44% of small businesses don’t have a website

Despite a continued preference among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) for receiving marketing information via direct mail and in other traditional ways, major marketers to SMBs are cutting back on these tactics and switching to lower-cost, online marketing to save money, according to a study by Bredin Business Information (BBI).

Marketers are most interested in using online tactics such as microsites/resource centers, webinars and webcasts, and social networking. Offline, tactics such as PR and telemarketing are most appealing to marketers, while interest in direct mail, print advertising and trade shows all declined.

Though many marketers are cutting back on offline tactics and making efforts to join the “buzz bandwagon” with social networking, the survey results indicate that “business owners are not nearly as enthusiastic about social networking as the marketers are. Recent research from WebVisible found that 44% of small businesses do not even have websites.

SMBs’ top business challenges include:
• finding new customers (76.5%)
• managing costs (71.2%)
• retaining their current customers (51.7%).
Ranked lowest are avoiding layoffs (2.9%) and keeping employees productive (3.3%), the survey found.

Additional findings among SMBs:

• The most important purchase criterion in this economy is high value (61.3%) followed by low price (52.4%) and reliability (35.3%). Least important is buying from a leading brand (1.9%) and having a personal relationship with the vendor (6%).

• Among the social networks, SMBs rated Facebook highest (19.7%), followed by LinkedIn (15.6%), MeetUp (11.3%) and Twitter (11.2%).

Marketers say their biggest challenges in 2009 are funding new projects (24%), growing business with limited resources (15%) and increasing awareness (15%), the survey found.

To do this, many are attempting to capitalize on competitive weaknesses to gain market share, rather than on retention efforts. Nearly half (48%) say they are balancing their efforts, while 32% are concentrating more on acquisition and only 20% on retention, the survey found.

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