[Updated March 27, 2013, to clarify description for RearchSite]
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is the latest organization offering up data about how small businesses are lagging in the shift toward online, digital marketing.
Its recent survey of 550 small business owners found that just 3 percent of their total advertising budgets are being spent online, compared with an average of 15 percent of budgets being invested by larger companies.
What's more, only about 15 percent of the businesses surveyed knew they had a free online Yelp profile, and just 11 percent had "claimed" it, in order to monitor and manage what's being said about them in cyberspace. That finding dovetails with a recent survey by Constant Contact, suggesting that many small businesses aren't on top of the various online directories listing their information.
"These findings may come as a surprise, given the explosive growth that digital marketing has experienced in social media and mobile communications. and the high percentage of small businesses that say they are promoting themselves widely on email, websites, Facebook, and Twitter," said John Rose, BCG senior partner and co-author of the consulting firm's report about its findings. "In fact, our survey suggests that when it comes to actually spending their advertising dollars, small businesses continue to favor very traditional channels."
There are exceptions, of course. Many of those companies are experimenting with mobile marketing that is highly localized, with tools such as Glyder (created by the co-founder of Open Table), Perch (which uncovers social marketing activity near participating businesses), or Spark (which lets retailers or restaurants send out coupons via text messages).
You might also be interested in a suite of services offered by ReachLocal, which has been focused on online marketing tools for small and midsized businesses (SMBs) for more than a decade. The company is launching three new offerings. They are:
ReachSite, a service that helps SMBs capture more leads through their Web site. Features include search engine optimization (SEO), content optimization, and lead capture technology. The service will go into a beta test in North America during the second quarter, and is expected to launch by the second half of 2013.
ReachConvert, a service that offers more lead management and tracking capabilities. Business owners or sales teams receive alerts or notifications pretty much any way they specify (via text, email, or a mobile application). This makes it simpler to act more quickly, so that an interested customer prospect doesn't have a chance to change his or her mind. Some of the companies using ReachConvert as part of the ongoing beta test have reported improvements of 30 percent in their lead conversion rates, according to ReachLocal. The service is due to launch in the second quarter.
ReachCommerce, a service currently under development, will link local businesses' online marketing activities with appointment booking and e-commerce systems. The idea is that to make it simpler for an interested customer (and local business) to close the loop. ReachLocal actually leverages the capabilities offered on ReachLocal's ClubLocal.com website. The site represents home services companies (the initial cities are Dallas and San Francisco) that have been vetted for credibility and reliability, and how have agreed to pre-negotiated rates. Interested consumers can use the site to book appointments directly. ReachCommerce would enable individual home services businesses to use similar booking functionality on their own site; it would also give them estimating, fleet management and invoicing options (among other things). The service is targeted for a second half 2013 launch after a beta test.