SMBs Say Websites Best Marketing Tool

Small businesses say that company websites are still their most effective marketing tool, but social media is gaining ground, according to a new study by Thrive Analytics.

Of the 1,100 small and medium-size businesses that Thrive surveyed in January, 45 percent said the company website was among their most effective tools for marketing. That’s down from January 2014, when 50 percent of SMBs pegged websites as a top marketing tool, eMarketer reported.

But coming up fast is the No. 2 choice, “Facebook and/or other social media sites,” which jumped from a choice of 27 percent of those surveyed last year to 39 percent in 2015, dramatically shrinking the gap with the leader and pulling well ahead of print yellow pages at 26 percent. (Multiple responses were allowed in the survey.)

Most of the other SMB marketing options didn’t shift dramatically in desirability, but a few fell from grace, including search engine optimization, which dropped as a top marketing tool from 18 percent in 2014 to 9 percent in 2015. TV and radio commercials both dropped as well — TV from 13 percent to 6 percent, and radio from 10 percent to 6 percent. But online video climbed from 5 percent to 8 percent, banner ads rose from 4 percent to 8 percent, blogging tripled from 1 percent to 3 percent, and traditional magazine ads rose from 4 percent to 7 percent.

The other choices for most effective marketing options were Internet yellow pages (picked by 15 percent), email marketing (15 percent), paid search ads (15 percent), direct mail (14 percent), traditional newspapers (11 percent), event marketing (11 percent), outdoor ads (9 percent), mobile ads or marketing (7 percent), and press releases (4 percent).

Almost half (49 percent) of SMBs plan to increase their marketing budgets in 2015 according to the survey, and 36 percent will increase what they spend on company websites. That’s the highest percentage for a planned increase in spending, although social media, mobile advertising, online display ads and paid search will each get more budget from about one-third of those surveyed.

Still, the biggest challenge for SMB websites as marketing tools remains the missed opportunity of turning visitors directly into customers. According to a 2014 survey by MasterCard, 90 percent of small businesses have a presence online — but only 10 percent can leverage it into sales.