Going into 2011, small businesses are looking to maximize their marketing dollars, and make sure money isn’t being wasted on efforts that don’t impact the bottom line. Marketing tactics with obscure ROI are getting nixed, and traditional advertising is continuing to decline as a result.
Interestingly, small businesses are planning to increase their website budgets in 2011 more than any other marketing channel, online or off, reported Zoomerang in its recent small business marketing report.
“Small business marketing budgets leaned toward websites this year, with 39% of SMBs with fewer than 1,000 employees spending greater than 20% of their budgets in that area. Online spending is expected to continue in favor of websites, as 17% of respondents plan to increase budgets for their sites in 2011 — the highest percentage increase in planning for any marketing item included in the survey,” noted Mashable in its recap of the report.
But why? Are small business just now realizing that having a website is important? I believe the reason small businesses are placing greater value in their websites is a result of 3 key factors:
1. SEO trumps PPC
It’s a widely debated topic, but most experts agree that consumers generally trust (and click) organic, unbiased search results more than pay-per-click (PPC) ads. And prudent small businesses realize that SEO is a much more cost-effective, long term strategy than PPC for driving qualified potential customers to a website. When you look at how to improve SEO, the first step is making sure your website is properly structured, optimized, and has a great content management system allowing the business owner to easily post regular updates – which has the greatest effect on your search rankings.
2. Standards are rising
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone today that hasn’t been on Facebook or Twitter, shopped on Amazon or Walmart.com, or browsed the news on CNN.com or FoxNews.com. These very well-designed websites, and so many others that consumers visit daily, are setting a new standard of quality online – and it’s much higher than it was before. Websites that are not engaging, are poorly designed, and lack interactivity are quickly becoming irrelevant to consumers, and savvy small businesses are taking note.
3. Conversion is king
Whether we’re talking about a TV or print ad, a Facebook or Twitter update, PPC or SEO, or a monthly newsletter – all of these marketing channels point to a website as the place where potential customers can learn more, and convert into real leads and sales. You wouldn’t invest in extravagant advertising for a grand opening, unless the new store was in tip-top shape, with shelves stocked, shiny floors, and helpful sales reps, right? So why would you invest in driving traffic to a website that isn’t completely ready to convert that traffic into leads?
So if you’re a small business, franchisee, or franchisor planning your marketing budget for 2011, do yourself a favor and heed the writings on the wall. Shoddy websites simply won’t cut it anymore – don’t wait until your sales start plummeting to make the change.