The Skills SMB Owners Need to
Supercharge Their Online Marketing Efforts
When it comes to the modern economy, big businesses get all the attention. But in reality, it is small and medium businesses (SMBs) that make the global economy work. According to the World Trade Organization, 90% of the businesses in the world are SMBs.
But SMBs have it tough. Research indicates that only a third of all small businesses will survive to see their tenth year of operations. Part of the reason for that has to do with the difficulty that SMBs have accessing capital to fund and expand their operations. But there's another reason for it that doesn't get talked about very much — their lack of digital marketing prowess.
The available data show that SMBs don't spend very much time or money on their marketing. And it's a problem that the average small business owner could remedy by building some essential marketing skills before launching a venture. Then, they could make the most out of their marketing efforts and improve their business's odds of survival. To help, here are four essential skills that SMB owners should work to acquire to supercharge their marketing operations.
1. Content Creation Skills
Within the field of digital marketing, no tactic's better suited to a small business's needs than content marketing. As a strategy, it checks all the right boxes: it's inexpensive, effective, and delivers excellent ROI. But that's only if it's done right. That's because using poorly executed content is almost worse than not doing any marketing at all.
For one thing, it won't deliver the intended marketing results. And for another, it can harm the business's image in ways that are difficult to fix. But it's a problem SMB owners can easily avoid by developing their content creation skills. At a minimum, they should learn how to:
- Create written content with SEO in mind
- Create compelling video content
- Create short, social media-oriented posts to promote their other channels
And the best part is, most of the necessary skills are things an SMB owner can learn through free online courses. In other words, it's a free way to improve their odds of business success — who would say no to that?
2. Digital Advertising Platform Skills - Google, Facebook, Linkedin etc.
Although most small businesses tend to use their limited marketing budgets on evergreen tactics like content marketing and email marketing, there's an excellent case to be made that they should be spending at least some of that money on various digital advertising platforms, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Google etc. The trouble is that it's very easy to spend precious marketing dollars on digital ads without seeing much of a return.
The big reason for that is the fact that SMBs are competing head-to-head with larger competitors on most platforms. The secret to making it worth it, though, is for SMB owners to learn how to use those platforms to their advantage. According to John Cammidge, an experienced Google advertising consultant, the key skills SMB owners need to make that happen include:
- A working understanding of analytics (such as Adobe analytics or Google analytics) and data-driven campaign planning
- The skills needed to perform A/B testing to optimize website landing pages
- The knowledge necessary to understand audience targeting and market segmentation
- A willingness to experiment
- A realistic, ongoing advertising budget.
In addition, says John, SMB owners can benefit by hiring a Google Ads PPC expert to help with their initial account strategy, setup and ongoing management. That way, they can learn the basics from someone with commercial expertise in the field. The rest, he says, they can learn by experimenting with variations of their initial campaign.
3. Project Management Skills
As mentioned earlier, it isn't just a lack of spending that hampers the marketing efforts of many SMBs. It's also a lack of time investment in executing a marketing strategy. But that's not a surprise, given that SMB owners often wear multiple hats and even spend their free time worrying about their business.
The solution — paradoxically — is for them to find ways to increase the amount of free time they have to begin with. And that means improving efficiency in everything they do. The best way to do that is for them to develop their project management skills and take better control of their daily schedule. But they don't need to aim to become full-fledged project managers. All they need is to borrow the following skills from the project managers' playbooks:
- Project scheduling skills
- Time management and work tracking
- Task delegation skills
- Organizational skills
Again, many of these skills are easy to obtain through online coursework. And they'll help in ways that extend far beyond improving marketing performance. After all, an efficient SMB stands the best chance of success, no matter the market it operates in.
4. Marketing ROI Measurement Skills
Last but not least, SMB owners should learn how to measure marketing ROI if they want to improve their marketing results. The reason is simple: you can't improve what you don't measure. It's an issue that harms marketing performance for plenty of SMBs, who try to rely solely on bottom-line results to measure the effects of their marketing efforts.
The trouble with that is, not every type of marketing bears fruit on the same time scale. For example, direct digital advertising should yield somewhat quick results, while content marketing can take months or years to start providing significant bottom-line value. And without measuring ROI in the right way for each type of marketing effort — it's impossible to know what's working and what could stand improving.
So, learning multiple methodologies to calculate marketing ROI as well as the best ways to track marketing performance is essential. Objectives and key results (OKRs) should be clearly defined for everyone. That knowledge adds up to a valuable skill set that can make a meaningful difference in the marketing results of an SMB. In addition, it will help to make sure every marketing dollar spent ends up generating valuable results with little to no waste.
The Bottom Line
Given the odds that SMBs face when trying to survive in the modern economy, SMB owners should embrace anything that gives them an edge over the competition. And marketing can provide a decisive edge when executed to perfection. By building the skills detailed above, an SMB owner can make the most out of their limited time and budget to drive the results they need. Or they can take their chances and hope for the best. The right choice should be easy for any SMB owner to make.
About the Author
Philip Piletic: My primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. I’m a writer, marketing consultant and guest author at several authority websites.