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Seven SMB Marketing Trends for 2011

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Why Facebook and YouTube will figure prominently in SMB marketing in 2011
  • Whether Group Couponing and location-based services will work for SMBs
  • Why SMBs will rely on crowdsourcing for marketing- and advertising-related tasks

2011 will be known as the year the online advertising industry turned its attention to small and midsize businesses (SMBs). The average SMB, however, will become overwhelmed by the number of new online marketing and advertising tools available this year. The hardest choice for them will be what to focus on and what to ignore.

Small businesses have different types of customers, so every advertising medium is not a guarantee of success for each customer type.

Following is a list of trends that will create the biggest opportunity, and confusion, for SMBs in 2011.

1. Online presence moves to Facebook
 
I recently saw a print ad with a Facebook address, but without a traditional website URL. Times are changing.

For SMBs, websites are still too complicated to build and update. Just as blogging sites made it easy to publish content online, Facebook is making it easy for small businesses to put their business online. As social commerce takes off, having a Facebook presence will be invaluable.


2011 will be the first year we see successful new businesses with no websites, just Facebook pages.

2. The dawn of the SMB agency arrives

SMBs can't do it all; they need to focus their efforts on their core business. Online marketing is growing in complexity, which creates new opportunity for SMBs but also makes marketing more daunting.

Intermediaries that target SMBs will sprout up to help reduce that complexity. Though many intermediaries will be startups, some will be large media players that already have relationships with SMBs.

I predict that new, large-scale agencies will be formed directly to help SMBs. They will use a model more akin to that of Charles Schwab (with physical, local offices) than a traditional Madison Avenue firm's.

3. SMBs take location-based services seriously, but few will advertise

Foursquare and other location-based services (LBS) are upping their game constantly with business-side features. For example, Foursquare allows SMBs to claim and manage their business page, Yelp focuses on the same, and Google Places reaches out to SMBs with a sales force and incentives.

SMBs need to take ownership of their business pages on such platforms and understand how to use them. Other than paying for access to control their profiles, few will advertise through LBS providers—for now.

4. SMBs finally look at the numbers

For too long, many SMBs have spent advertising and marketing dollars with no real measurement, metrics, or targets in place. Small business owners will finally knuckle down and do the math to answer these questions:

  • What cost is acceptable for acquiring a customer?
  • What is the lifetime value of that customer?
  • What advertising mechanisms are producing results in line with these requirements?

5. Many will try coupon sites and fail

SMB owners are excited about group coupon sites. Many will try them— unsuccessfully—for the first time this year (especially as group-coupon platforms become self-service).

Coupon customers will be overloaded with an increase in offers and coupon players, and they will start to ignore offers other than those of brands they already buy from.

Couponing will be transformed from a way to acquire new customers to a way to drive repeat business.

6. SMBs will focus on video, YouTube especially

Consumers are increasingly flooded by blog content, news articles, and reviews. Humans simply can't consume that much text. Consumer preference will therefore shift toward video as the primary way to learn about products and services.

Producing videos of high-enough quality for a website is only as hard as getting a Flip camera and some video editing software. Video will emerge as a requirement for SMBs, especially when they discover YouTube Promoted Videos, where the cost-per-click is one-tenth that of paid search.

I predict that YouTube will release a scaled-down version of its "branded channel," which is now priced too high for SMBs. SMB channels will allow SMBs to store videos, provide product and service materials inside the YouTube interface, and highlight links to their websites.

YouTube will try to do battle with Facebook to become the new "home" for SMBs.

7. SMBs will be the biggest consumers of crowdsourcing

SMBs will rely on crowdsourcing marketplaces to perform more advertising- and marketing-related tasks, such as paid search, logo and ad-creative development, display advertising, social media, or content production.

Pay-by-the unit or pay-for-performance crowdsourcing options will become attractive to SMBs looking for quality help without large upfront costs.

Trying a little of everything and not enough of a few things will leave many SMBs questioning the value of online advertising. The smart SMBs will pick a small set of trials (within online advertising) to gather enough data to understand what works for their company, and choose based on that data.


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Niel Robertson is the CEO and founder of Trada, the world's first crowdsourced PPC marketplace. He is also a founding member of the Crowdsortium, an organization for crowdsourcing companies and organizations. Find Niel at Trada.com/blog and @nielr1 on Twitter.

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  • by Linda Delphin Tue Mar 1, 2011 via web

    great article, and good insights/ predictions, thanks

  • by Dhana@Loyaltics Tue Mar 1, 2011 via web

    No website,just Facebook page ? - This may be applicable for 'Facebook Startups' but hard to see this take off in the mainstream market YET !.

    About Couponing - could have been better if there were more justifications as why it would fail !.

    Nice article though !

  • by Sue Pitts Wed Mar 2, 2011 via web

    I do believe that having a Facebook Page alone is a trend. I am just not sure it is a good one. Your article doesn't imply that it is good or bad but some may read that it is in fact an easy way to go.
    A facebook page would not only cut out some of your potential market but social networking pages are not necessarily optimized for search on the major search engines. A small business, in my opinion, needs both a webpage optimized for search engines and a social networking strategy that would incorporate a Facebook page.
    Thanks for the great article.

  • by Cairril Mills Wed Mar 2, 2011 via web

    I'm wondering what constitutes a small business for the purposes of this article. For many of the points, it seems to be referring to micro-businesses, such as the traditional mom-and-pop store.

    If that's the case, I don't see those businesses both starting up Facebook sites -and- trying to track metrics. Our company (Cairril.com Design & Marketing) worked with a lot of micro-businesses in the past and they just don't have the interest in metrics. If they've been in business this long and they still don't have a website, they're not interested in tracking ROI to that degree.

    Your article also points to more businesses using free/DIY resources rather than hiring professionals. This bodes ill for those of us in the industry! I wonder if you see a backlash as things such as crowdsourcing produce poor results (especially poor service and follow-through).

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article.

  • by Ann Handley Wed Mar 2, 2011 via web

    Sue just beat me to the punch with her comment re Facebook pages... I agree it's a trend, and one we are likely to note with increased frequency. It's a lot easier to set up a Facebook page than a web site, certainly. So it makes total sense that businesses would gravitate toward FB.

    But that said, I'd caution small businesses to not put all of their online eggs in the Facebook basket -- for the reasons Sue mentions, but also because, ultimately, you don't want to base your online business on a platform that you ultimately don't control. Just like you wouldn't build a house on rented land, I wouldn't suggest that any business build the foundation for their business on Facebook alone.

    Thanks for this article Niel.

  • by Niel Robertson Wed Mar 2, 2011 via web

    Hi all,

    I wanted to address some of the comments folks made to my article as many had great points/questions.

    @dhana - My reasoning around decreased success in Coupons is driven by the fact that coupons are a primarily a cost-effective way to acquire new customers (e.g. you can factor the discount of the purchase into the equivalent of a PPC CPA cost to make it worth your while). As more coupon sites emerge and people are cluttered with offers i see a tendency to scan for coupons for existing businesses you already engage with. This means i'm repeat shopping at a discount and the business is not acquiring a new customer and thus the price they pay (through the discount) is potentially not worth it. This of course depends a lot on the business and the LTV of the customer for that business.

    @sue - I couldn't agree more that the problem with a Facebook only presence is the walled garden of Facebook. Many businesses drive lots of customers and sales from SEO which is almost non-existent for FB pages right now. I suspect FB will adjust their "wall" to allow search engines to index their business sites more as this becomes a real trade off of using their platform.

    @Cairril - SMBs is always a tricky semantic. In general i meant businesses from mom and pops (hyperlocal) up to those doing a few million in sales a year. Agreed that hyperlocal businesses struggle to understand the metrics that drive their business (and thus a turnkey Facebook solution makes sense for them).

    As far as DIY - what i really am saying is that businesses will have no choice but to participate in services like Yelp, Google Local, etc... I actually think this participation will drive the desire for expert help and it will come through freelancers, agencies and of course (I am biased here as the CEO of Trada) through crowdsourcing. Quality control in crowdsourcing is something we invest a lot in (I could write a lengthy article on what our platform does to manage quality). I think crowdsourcing gets an unfair rap though sometimes. How does a small business know that a single freelancer is performing quality work? There are in fact no quality mechanisms in that regard. I think the emergence of online professional reputation will start to influence this issue as well and frankly crowdsourcing companies are leading this charge out of necessity.

    @Ann - A good general point - as a small business no single strategy is a safe one whether it be FB, AdWords, SEO, or printing flyers and handing them out in the street.

    Hope this helps - thanks for all the comments!
    Niel
    nielr@trada.com
    http://www.trada.com
    @nielr1

  • by Tonya Van Dijk Thu Mar 3, 2011 via web

    Thank you for your insights, Neil! There is really no guarantee that one or all marketing strategies will work out! But in business, it's important to take risks and see what works great for one's business.

    Here's another interesting read which will help you crowdsource videos for your business, http://www.crowdsourcing.org/l/319.

  • by WLKNSN Thu Mar 3, 2011 via web

    I guarantee that in the next couple of years there will be a RACE to get media centralized again instead of the Facebook, Twitter, ... solutions. It has started already by businesses focussing more on controlling the conversation than the media itself.
    Furthermore, social media is fantastic when used integrated within the marketing mix of a business, but hardly succeeds asa standalone solution.

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