New Survey Reveals the Peaks & Valleys of Marketing Small and Medium Businesses


Borrell Associates, a research and consulting company based in Williamsburg, Va., recently completed a survey of small and medium businesses across the country. The insights are described by Borrell as “nothing short of phenomenal.” 

The 44-question study is the only one of its kind, with business owners and operators responding to questions about advertising expenditures, types of media used, gross revenue, number of employees, business type and more. Borrell surveyed more than 3,000 businesses that are also local advertisers in the communities where they are owned and operated. 

The purpose of this blog is to share some of those insights with you. Whether you own a business with five employees or have a staff of 50, many small businesses face the same marketing challenges and many also have the same opportunities to solve those challenges and be successful.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the newly released research data along with observations from Borrell Associates’ analysts. 

Marketing Packages Rule:

  • 74% of the businesses surveyed are combining digital and traditional (newspaper, radio, television, billboard, printed directories, etc.) marketing to promote their goods and services. Survey results show that 22% are currently using only traditional media, 3% are opting only for digital media, and just 1% are using another method. Borrell concludes, “The market is coalescing around digital and traditional media packages – and having a point person to manage it.”

Feel the Power — Email Marketing Tops the List:

  • Email marketing ranks high with local businesses as far as its effectiveness in communicating with customers or potential customers. 39% percent of the businesses surveyed say they send marketing emails one to three times a month, with 32% saying they send once a month. 10% actually incorporate email into their marketing more than once a week. Of those surveyed, 33% say they are not currently using email at all. For those who actively use email marketing, 78% handle it internally and 22% outsource their email work. If you are interested to know how your email database stacks up against other businesses, the research tells us the following, when survey respondents were asked how many email addresses were on their list: 
    • Fewer than 100: 8%
    • 100 – 999: 33%
    • 1,000 – 9,999: 42%
    • 10,000 or more: 17%

Here is Borrell’s take on email marketing: “Local advertisers rate email as their No. 2 most effective marketing channel. Despite the availability of sophisticated email management programs, 33% aren’t using email, and of those who do, 78% manage it internally.” In survey data previously released, 12% of the respondents said their email marketing was “Extremely effective,” 28% said “Very effective” and 35% replied it was “Moderately effective.”

 On Target or Misfire:

  • Who, exactly, is making the marketing and advertising decisions at small and medium businesses? According to the new Borrell survey data, 72% of individuals tasked with those important evaluations are in the Novice/Apprentice category, and 70% of those in that group make a decision without anyone’s input. Only 22% of marketing decision-makers are in a Master level of marketing, and 7% fall in the Practitioner group.

Borrell summarizes: “Fueled by a new set of do-it-yourself marketing tools, local advertisers are going online to do their own buying. Nearly two-thirds are inexperienced at marketing, and 70% of those amateurs make decisions without anyone’s assistance. Misfires and frustrations are likely to spur a strong demand for marketing education and a greater level of consultation from marketing-savvy ad reps.” 

We have learned about a few of the peaks and valleys that impact small and medium businesses across the country. A positive note is that many businesses are successfully combining traditional media with digital, but a potential roadblock is who oversees that task? Survey results reveal that email marketing is one of the most effective tools a business can implement right now. On the flip side, who with your company has the time and expertise to manage that? Lastly, we recognize there are awesome do-it-yourself marketing tools, but data tell us that novices are often the ones assigned to solve those problems.

A business owner or manager doesn’t need to look at survey data to know how busy they are overseeing and managing day-to-day business. Fortunately, there are an abundance of options for marketing services and support, including from various local and regional companies or from reputable national firms. Help may be in the form of a complimentary consultation from a local marketing specialist or a phone call with a trusted advertising professional. Make a commitment to allot time and resources for marketing and capitalize on today’s unique opportunities.

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