Small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) are grabbing onto modern marketing techniques, according to a new report conducted by BtoB magazine and sponsored by marketing automation provider Oracle Eloqua. But the report makes a weak case that SMBs have a greater need for marketing tech than larger companies.

SMBs: Maximizing Synergies in Technology, Branding, Customer Interaction” examines what modern marketing technologies mean for SMBs. The study is the successor to an initial report, “Defining the Modern Marketer: From Real to Ideal.” The new report, based on surveys with 204 executives from companies with annual revenue ranging from $25 million to $200 million, tries to build a case for SMBs’ special interest in marketing tech, even though its own statistics are unconvincing.

Targeting, Engagement, Conversions

The report argues that “marketers in smaller companies are more committed than bigger marketing organizations to using digital marketing technology” because of their reliance on the additional leverage and, in the case of cloud-based technology, less IT support. In particular, the report states, SMBs deploy solutions involving targeting, engagement, conversions, analytics and marketing technology.

Several “essential action items” are recommended for SMBs. These include becoming risk-averse through technology, since technology can help to stretch relatively small teams and budgets, and “taking advantage of expertise,” particularly trusted vendors.

The report also contrasted which digital marketing channels are “most important” for all marketers compared to SMBs. Email remains the most highly valued digital marketing channel for all marketers, according to 64 percent of those surveyed. In fact, it’s the only channel a majority of respondents rated  “most important.”

Social media ranked second most important among all marketers, according to 42 percent of respondents, followed, respectively, by press releases/blogs/case studies, search, webinars, e-newsletters, microsites, white papers, ad banners, mobile, video portals and custom publishing.

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The SMB Perspective

SMBs ranked various the marketing channels differently than marketers in general. For instance, email is even more popular among SMBs in specific, with 71 percent ranking it as “most important.” That channel is followed, respectively, by webinars, social media, press releases/blogs/case studies, search and e-newsletters.

The report suggests that these minor differences illuminate “the slightly greater SMB confidence in technology, analytics and conversion competencies.”

It also appears to be making the case that SMBs favor certain technologies by significantly larger numbers than marketers in general. But its own numbers do not seem to bear out that analysis. For instance, it states that 64 percent of SMB marketers “cited technology-driven (return on investment) ROI as the No. 1 factor changing the Modern Marketer’s role, compared with 60 percent” of marketers overall.

Other comparisons include a “stronger nod” from SMBs to the “shift in power from the brand to the customer” (45 percent versus 42 percent) or a greater sense of the impact from the fragmentation of media (31 percent compared to 30 percent). Although no margin of error is provided in the report, these differences must be within the margin for a survey with a sample of only 204 respondents.

Not Tech Staff, But Infrastructure

The report indicates that SMBs are less concerned about the lack of tech staff than marketers overall (9 percent for SMBs compared to 16 percent overall), possibly because they are more satisfied with services provided by their vendors. However, the report also notes SMBs are “more concerned about lacking the infrastructure to collect and analyze the data driving their marketing efforts.”


Major obstacles

Again, in comparing the “major obstacles preventing the transition to a Modern Marketer,” the ordering of factors for both marketers in general and SMBs is the same: budget constraints, data barriers, no sales data support, poor sales integration, status quo is OK and so on. The relative percentages vary a bit for general marketers compared to SMBs.

Based on this data, the report comes to a conclusion: SMB marketers “could use more technology in order to become fully Modern Marketers.” Well, sure. To become more complete digital marketers, SMBs could use more digital technology.

This report points out a variety of preferences and conditions that SMB marketers share, such as a reliance on email, the need and ability to track ROI, budget constraints and the resulting need to expand their teams. But it seems to be straining to make a case that, as it states, SMBs – where “small” business starts at annual revenue of $25 million – need more tech to more fully become "modern marketers." Of course, it is worth noting that Eloqua describes itself as is “the leading provider of Modern Marketing automation.”