companies I know providing digital marketing services to SMBs have been up to their eyeballs in work. What’s going on? Aren’t we in some kind of recession?

Apparently not. While attending the BIA/Kelsey SMB Digital Conference in Chicago recently, it became apparent small businesses are busy getting their Digital on. So to prepare you for the coming onslaught of Moms & Pops who desperately need your fine services, dear reader, I thought you might enjoy some of the juicy stats presented at the conference.

This is preliminary data from BIA/Kelsey’s annual Local Commerce Monitor Survey that talks to 300 small businesses that use digital marketing channels. BIA/Kelsey will be releasing more definitive data from the survey at their ILM West show in December as well.

40% Of SMBs Expect To Increase Digital Spend In Next 12 Months

SMB Ad Spend

I could probably stop right here. If you are selling digital marketing services to SMBs, that’s the kind of stat you like to see. The gradually improving economy along with the rapidly increasing media dominance of the consumer Internet is driving all marketers to increase focus on digital channels.

SMBs Are Using Almost 2x More Digital Media Channels vs. 5 Years Ago

Average Number of Media Used by SMB

The growth in local digital media services has increased the audience fragmentation. While years ago, a local business could put an ad in a Yellow Pages book and be confident they were going to hit a big percent of its market, today local marketers have to cobble together media buys across multiple channels to get the same audience.

While we are all using digital devices to find local services, the reality is we are all using different devices and different services, which makes it challenging for a local marketer to reach everyone.

This has led to the growth of Local Ad Networks (LANs) like the YP Local Ad Network, CityGrid and Where, while providing increased opportunities for local agencies to solve the problem for local marketers. I fully expect this trend to continue and would not be surprised to see this number double again in next five years.

SMBs Will Spend One Third of Their Marketing Budget On Digital Media

% of Budget Digital/Online

The total local ad spend in the US is predicted to be more than $130B in 2013. BIA/Kelsey estimated that in 2010 SMBs spent about 20% of their budgets on digital marketing to the tune of $5B.

Based on their growth rate predictions, 30% of SMB spend in 2013 should be somewhere around $9B. This is why there are so many start-ups and large companies trying to get in on this market.

Facebook Pages Are King

They are easy to set up. There are a lot of people on Facebook. They are free. What more can you ask for? If you are providing services for SMBs to attract and retain customers via Facebook, you probably have a rapidly growing business.

57% Of SMBs Are Monitoring Customer Comments Online


The dominance of Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review sites has created a vibrant not-so-little cottage industry in reputation monitoring for companies like Vendasta, Yellowbot, Marchex, Chatmeter and review management services like Customer Lobby. 17% of SMBs surveyed said they plan to start monitoring comments.

Over the past few years, reputation management services have been “nice to have” as part of a digital marketing suite, but today it seems like they are an essential part of the puzzle.

Customer Loyalty Programs Are The Daily Deals Of 2013


Just like Groupon and its ilk got all of the attention in the local search world a few years ago, SMB customer loyalty programs like Closely, LevelUp and Cartera have attracted over $200MM in VC investment over the past few years.

This type of “transactional marketing” tied into customer databases can be an effective way to lure and retain valued customers. Helping businesses navigate this world will be a valuable skill to have in the coming years.

It’s All About Mobile


I think MG Siegler said it best when giving advice on product feedback: “Mobile, mobile, mobile, mobile, mobile, mobile…” According to LCM, only 20% of SMBs surveyed are currently using mobile marketing and more than 50% either haven’t heard of it or don’t know much about it.

If you have not baked mobile offerings into your SMB service strategy, you are missing out on potentially the biggest upside in local marketing over the coming years.

Hopefully this data has whet your appetite for just how much opportunity there will be to help SMBs navigate the digital landscape. If you want to hear more about this topic, please come check out the Looking Ahead: Local Search In 2013 panel this week at SMX East where I’ll join Matt McGee, BIA/Kelsey’s Matt Booth, Greg Sterling and 15Miles’ Gregg Stewart to dig into this stuff in more detail.

Disclosure: In the past I have had a business partnership with the BIA/Kelsey Group, but does not have one at the time of publishing this article.   

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column | Search Marketing: Local Search Marketing


About The Author: is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization consulting company specializing in yellow pages seo and local directory search—the blog is pretty fabulous too.

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  • Ryan Cote @ Authority Buzz

    That’s great news Andrew. And SMB’s are typically wearing multiple hats and need expertise and guidance. So you can easily develop long-lasting relationships with your SMB clients by over-delivering and earning their trust.

  • Boyd Butler

    Excellent article as always Andrew. Mobile is a great way to go. Over in the UK it’s text (SMS) that is really getting great responses for small businesses. Easy to send, gets opened and gets forwarded. Plus it’s cheap. Also, SMB’s are really starting to track their responses – particularly call tracking which I am a big fan of. The beauty is that call tracking gets the numbers into a database and then you can text them out!

  • BrianCoryat

    Excellent article Andrew. It really lays out what we all know, HERE COME THE SMBs!!!. I was actually surprised on how optimistic some of stats are.
    Send the link to my entire staff! Thanks

  • mKonnekt

    Interesting and informative article, the link to LevelUp takes to some spanish site.


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