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Are small businesses being out-priced in the world of online marketing?

Content Marketing
Online Media Buying

As an agency that deals with a lot of small to medium business, and has done for 14 years, we are increasingly finding ourselves having to have ’the conversation’ with small business clients who enquire with us who are keen to undertake online marketing activities, that their budgets won’t go very far. It’s led us to increasingly think that the modern online marketing space is not one for the client who has no technical knowledge themselves or can’t do at least some element of it in-house. A lot of this comes down to the assumption that as it’s on a computer, there’s no real value being delivered as all that happens is you click a mouse and it just works.

Taking social media as just an example, understanding the way that Facebook adverts work, demographic audiences, targeting, how to utilise Facebook pixel to build audiences, and everything in between, let alone the actual content used on the platform, for the small business owner who just wants to get on with doing what they do best in their own business, it just sounds like complicated technical jargon. Therein however lies the problem, it is detailed, complicated and easy to get wrong, which is why companies typically outsource this where they don’t have dedicated marketing staff to handle it for them. From the agency perspective, the product that we sell is time, and it takes time to research target audiences, configure and set these tools up, post content, report on results, traffic and metrics, and cutting the time out of the work from the agency to do this to fit a client budget, means that the agency can’t do their best work and ensure that the client gets the most results for the least expenditure. In the long run, making simple mistakes due to cutting time out of the setup time on these campaigns and projects, usually ends up as a false economy and wasted advertising spend.

What is the answer to this conundrum?

Potentially more client knowledge, at the small business level where the business size is typically 1-10 staff, most businesses would benefit from a vastly improved online presence. This isn’t just a website, but it’s using all of the modern marketing channels available to them including Pay per click, Google Shopping, Social Networking, SEO and new ones that come along all the time. As if the client themselves was able to take on at least some of the tasks competently, or had more understanding of what goes into that kind of project, it could potentially lead to lower costs of entry for these businesses that will let them start to take advantage of the tools that are out there.

A number of the local Chamber of Commerce and business networking organisations run courses on how to use these technologies which is great as a starting point for small business clients to get an understanding of it, before they approach an agency for more expert help. Whilst it is contrary to everything that you are taught in business, there are times where marketing agencies such as ours, should suggest these as first ports of call for these clients rather than taking on the work at a budget that will not allow the agency to do it’s best work. Only when those clients are fully informed themselves, should they engage with an agency to move to the next level of detail, setup and incorporate creative work to make the content that is being advertised deliver the most impact and results.