SMEs lead online marketing charge, but attitudes are mixed

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Small business has embraced online marketing, spending more of their budgets on digital forms than larger companies, according to a survey of digital marketing attitudes.

A “disconnect” between performance of online marketing and the perception of the results has plagued growth in the sector, said researchers.

The survey of 330 marketers in Australia and New Zealand, ‘Emerging Trends in Digital Marketing’, conducted for online service provider Sitecore early in October, showed a number of inconsistencies in attitudes towards marketing channels compared to actual spend.

Companies with turnover of less than $2 million spend 55% of their marketing budgets online, whereas firms with turnover between $2 million and $19 million spend 46%.

Larger firms spend 33% of their marketing budgets online.

But growth is expected in 2014, with 73% of businesses predicting they will increase their digital budget, and another 20% expecting to maintain it at the same level.

When the 73% figure is examined, larger companies are looking to spend more online, with 76% of the $2 million to $19 million bracket increasing their online share in the next 12-18 months, and 75% of the +$20 million firms increasing spends.

For instance, while 82% of marketers surveyed said offline channels such as print features in their marketing mix, and 65% said trade shows feature, where multiple answers were allowed, print was considered the most over-rated marketing channel by 38% of respondents followed by TV with 24% and trade shows at 16%.

Online channels which feature in the marketing mix of those surveyed were emails to the company’s own database at 84%, followed by social media at 81%. Display advertising was fifth on the list of over-rated marketing channels, but at 11% it was the top online channel, followed by social media at 6%.

First Point Research & Consulting did the research for Sitecore, and managing director Jane Briggs said as online marketing lacked a common metric for success it was a tougher sell when devising a marketing strategy.

“It’s difficult for a marketer to divert funds from one area to another unless they can justify it and prove it. Smaller companies don’t usually have as many hoops to jump through to achieve that, and that’s probably why we’re seeing smaller companies leading the way.”

She said feedback from the open comments section of the survey showed smaller companies felt they could be more creative, flexible and targeted by “going online”.

“If you’re not investing as much money in it, perhaps the risk is not as high, you can try different options or have a dip in the water without taking too much of a risk, whereas for bigger brands, bigger companies there has to be a few more runs on the board perhaps to justify that change.”

Briggs said older marketers had more training and felt more confident using online marketing than those with less than five years’ experience, showing that “at the coal face, those people needing to implement it [digital marketing] aren’t feeling at all confident about what they are doing”.


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