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Marketing Challenges Small Businesses Are Facing in 2019

by BBB Staff | Feb 6, 2019 1:52:07 PM

Digital marketing is flexible and functional, targeting customers in a cost-effective way through conduits like social media, PPC campaigns, and a robust web presence. With so many avenues to take, many of which are free and fast, it's possible for businesses of all shapes and sizes to spread a message and create a competitive edge.

However, this doesn't mean that digital marketing is necessarily easy to implement and maintain. In 2019, these are the largest marketing challenges facing small businesses – and what can be done to alleviate the pressure.

No Time or Money for Marketing

For those who entered the business world in the heyday of television, radio, and newspaper ads, it's not surprising that digital marketing is seen as expensive, time-consuming, and impossible to grasp. In some ways, this is true – for those unfamiliar with social media, banner ads, Google AdWords, or even website optimization, these kinds of tasks may seem forever out of reach.

Nearly 50% of small business owners handle their own marketing efforts, so it's only natural that advertising feels like just another hat to wear. However, when handled properly, digital marketing can take limited time and, depending on the methods chosen, yield results for little to no investment. Tactics like setting up social media pages are completely free, as is ensuring listings in local directories like Yelp! and Angie's List and utilizing SEO practices to embellish search engine presence. Building a website can be done for free, but may involve a small investment for upgraded hosting or features. Regardless, it is generally not a large expense.

Marketing doesn't have to require significant time, either, once pages and practices are established. Posting on social media only takes moments a day, for example. Other tasks, like crafting thoughtful email messages, may take a little longer, but these don't need to be daily chores. For small business owners who take time to learn the basics of effective digital marketing, ongoing tasks are rarely a significant drain on resources.

Still not sure time and education are on your side? Working with a freelancer or outsourced marketer can provide great benefits on a low budget. Available through outsourcing agencies as well as on independent platforms aimed at freelancers, it's not hard to find temporary assistance. You can even partner with different pros for different purposes, like using a dedicated freelancer for content marketing and search engine optimization, and another for email copy.

Issues Generating Web Traffic and Leads

Many small business owners have social media pages, modern websites, and listings on local directories, but are frustrated with a lack of traffic or leads. In fact, 16% of small business owners say that generating either traffic or leads is the biggest challenge they will have to face in 2019.

For many small businesses who are trying to grow digital marketing avenues but aren't seeing results, stalled progress can be very frustrating. But for many, a lack of web traffic or a slow trickle of leads is largely due to a failure to keep up with ongoing promotions. While simply having a website or a social media presence can attract attention over time, taking more proactive steps may be required to see notable progress. These can vary based on business objectives or available resources, but should ideally include:

  • Blogging on a regular basis; small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than businesses that don't
  • Expanding search engine optimization techniques with keyword research
  • Using social media to promote posts to your target audience; 34% of consumers worldwide use social platforms to receive promotional offers
  • Staying active on social media networks to build a sense of community and build loyalty
  • Investing in paid search, like Google AdWords, to improve presence across the web and make your search results more visible
  • Using effective calls to action to emphasize exactly what you have to offer

A base understanding of how to read results can be a benefit here; by studying which email messages led to the most clicks or what blog post topics attract the most eyes, you can better strategize in the future to see more meaningful outcomes.

Trouble Converting Leads

For many small businesses, getting traffic and attention is only part of the battle. The other half, of course, is converting leads into sales, and this is where some businesses get stuck. Making the jump from eyes on your business to driving revenue from online marketing can be a little more challenging than expected, leaving business owners feeling frustrated and as though their investments were a waste.

Unfortunately, this is common. A successful digital marketing strategy requires putting all the pieces together, and creating an effective funnel isn't necessarily intuitive to those new to web-based avenues. However, using visibility as leverage requires intentional and decisive next steps. How this is accomplished can vary, but creating a reason to purchase is often highly encouraged. These tactics can include:

  • Offering an incentive, like a discounted initial purchase with registration or signup
  • Requesting a sale via a landing page or social media post
  • Clearly state the benefits of a purchase, like an improved ROI or a way to save time on tasks
  • Providing plenty of information across your websites and social media profiles to assuage doubts or questions
  • Sending follow-up emails or messages to plant reminders
  • Offering to answer customer questions
  • Asking questions and build a community on your blog posts and social media pages

Some of these strategies will undoubtedly do more for your business than others, so it's up to each company to determine which opportunities mean the most in the context of ongoing operations.

Despite the frustration in a lack of results, more and more small businesses are putting energy into using data to determine what tactics work and which ones don't. Studies indicate that these numbers are up from past years; when surveyed, 55% of small businesses said that they know which measures work. Businesses still struggling to connect all the dots are encouraged to make use of analytics and metrics to best install opportunities that offer the most value.

Retaining Customers

Every business, no matter the size, will never retain every customer. Perhaps someone needed your services only once or had a particular need for your product that has now passed. However, for some businesses, particularly smaller operations without a prominent name, retaining business can be a challenge for other reasons.

For the 12% of small businesses that feel as though retaining customers is their biggest challenge, the strategies utilized to bring customers back into the fold or to facilitate the completion of a sale prove particularly problematic. And it's true, many of the ways to retarget customers aren't necessarily intuitive and effortless; simply hoping a customer comes back to make an additional purchase isn't as effective as taking specific measures to prompt him to do so. In retaining customers, it's important to provide something of value that indicates why customers should consider returning. This can mean any number of things, but the key is to offer an enticing hook while cultivating customer loyalty.

For example, take customer loyalty programs, which reward those who make repeat purchases or refer others through an incentive system. 77% of customers participate in these kinds of programs, demonstrating a basic want by consumers to be acknowledged for dedication to a brand. Email marketing can also be an effective way to retain customers: an email serves as a reminder of your brand, provides a way to share sales and other promotions that may inspire a purchase, and opens a channel of communication.

Targeting abandoned cart issues can also prompt additional sales in those with e-commerce operations. 26% of customers have abandoned a cart due to an overly complex checkout process, so something as simple as fixing your site design can keep customers coming back. Abandoned cart emails or advertisements are also utilized with excellent results; providing an extra advantage, like free shipping, can convince customers to come back.

Complications Understanding Metrics and Analytics

On the surface, digital marketing is fairly straightforward: a good website, solid social media pages, and effective email campaigns can all be excellent ways to attract additional customers and keep current customers interested and engaged. However, around one-third of small business owners have no idea if their strategies are working. Further, 6% of small businesses struggle to make sense of metrics and trends.

While most digital marketing techniques will generate some results whether any active strategy is in place or not, this is generally not the best way to move forward. Throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks, so to speak, can result in wasted energy and squandered resources. Instead, it's best to know what stats to look for. Google Analytics has made this process far easier than ever before, putting free tools in the hands of anyone with a website. With insight into everything from clickthrough rates to ROI, this simple add-on makes it so that almost anyone can keep an eye on relevant metrics. Social media sites generally offer their own analytics for easy review, and so do marketing automation platforms, like MailChimp.

For those who don't know much about these kinds of tools, diving in can seem a little overwhelming. Luckily, the internet is nothing if not full of information. Google offers a very in-depth guide on using and interpreting Google Analytics, and other platforms, like Facebook, do the same. Some independent research may be warranted for other tools, like customer relationship management software, or to keep up to date with emerging trends. However, a little light reading on trusted industry blogs can keep a casual marketer in the loop on the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing.

No Plans to Harness Digital Marketing

Despite over two decades of prominence for businesses of all shapes and sizes, nearly 30% of small businesses don't plan to employ any digital marketing efforts at all in 2019. While this may be fine and well – plenty of longstanding businesses, particularly those in small towns, can sustain a customer base without more advanced methods – many small businesses put themselves at a distinct disadvantage by failing to employ digital methods.

With advantages that include 80% of consumers using the internet for product research, a 24% increase in conversion rates, higher revenue generation, and cost savings opportunities, businesses not willing to explore the digital marketing realm have a lot to lose. 30% of customers won't trust a business without a website, and that includes those with solely social media pages. While existing satisfied customers won't necessarily care, new shoppers may be turned off by an inability to do some reading before stopping by.

The reasons why many small businesses are reluctant to explore digital marketing are numerous. For some, there's too much to know, particularly for those who aren't necessarily tech-savvy. For others, it's seen as too expensive for small operations with tight margins. Some business owners believe that marketing means hiring an outside expert, while others don't think they have the time to keep up with websites and social media.

There may be some truth behind these kinds of assumptions, but in general, these are perceived as falsehoods. Digital marketing is more affordable than other forms of marketing, takes less time, and can easily be handled solo with a little research. In essence, by not taking strides into digital, these small businesses are forced to face the consequences of an inability to keep up with the changing face of advertising.

Win Marketing in 2019

Handling everything necessary to keep your small business moving forward is never easy, and that includes digital marketing. With so many things to know and opportunities to consider, it's not surprising that many business owners struggle to maintain a competitive edge. However, marketing doesn't have to take away from your day-to-day operations and, when employed properly, can be a huge advantage. With more insight into the biggest challenges facing small businesses in 2019, it's possible to identify your weaknesses and create a strong plan to move forward.

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