Why SMEs can’t afford to ignore digital marketing any longer

In 1995, just 1% of the world’s population had an internet connection. Fast-forward to 2017, and that figure has reached 40%. The astounding rise of the internet over the last twenty years has irreversibly altered so many aspects of our lives – from culture and entertainment to politics and the media – and marketing is no exception.

Traditional methods of marketing, such as television, radio and newspaper advertising, have become decreasingly relevant in a society where four in five adults own a smartphone and the average person checks their device around 150 times a day. In a world where so much of our lives are lived online, the smart businesses have capitalised by focusing the lion’s share of their marketing efforts in this area.

Nonetheless, there remains a certain scepticism amongst a large number of SMEs when it comes to the benefits of online marketing. Around 75% of people research a company online before using their services or purchasing from them, and yet only 17% of small and medium businesses actively invest in search engine optimisation (SEO). Furthermore, less than 30% of SMEs use website analytics to drill down into their online audience. When it comes to social media, there is more widespread adoption, with 77% of SMEs maintaining some presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter; only 32%, however, seriously invest in it as part of their marketing strategy.

There are many reasons why investment in digital marketing is still not commonplace in the small business community, but chief amongst them are time and money. Many business owners would like to focus more on marketing their company online, but simply don’t believe that they have the time or resources to do so effectively. This is understandable when you consider that 47% of small business owners handle all marketing efforts on their own – managing a Facebook account is hardly likely to be a priority in a competitive business world where the bottom line will always be the driving factor.

This brings us on to the other main reason why some business owners remain sceptical – there is a belief that digital marketing is a ‘nice-to-have’ but that it won’t have any tangible effect on a business’ bottom line. This position though is becoming increasingly difficult to justify, what with the plethora of analytics platforms available which can show exactly how much revenue, and how many leads, various channels have generated. In a recent survey, 68% of those who used email marketing rated its return on investment as good or excellent, whilst 67% said the same for SEO.

One solution that we have seen adopted by many of our clients, who perhaps do not have the resources to hire someone for solely marketing purposes, is to create a hybrid position, where someone – often a recent graduate – comes in and handles the marketing function as well as various administrative duties. This has the benefit of allowing a junior professional to grow into the position, meaning the company’s marketing function can grow alongside them.

The benefits are clear for SMEs who do decide to increase their focus on digital marketing – if only 17% of small businesses are investing in SEO, then there’s an obvious advantage to be gained over your competitors by doing so. This is especially true in industries where relatively few companies are active online – if you are the only company amongst your immediate competitors to maintain a presence on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, then this will be a huge advantage when trying to attract customers or prospects.

Looking to increase your digital marketing efforts? We are one of South West London’s leading agencies for marketing professionals, having supplied staff to hundreds of SMEs nationwide. For advice, consultation, or to talk us through your requirements, give us a call on 020 8549 7212 or get in touch online.