Hiring and retaining staff is an issue for larger SMBs, but what’s common among SMBs of all sizes is a struggle with new customer acquisition, according to a report [pdf] from Ascend2 and Constant Contact. Indeed, at least half of SMB owners and decision-makers surveyed – depending on size – say that attracting new customers is a challenge.
This is a particularly acute issue for SMBs with 1-9 employees, 70% of whom report that attracting new customers is difficult.
Other marketing-related issues that are proving to be obstacles for SMBs of all sizes include marketing to target audiences and converting leads to sales. One difficulty that is being felt more by larger than smaller SMBs is improving the customer experience, cited by 3 in 10 SMBs with 50-250 employees compared to 16% of those with 1-9 employees.
When asked which challenge typically requires the most time/attention, respondents pointed first to attracting new customers (31% share), easily ahead of secondary obstacles such as hiring and retaining staff (17%), converting leads to sales (14%) and marketing to target audience (11%).
One area that might help SMBs with new customer acquisition and reaching target audiences is social media. This is an area for which SMBs clearly want to better their capabilities, as 59% of B2C and 48% of B2B respondents cited social media marketing as an area of their strategy they would most like to improve over the next 12 months. That put social media marketing easily at the top of the list of such channels ripe for improvement, ahead of website experience and customer relationship management.
Recent research shows that SMBs are indeed using social media marketing to increase customer engagement and traffic.
SMBs are also looking to improve their email marketing, in-person customer experience, and branding/design, among others. Event marketing is more of a priority for B2B than B2C SMBs, while online ratings and reviews are a bigger focus for B2C than B2B respondents.
The list may get even longer, as SMBs surveyed in another study said that the top external factor impacting their marketing today is the increasing number of platforms and channels.
Artificial intelligence (AI) could conceivably offer some assistance to SMBs, and this latest report shows that social media and content creation are the leading areas in which SMBs are leveraging AI and/or automation. About one-quarter (26%) of the respondents reported currently investing in AI and/or automation technology, and the vast majority feel that it has helped make their business more successful, by saving time and money.
The main concerns or hesitations with using AI and/or automation technology in SMBs’ marketing are concerns about the security of the data and the technology being too expensive to implement. As regards that latter point, with many SMBs believing that they can save hefty sums as a result of using AI and/or automation in their marketing, it may be that the costs of implementation will over time be deemed to be worth the payoff.
For more, check out the study here.
About the Data: The results are based on a June survey of 486 SMB owners and decision-makers from companies targeting B2B (24%), B2C (45%) and B2B and B2C equally (31%). Some 42% share are from businesses with 1-9 employees, while 29% are from businesses with 10-49 employees, and 29% from businesses with 50-250 employees.