Search Top Priority Among SMBs [Study]

In an effort to determine the priorities of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) for the coming year, BIA/Kelsey recently conducted a survey of SMBs that are known for investing more than typical SMBs on advertising and marketing. These businesses are known as SMB Plus Spenders and invest approximately $25,000 to $79,000 annually on advertising and promotion. The results of the survey show that for 2015, these SMBs view search marketing and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising as top priorities.

Survey Highlights

  • According to the survey responses, search and PPC are the dominating priority with 60.6 percent of the results.
  • In second place is email marketing with 53.7 percent, followed closely by print advertising with 53.3 percent.
  • As you’ll see in the chart below, social media, mobile, broadcast and cable, and video priority ranges from 45 percent to 40 percent.


Steve Marshall is the director of research for BIA/Kelsey. SEW spoke with Marshall to gain some additional insight into the survey and the results.

SEW: It is not surprising that SEO/SEM and email marketing take the number one and two priority spots. However, what is a bit surprising is that print advertising is ranking solidly in position number three. Can you please shed some light on why?

Marshall: First off, print advertising is a very broad category. It includes everything from newspaper advertising to yellow pages, industry-specific magazines, direct mail, and door hangers. In all there are approximately 50 different platforms that fall under this category.

Additionally, traditional or print media is still widely used by numerous SMBs and is a staple for many service providers.

SEW: Can you provide some insight into the types of SMB businesses that you surveyed?

Marshall: We purposefully surveyed a broad spectrum of businesses. We wanted to make sure that each category was widely represented. The businesses surveyed are primarily locally owned and not a part of a larger chain.

Our biggest single category surveyed was General Retail and included businesses such as bicycle shops and gift stores. Trade Services such as plumbers and electricians were also included.

SEW: Were any of the results from the survey unexpected? If so, what stood out the most?

Marshall: The following are the items I found to be most surprising:

  1. The growth in media spending has slowed down, or even come to a plateau. We believe this is largely due to the replacement of media spending by less expensive social media.
  2. The rapid growth of digital media – growing at a rate that’s above the recent trend.
  3. The great strength in social media, in reach, spend, and diversity. We’re seeing strength across the board in social media – it’s much more than Facebook alone. We’re seeing real strength in LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram, among others.
  4. Growth of discount and loyalty programs. Overall, SMBs estimate that about one-quarter (25 percent) of all their sales in the next 12 months will come from discount programs, promotions, and sales – many of which are linked to loyalty programs. I believe this represents a change in the “contract” between SMBs and their customers, to a relationship that is more involved, regular, and intimate.

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