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What Are the Biggest SMB Challenges in Digital Marketing?

Published: February 10, 2016

Author: Sana Ansari


Today, we’re announcing a new division of 3Q Digital: 3Q Accelerate, designed to unlock the growth potential of SMBs with big ideas.
In my time at 3Q Digital, I’ve encountered tons of SMBs with a number of common challenges in designing and executing on a great digital strategy. I’m going to tackle those challenges and offer up some quick advice, but it’s just a teaser; we’ll roll out plenty more SMB-focused content in the year ahead.
Let’s jump in.

Challenge 1: Where to Start?

One of the biggest initial challenges SMBs have when it comes to digital marketing is where to even begin. SMBs typically have a general idea of who their audience is, but being able to craft the details and understand how and where to get their ad in front of these users gets murky fast. What platform should we be launching on? What avenue do we take – social advertising? Paid Search? Both?
From there, the challenges get more precise: determining how to choose the right keywords and/or set up a structure to help achieve success with both efficiency and scale (for this, we recommend our industry-standard Alpha Beta campaign structure).
If you’re on Facebook, how do you best leverage and set up targeting to ensure you’re smartly segmenting out audiences, collecting data, and setting up to capitalize on what’s working and pull back on what’s not? If you need to adjust, how should you set up the campaign so that you can adjust piece by piece, not restructure the whole shebang? (Our Guide to Facebook Advertising can help with that, too.)

Challenge 2: One KPI Does Not Fit All

The next big challenge for SMBs is truly understanding what the KPIs should be, in general and per platform/device. Each platform and device plays a different role in the funnel. You can’t expect mobile to have the same conversion rates as desktop – however, it is important to realize that mobile may have a significant role in scaling campaigns by introducing users to your business, where they may come back at a later time to convert on desktop.
In the same vein, SMBs must understand how social may play a role in reaching an audience that SEM can’t. For example, for new products that are very niche/unique, social may be a stronger avenue then search in delivering volume (essentially, if people are unaware of a certain type of product, chances are they won’t search for it).
And even in general, it’s important to develop the right KPIs for your overall digital marketing efforts to establish what will get you to your business goals. Often, companies will develop KPIs around lead CPAs. However, you need to truly understand what drives a business’s growth and optimize towards that goal. For example, although leads are a good indicator of qualified traffic, you must ensure that those leads are resulting in end-of-the-funnel conversions that contribute to revenue – so you need to develop KPIs that take that into account.

Challenge 3: Effective Testing on Limited Budgets

Another major challenge with SMBs is being able to test and determine what works best for their brand, goals, and messaging – and achieving all of this with a very limited budget. SMBs and startups don’t have the resources that bigger companies do to invest in testing, so throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks isn’t necessarily something SMBs can do.
It’s important to identify what exactly to test (ad copy, targeting, landing pages, etc.), what the right test would be, what tests would have the greatest impact on our digital marketing efforts, and from those tests, understanding which will have the ability to really scale up and extend your dollars. If you are going to spend money on testing, you need to make sure you’re testing what will really move the needle towards your goals. So prioritization is another key factor that comes into play here.

Challenge 4: Landing Pages Matter 

Landing pages have always been a constant issue with SMBs; in all my time working with SMBs, I’ve rarely seen a page optimized for direct response.
In large part because of inexperience and/or limited budgets, SMBs don’t have the expertise to design their landing page with best practices in mind. Our client portfolio includes a ton of verticals, budget ranges, and different goals, and our team has optimized landing pages to fit all of them. We’ve got a ton of knowledge that can help refine landing pages quickly, without testing each tiny element.
I’ve encountered many SMB marketers who minimize the importance of optimized landing pages, but it’s one of the most crucial initiatives you have. If you’re spending a big part of your budget to drive great traffic, but your landing pages can’t convert that traffic, you’ve thrown precious dollars away.

Challenge 5: Integrating All of These Efforts into a Final Goal

Now you’re ready to go out and put your shoulder into the first four challenges, right? Slow down a bit, though: they can’t be picked off one by one but must instead be part of a larger, integrated strategy. That’s a big task that often requires outside help, which leads to another challenge we’ll tackle in the weeks ahead: how do you pick the right partner?
You know what we think the answer is, of course, and we’re always happy to encourage you to get in touch. In the meantime, if there are any topics or challenges you’d like us to address, drop a comment.

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