Sales and marketing, Small business

How Much Small Businesses Spend on Digital Marketing Budgets

Credit: Getty Images

For many small businesses, digital marketing can take up precious resources -- or none at all. A recent survey from Clutch, a B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm, shows that 47 percent of small US businesses spent less than $10,000 on digital marketing in 2017.

Among the big challenges: Addressing content marketing opportunities in such areas as whitepapers, blogs, audio podcasts, videos and more.

According to Clutch, many SMB companies have small or nonexistent budgets. The firm also believes that figuring out where to direct digital marketing dollars is key to a company’s success.

Clutch surveyed 351 small business owners or managers from across the U.S. with fewer than 500 employees. Additional findings included:

  • In-house help is the most common digital marketing resource (43%), but industry leaders say that small businesses that try to handle everything in-house may overextend themselves.
  • The majority of small businesses use both social media (62%) and a website (61%) to market themselves.
  • The majority of small businesses (80%) do not invest in content marketing, and experts warn that they are missing a key marketing opportunity.
  • Websites (54%), social media (51%), and email marketing (36%) are the top three digital marketing channels that small businesses will invest in during 2018.
  • Augmented and virtual reality are the least common forms of small business digital marketing (only 10%), but AR/VR can be highly effective for some small businesses.

Small Business Marketing: In-house Talent vs. External Resources

In-house digital marketing teams may not be actual “teams” at many of these businesses. Indeed, 30 percent of those surveyed -- the largest group -- only have one employee working on digital marketing. This suggests digital marketers are stretched thin, lacking time and resources, the study’s authors assert.

Indeed, company size may play an important factor in this survey. With more than half of survey participants reporting annual revenue of less than $1 million, many of them simply may not be able to allocate much money for digital marketing.

Where The Money Goes: What money is being spent on digital marketing is going towards a renewed investment in websites, social media, and email marketing, the study showed. Over half of small businesses surveyed will improve their websites (54%) and engage consumers through social media (51%), while 36 percent will direct more resources to email marketing in 2018.

A minority of companies -- 12 percent -- appear ready to embrace new technologies by investing in augmented and virtual reality technology. This can be a highly effective form of advertising for certain industries like real estate or travel booking, the firm asserts.

Small Business Content Marketing Challenges, Opportunities

While many companies are sticking to the tried and tested formulas for digital marketing and some are looking to the future, the study’s authors caution that they shouldn’t ignore content marketing in the year ahead. Things like blog posts, whitepapers, and videos are a “highly cost-effective way to build brand loyalty and boost a business' ranking in search results,” according to Clutch.

Of course, content marketing isn’t easy. Coming up with new ideas is time-consuming and difficult but consistent content marketing brings measurable returns. According to Clutch, there are some steps that companies can follow to help develop their content marketing strategy:

  • Brainstorm a unique contribution. What information can your business offer that no one else can? This could be a case study of an innovative project, insight into how a product is crafted, or suggestions for how customers can apply products or services in their lives.
  • Define your content marketing goals. Are you aiming to improve your ranking for certain keywords, build your brand, or both? Have you thought about how many qualified leads you need to reach your growth goals?
  • Consider the various types of content available (articles, videos, podcasts, infographics). What kind of content is your business already suited to create?
  • Create a content schedule. How often will you produce content?
  • Define content creation and publication responsibilities. Who is in charge of what?

Above all, make sure that the content you create is helpful and insightful, the authors caution.

What is clear from the study is that any business can engage in digital marketing and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Thoughtful consideration of how a business allocates its resources can yield positive returns. “When small businesses are intentional about delegating digital marketing tasks and hiring for specific digital roles, they can make the most of a small budget and an in-house team,” the authors write.