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Most small business owners are self-taught when it comes to marketing and promoting their businesses, according to results from a Constant Contact survey. And while most do some form of marketing for their businesses, fewer than half consider themselves “marketing savvy”.

Nonetheless, it seems as though small businesses are working with a varied mix of marketing tools, with digital channels atop the list.

Email marketing is the most popular form of marketing undertaken by the 1,005 US small business owners surveyed, though only around 4 in 10 (42%) are using email to connect with new and potential customers and drive brand awareness.

Of note, Constant Contact reveals that email marketing is more broadly-used by small businesses with more employees (11-20) than by the total sample, at 61% and 42%, respectively. Furthermore, businesses with 11-20 employees display an above-average likelihood to believe that email marketing will be important to the future of their business (69% feeling that way, versus the 51% average).

Beyond email, the other marketing tools that see the most widespread use among small businesses are:

  • Online advertising (39%);
  • Promotions on their business’ homepage (39%);
  • Social media advertising and paid social content (37%); and
  • Customer review collection (33%).

(It’s worth noting that several tools were either not measured or not part of the data release – such as video, paid search, organic social media, and radio.)

Recent research has noted that half of small businesses plan to increase their online presence through online marketing and social media sites, with social media considered most important for acquiring new customers.

The focus on collecting customer reviews, meanwhile, makes sense in light of research indicating that most people need to read more than 3 reviews before trusting a local business.

Meanwhile, although it sits just outside those top 5 marketing tools, print advertising remains fairly common among small businesses, with close to one-third (32%) investing in print ads. Direct mail, for its part, is used by about one-quarter (26%), continuing a trend for print and direct mail to be the among the most popular traditional media types for smaller businesses.

About the Data: The results are based on a nationally representative survey conducted online among 1,005 US small business owners (those owning businesses with 1-20 employees) ages 18 and older.

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