smb-tech-trendsAre you unlocking the potential of digital marketing? A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that many small businesses are not. The BCG survey of 550 small businesses found that they applied only 3 percent of their advertising budget toward online activities. Most small business advertising dollars are being spent on traditional marketing channels, such as Sunday circulars and coupon mailers.

Furthermore, the survey, “Unlocking the Digital-Marketing Potential of Small Businesses,” found that many small businesses are not aware of the range of digital-advertising options. And to the extent that they are aware of the various options, they often are not sure what to do with them.

BCG points out, for example, that small business owners are not aware that they have an online profile they could actively be managing on popular sites. Only 15 percent of the small business owners surveyed knew that they had a free Yelp profile, and only 11 percent had already claimed it.  This is despite the fact that a second BCG survey of nearly 4,800 small businesses indicated that companies that had a Yelp profile even if they did not advertise on the site still reported generating incremental revenue of $8,000 annually

BCG concluded that the findings also stand in contrast to many surveys showing that a sizable percentage of small businesses promote themselves widely online—from websites and e-mail to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Get your advertising online

Not sure what online advertising works best for your small business? Here are some cost-effective suggestions to consider to get started:

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Choose where to display your small business ads based on the search terms your customers’ use. PPC advertising enables you to target individuals who specifically are in the market for the products and services you offer.  You bid on specific keywords in order to have your ads appear when terms are searched.

Display ads: You’ll find display ads — also called banner ads – on websites.  They can be still images or interactive flash or video. Google, for example, offers display ad opportunities on partner websites. You determine the criteria where you want your ads to show up, which can include a specific demographic or geography.  Include an offer in your banner ads for optimum ROI.

Online listings: They are free and more than likely you already have one, as BCG suggests. Besides using Yelp, check on Google Places and Citysearch listings to see if your small business is listed. Be sure to update your small business information, if necessary.

smartphone with sale signMobile marketing: Mobile marketing involves delivering your messages to customers via their smartphones or other mobile devices. SMS messaging is the more popular delivery channel today for mobile marketing. Mobile targeted ads – those that download to consumers’ smartphones or tablets when they download games, apps or ring tones — are another type of mobile marketing and can be especially effective when you add a special offer.  Be sure to get permission from your customers before you start delivering messages to their mobile numbers

Link exchanges: Identify companies that offer products or services that complement your small business and offer to trade text links or to feature each others’ ads.

These are just some examples of internet advertising channels. If you feel you need professional help to get started with your online advertising and other digital marketing activities, talk to an agency or independent marketing professional who can suggest options based on your goals and budgets

Additional recommended reading:

·         Small business owners report time spent on social media is paying off social media

·         Drive customers to your small business website with great content

·         Reach out and SMS someone to boost your small business marketing 

Note about the BCG survey:  The survey, designed and analyzed by BCG’s Center for Consumer and Customer Insight, was conducted at the suggestion of local search firm Yelp, which contributed to the costs associated with fielding the survey by a third-party market research company. However, the survey findings and conclusions were solely the work of BCG.