Word-of-mouth (W-O-M) remains the the most effective marketing channel for generating new leads and customers, according to SMBs responding to a recent BrightLocal survey. Asked to choose from 12 online and offline channels, 28% indicated W-O-M to be their most effective, up from 26% the previous year. Online marketing channels – which appear to be gaining in appeal among respondents – comprised the next 3 most-effective. Specifically, 1 in 5 respondents reported that SEO is their most effective marketing channel, with 15% citing online local directories and 10% email marketing.
(For the purposes of the study, W-O-M was considered an offline medium. Social media was not among the marketing channel options listed.)
The importance of SEO is reflected in respondents’ perspectives concerning success metrics: search engine rankings emerged as a more prioritized metric than the number of customers walking through the door, although phone calls to the business are respondents’ most important metric.
Meanwhile, SMBs’ attitudes towards online marketing’s effectiveness appear to be improving, per the survey’s results. This year, three-quarters of respondents reported that online marketing is either very effective (32%) or effective (43%) at attracting new customers to their business, up from roughly two-thirds (27% very effective; 41% effective) feeling that way in the previous year’s survey.
Likely as a result, SMBs are expecting to spend more on internet marketing: 37% said they would increase their spending over the coming 12 months, a big jump from 21% who planned such an increase in the year prior. Currently, respondents’ overall budgets are reportedly split evenly between online (51% share) and offline (49% share) channels, although their allocations differ quite widely: half say they spend 30% or less of their budgets on internet or mobile marketing, while
fewer (29%) spend upwards of 70% on online marketing.
About the Data: The survey was conducted in October / November 2014. 736 SMBs completed the survey with 95% located in North America (Europe 4%, RoW 1%).