To succeed as a small or medium-sized business (SMB), employees must work smarter. Tight budgets and scrappy teams require innovation at every level — from the Founder and CMO, e-commerce Marketing Director to VP of Marketing, Social Media Director to Paid Search Strategist. This opportunity to bring creativity and agility to the table is one of the many reasons why employees find SMBs rewarding workplaces. Employees can help define the company vision. They can imagine ways to actualize this vision. And often, with SMBs, the product offering aligns with employee values and belief systems.
But let’s face it. The job of a digital marketing decision-maker within an SMB can be challenging— from the long hours to shifting budget priorities. Some might say digital marketing for an SMB is just as hard as creating the company product, thanks to ever-changing platforms, resources, content demands, and time constraints. Getting seen by the right audience can be difficult.
A challenging digital marketing world
Tasked with a new campaign, the digital marketing lead faces questions on how to create, target and execute digital advertising: When do you launch a digital campaign? What platform do you advertise on? How do you reach your target audience? What do you even post?
Digital marketers understand online advertising is key to amplifying their brand, but often they’re not clear where to begin; SMB advertising starts to feel like a ball-and-chain. Rapid changes in the advertising industry also contribute to marketer overwhelm. Consumer behaviors and demands for privacy are forcing brands to adapt how they reach and best serve people’s needs. While the digital marketing space can feel overwhelming, now is a crucial time for marketers to forge deeper relationships with people.
“You need to continually create and revamp the things that work, staying timely. It never ends. We have to keep tweaking our graphics to make sure they’re going to catch attention. It’s not like back in the day when you could run an ad in a newspaper and that same ad was going to run for six weeks, and you were done with it. You constantly have to make content to stay top-of-mind.“
To help accelerate SMB growth, Microsoft developed a quantitative and qualitative research program to better understand how SMBs manage their digital marketing today and to identify the pain points digital marketing leads face. Advertising decision makers of companies with less than 200 employees participated in a 15-minute survey to understand their needs and top pain points within the digital advertising landscape. Microsoft later conducted qualitative interviews to dig deeper into SMB needs. Most respondents noted they had few internal resources to support their efforts and often relied on agencies or freelancers for support (typically for content production or digital campaign management and optimization).
Four universal digital marketing pain points
The SMB founders and employees surveyed had different marketing POVs and experienced challenges unique to their roles. Some respondents were big-picture thinkers struggling to keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape, while others valued flexibility, optimization and results but had a tough time justifying marketing dollars spent. Many focused outward, eager to explore new ways to become and stay relevant on emerging social platforms like TikTok, while other leaders spent a large amount of time inside marketing brainstorming sessions, developing strategy with their team.
Although the findings were as diverse (and interesting) as the businesses surveyed, four clear SMB challenges emerged as shared frustrations: content creation, time and resource constraints, platform fragmentation, and evaluating ROI/ROAS. Read on for details about shared SMB marketer pain points.
A shared frustration with SMB respondents was the volume and type of content deliverables required per campaign — and the reality that content takes time and effort to create. Many people and review cycles are necessary to strategize, envision, develop, write, design, update and optimize a successful digital marketing campaign. This constant demand for content tests SMBs’ bandwidth to fully execute the planned marketing vision.
“Coming up with the right content and being able to put that content together…that’s driving everything these days. Having the right content and current content. For me, it’s a resource thing, I don’t have the resources to generate content in a timely manner. Keeping it fresh.“
Time and resource constraints
The list of tasks for digital advertising marketers is extensive — from determining the marketing budget to developing and distributing content, managing digital campaigns, to analyzing and optimizing marketing efforts…and everything in between. Marketers have much to do but little time or resources to get the work done. The study shows that, out of necessity, SMB digital marketers are forced to either become marketing “Jacks and Jills of all trades” or are left scrambling to find freelancers or agencies to get tasks accomplished. The result? Mixing varying resources produces varying results.
“You spend a lot of time to do a quality check on content, because once it goes up there, it’s up there…Creating and monitoring content has been the thing that takes the most time because it’s only one piece of what I do here, and I’m the only person that’s doing it right now…it just takes time.“
The stress of platform fragmentation is another shared SMB hurdle, as marketers face large quantities of information to learn, manage, and analyze. This is because digital marketers use many campaign and reporting platforms with unique algorithms and ad formats. Plus, these platforms and tools are continuously evolving. Digital advertising leaders experience overwhelm, not only with the many CMS platforms, reporting tools and analytic insights available but also with feature updates within each tool. Forced to keep up with platforms and upgrades, marketers experience pressure to hire more people to diversify the learning load.
“Algorithms change all the time. You have to be specialized in digital marketing to understand everything. My marketing department also works in shopper marketing and trade marketing. The amount of specialization that we can get to a degree is limited.“
Evaluating a campaign’s return on investment (ROI) and return on ad spend (ROAS) has always been challenging — but respondents note that it is even harder to track conversions and gauge true campaign ROI/ROAS with recent privacy changes. Another shared challenge is the perceived lack of standardized metric consistency or transparency across platforms. When developing reports for executives, respondents are tasked with piecing together multiple reports from different platforms to paint a clear picture of a campaign’s tangible return on investment.
“I think conversions are really frustrating. Some of that is the iOS update stuff that happened recently…it’s not accurate because it’s not giving conversions from Facebook. I want to have a completely accurate ROI for digital campaigns, and I don’t feel I’m getting that.“
SMB digital advertising solutions
In today’s digital space, businesses need smarter solutions to grow their business online and find new customers. SMBs are time-constrained and know every click matters. That is why Microsoft Advertising offers its newly redesigned Smart Campaigns experience to make online advertising easier and help small to medium-sized businesses reach more customers across leading advertising and social media platforms.
Smart Campaigns empowers digital marketing leaders to easily reach high-value customers across the web who have higher buying power, spend more online, and are more likely to engage with ads. It’s easy to get started. Marketers set up ads in a matter of minutes while they watch in real-time as the platform intuitively improves the ad, measures its performance, and shows understandable results across platforms.
A new feature within Smart Campaigns is Multi-platform. With Multi-platform, SMBs can expand their reach and maximize their investment by using one ad tool to target many channels like Google Ads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Microsoft Advertising. Instead of creating ads on fragmented platforms to launch and monitor a campaign, SMBs can save time by running ads on multiple platforms in minutes.
Smart Campaigns with Multi-platform is a new digital marketing ecosystem designed to eliminate SMB digital marketing pain points and connect marketers with people at the right moments across work and life.
“Hearing that everything could be in one place and that you could manage it all on different platforms, that’s exciting and innovative…I would be very interested. Being able to log on and do everything and see everything in one spot would save me time. That would be amazing.”