Small businesses are continuing to embrace online marketing and networking as essential tools for attracting new clients and customers. But, small business owners remain somewhat overwhelmed by the various digital marketing options now available.
According to a recent poll of more than 600 small business owners nationwide, nine out of 10 indicated they network online, and nearly 75 percent found virtual networking was as effective as networking face-to-face, if not more so.
In addition, nearly 80 percent of those surveyed stated that they obtained at least one-quarter of their new customers through online marketing efforts, with 5 percent claiming that all of their new customers came as a result of promoting their business via web channels.
With millions of Americans already shopping online –and more projected to do so in the future –it appears that small business owners realize how essential it is to have an online presence.
“Small businesses understand they need to go where their audience is,” explained Pamela Springer, CEO of Manta, the company that conducted the survey. “Participating, networking and being found online is extremely important today in growing their business, so it’s not surprising that they are embracing the channel.”
Of course, recognizing the importance of online marketing and implementing a successful digital marketing strategy are two different matters. Although more than 40 percent of respondents said they have a Facebook presence and feel it adds value to their marketing strategies, the other 58 percent admitted they have difficulty seeing how using Facebook could help them promote their businesses, or don’t have a Facebook presence at all. Only one in 10 use LinkedIn for promotional purposes, and far fewer still tap into Google+, Twitter or Pinterest. Even Groupon, a platform expressly designed to benefit brick and mortar businesses, was considered to be valuable by less than one percent of those surveyed.
Interestingly, nearly 25 percent of the small business owners surveyed said their company website drives the most business for them –and a website is a simple place for busy small business owners to start driving awareness online.
“As 97 percent of consumers use the Internet to research products or services in their local area, and those searches regularly include company name, product or service, or business owner, it is critical small businesses build awareness of themselves and their company online,” BIA/Kelsey Program Director Jed Williams concluded.