5 Small-Business Marketing Trends In 2013

Bye-bye, daily deal sites, and hello, mobile: A new survey reveals business owners' preferred way to spend their marketing dollars.
December 10, 2013

Research and consulting firm Borrell Associates surveyed 903 small and medium-sized businesses between May and August 2013 to find out how they’re marketing themselves locally and to get their impressions of various types of advertising and marketing channels. The survey found that most businesses (66 percent) were “very” or “somewhat” optimistic about the United States economy over the next two years and, on average, expected to spend 10.7 percent more on marketing in 2013 than in 2012.

But where SMBs are spending their money, and where they planned to in coming months, is particularly interesting. Here are five key takeaways:

1. Small businesses still favor their local newspaper as their top place to advertise, with 22 percent spending money to advertise in the paper. Digital marketing came in second, with 19 percent of businesses using it. Only 9 percent use direct mail and 1 percent use telemarketing.

2. In terms of plans for the future, online and digital marketing by far is where most businesses plan to direct more of their marketing dollars in the months and years ahead, with nearly 45 percent of businesses reporting that they expected to spend more on digital marketing in 2013 compared with 2012.

3. When it comes to social media marketing, 70 percent of businesses said they used Facebook, making it the most utilized site by far. Comparatively, only 33 percent reported using Twitter, 20 percent used Yelp, 15 percent used Pinterest and 11 percent used Foursquare.

4. Only 21 percent of businesses surveyed said they had used a “deal” site like Groupon or LivingSocial to engage customers. Among those who had, nearly half were dissatisfied with the experience.

5. Slowly but surely, local businesses are warming up to mobile advertising. While only 5 percent of businesses surveyed currently used it, 47 percent said they were likely to use mobile advertising in the next 12 months.

Interestingly, small businesses aren't disturbed about the “showrooming” trend, or the idea that customers use their smartphones and computers to compare prices for their products online. In fact, 24 percent of businesses said it helped their business and sales, while only 9 percent said it hurt them.

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