SMB marketers taking advantage of technology

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Marketers from smaller companies are taking greater advantage of modern marketing techniques and are more reliant on key digital marketing activities than marketers overall, according to a study by BtoB. SMBs are more likely to use email, content and search marketing than marketers in general, according to BtoB's “Defining the Modern Marketer: SMBs Driving Results,” sponsored by Oracle Eloqua. In addition, smaller companies' marketers are more reliant on technology and the vendors that supply that technology than marketers overall. Marketers in these smaller companies are more committed to using digital marketing technology, and there is a greater proportion of SMB marketers who report they are “strongly” or “completely” integrated with modern marketing techniques than marketers in general. “We have the belief here that SMBs can compete online, creating content and pushing it out to the world,” said Lance R. Schneider, e-business manager at Budnick Converting, a fabricator of flexible materials such as die-cut adhesive tape, aluminum foil and PVC foam gaskets. “I don't know of too many marketers who don't want a bigger budget,” said Schneider, whose company has less than $50 million in annual revenue. “But I've been lucky with Budnick in their willingness to invest in technology and to invest in the people who can help bring it forward.” In BtoB's study, SMB marketers were asked to compare how they stack up against a hypothetical best-of-breed modern marketer while rating a number of marketing competencies that they aspire to. Both SMBs and marketers overall reported having a way to go before reaching ideal status. Strikingly, technology competencies identified by marketers—for example, analytics, conversion methods and targeting—were valued more highly by SMBs than by marketers overall. More SMB marketers (35%) said webinars and virtual events are important than did marketers overall (28%); they are more committed to digital PR, blogging and customer case studies (34% vs. 31%); and they say search marketing is more important (33% vs. 28%). On the other hand, small-to-midsize marketers tend to place somewhat less importance on social media, e-newsletters, microsites, banner ads and video portals, the study found. “SMB marketers are resource- and time-starved,” said Jeff Crouse, VP-general manager, SMB at Pitney Bowes. “They're making hard decisions between different marketing media and channels, technology and campaigns, and they might only have $10,000 to spend. How they spend it makes a much bigger impact on their businesses than a much bigger budget would on a Fortune 500 company. This drives SMBs to rely on their tools for analytics and ROI.” When asked about the changes that have contributed the most to modern marketing, all marketers cited as No. 1 the ability to track marketing ROI using technology. However, SMB marketers seem more keenly aware of technology's impact, with 64% saying technology-driven ROI is factor No. 1, compared with 60% of marketers overall. Another clear difference between SMB marketers and marketers overall is that smaller-company marketers are not as concerned about finding trained or qualified digital marketing technology professionals. Complementing this, small-to-midsize marketers are more satisfied with the services provided by their vendors and rely on these vendors to augment their teams—or even to become part of those teams. Most highly valued, cited by 55% of SMB marketers, are vendors that provide metrics communicating the value of their investment in technology. SMB marketers seek a variety of other vendor benefits—including software that's safe and easy to use, and whose deployment is augmented by courses, training and education. Vendor partnerships play a significant role at Budnick Converting, Schneider said. His company has participated in webinars with vendors rather than trying to create them itself. “The bottom line is, as a smaller business, the resources to put these webinars together and make them run successfully aren't there,” Schneider said. “We let our vendors run the show and let them bring in the audience.” Schneider takes a similar approach to content marketing. “If you can get help in creating original content, you'll take it anytime,” he said. Also highly prized by SMB marketers is a vendor whose staff is easy to do business with, with a minimum of red tape. Vendor qualities that are not as important to SMB marketers include cloud deployment, mobile platform options, security and good financing terms. BtoB's study was based on an online survey distributed in May and June that garnered 204 completed surveys from companies with annual revenue of $25 million to $200 million. Among industry groups, technology companies made up 28% of all respondents; 17% were nontech manufacturers, 13% publishers and 7% financial services companies. Advertising, engineering, construction, architecture and transportation companies were also represented.
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