This week, the United States celebrates National Small Business Week. We’re joining in the fun at Drip—for the first time ever, we’re sponsoring the NSBW festivities.
And there’s a lot to celebrate. Collectively, small businesses are on a major growth spree.
In fact, they’ll be responsible for creating two out of three new jobs in the U.S. this year.
But zoom in on individual small businesses, and you’ll find a picture that’s a little more ambiguous. Some are thriving, growing as fast as they possibly can. Others are struggling to get off the ground or keep going. When we surveyed a panel of 1,884 entrepreneurs later last year, 21.3% of respondents said they didn’t feel confident that their business would succeed, including 15.2% of entrepreneurs who had already been in business for more than 5 years.
What’s the difference between the small businesses that soar and the ones that can’t quite get airborne? What marketing tactics are they using to grow—and which ones are really working?
We asked 1,000+ U.S. small-business owners and managers about their biggest marketing goals and challenges, along with the marketing tactics they’re using to conquer them. The data we got back is pretty intriguing—both for other small-business marketers and the B2B marketers who serve them. Here are five of the most striking highlights.
1. Nearly half of U.S. small businesses do all their marketing in under 2 hours a week (which might not be a good thing).
Most small business owners wear a lot of hats—but it’s still a bit surprising that the largest segment of our survey panel reported that marketing takes up less than two hours of their workweek.
That number changes when we filter by specific marketing practices, however. For instance …
- 82.1% of respondents with no website spend under 2 hours a week on marketing, compared to 49.7% of the general survey population.
- 27.7% of highly successful lead generators spend more than 24 hours a week on marketing, compared with 7.3% of those who are unsuccessfully trying to capture leads.
- 3.1% of business owners who say their biggest struggle is getting web traffic devote 24+ hours to their marketing per week, compared to 7.9% of business owners as a whole.
The lesson: time can often buy you better marketing results. If you can carve out space in your crowded schedule to focus on marketing—and ideally spend it implementing automated campaigns you don’t have to constantly maintain—you’ll be able to attract and convert more customers.
Seem simple? Sure, but seeing the numbers might give you an extra nudge to get serious about conversion marketing. And you’ll have the best results if you can go beyond what most of your competitors are doing.
2. There’s a new bare-minimum digital marketing stack for today’s small businesses.
Website adoption among small-business marketers has crept steadily upward in the past decade. What’s new this year is a surge in social media adoption. In a 2016 report from Leadpages, 57.8% of small business marketers said their company used social media. This year, 67.8% of our respondents maintain social media profiles for their business.
Social media represents a promising new channel for small businesses. But without a few other crucial tools, it’s not likely to help them make the lead-gen and sales goals they’re looking for.
3. Most small businesses are missing several important pieces of the conversion-marketing puzzle.
Our survey shows that small businesses are lagging behind when it comes to creating a truly interactive, high-performance digital experience. For instance:
- Just 7.4% of respondents can both capture leads and convert customers from their website.
- Just 23.2% of respondents use landing pages, and 21.9% have blogs.
- However, 27.2% of businesses using landing pages and 21.3% of businesses have great success generating leads—double the lead-gen success rate of the survey panel as a whole.
- Just 27.7% of small businesses use digital advertising of any kind—but those who do have twice as much success making sales online.
- Only 22.7% of small businesses use a formal, software-based system to follow up with their leads, such as an email marketing service, an automation platform, or a CRM.
Our recommendation: for every action you want your audience to take, ask yourself whether you’ve set up a system that prompts them to take it.
4. The tools you use make a huge difference to your marketing ROI.
In the Leadpages survey I mentioned earlier, 48.5% of small business marketers said they didn’t know if their marketing was effective. This year, there’s a bit of good news: only 39.3% of respondents to our survey weren’t sure about their marketing ROI.
That’s still way too many. What can improve that number?
Focusing on lead generation seems to help. 45.8% of businesses who cited lead generation as their primary marketing goal saw an acceptable or excellent marketing ROI, and 21.2% of businesses who were already successful with lead generation saw excellent ROI for their marketing as whole.
Another thing that helps? Having a systematic way to communicate with your contacts.
5. If you use Drip, you’re ahead of the curve.
One clear takeaway from this study: email automation can still be your secret weapon to gain a competitive edge. Just over a third of small business marketers said they knew how to define the term “marketing funnel,” and only 1.6% said they were actually using a marketing automation tool to handle their contacts.
That means we have a lot of work to do at Drip. But it’s good news for you. It means you can reach and convert your prospective customers more effectively than almost any other smaller businesses around you, and grow your business faster.
And you’ll be likelier to see a good return on all your marketing efforts. 49.8% of marketers with a formal, software-based contact management system saw positive marketing ROI, and only 22.7% said they were uncertain about their ROI.
Now, go out and celebrate National Small Business Week by giving yourself a high five and converting some customers.
Do any of these stats surprise you? Tell us in the comments.