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The State of Small Business Marketing in 2016: Marketing & Customer Retention Trends

State of Small Business

Survey Reveals Marketing & Customer Retention Trends for Small Businesses.

The world of small business marketing is constantly shifting. New tools and services are developed with stunning speed and frequency, giving business owners a plethora of choices when it comes to defining their marketing and customer retention strategy. The dizzying amount of services available often makes it difficult to pinpoint what small business owners want out of these marketing and retention tools. Belly, a digital loyalty platform where I’m a senior account manager, decided to conduct a survey of small business owners in order to to gain a wider perspective on how they actually feel about the tools and services they’re using.

A total of 432 business owners were surveyed from various verticals. 35% of respondents owned food and drink businesses, 24% were from the health and beauty industry, 17% were in the service sector, 7.4% owned business in the shopping vertical, 3% in arts and entertainment and 13.2% responded “other.”

Business Verticals

Of the business owners surveyed, 47% said that they are planning on spending more money on marketing their business as compared with 2015. This is a strong indication that businesses are increasingly getting value out of the marketing tools and platforms that they currently use. It’s also an indication that word of mouth reputation management and promotion alone are not enough to create a sustainable and effective business marketing strategy.

When asked the main reason why they don’t invest in marketing for their business, 50% of respondents said that they do not have enough knowledge or expertise. Marketing platforms and services need to do a better job of simplifying their tools and communicating directly with the small businesses they work with in order to better aid and educate their clients.

55.8% of small business owners measure the success of their marketing programs through customer response and feedback. While organic customer feedback is valuable, it is not quantifiable. The large percentage of small business owners who responded that way may be influenced by the advertising channels they are selecting to use with results that can’t be easily measured or quantified.

Social media advertising was projected as the most widely used marketing channel in 2016 by small businesses, with 76.8% of respondents saying that they plan on using some form of social media as part of their marketing efforts. 63.7% of small businesses plan on using a customer loyalty program, and 61.2% plan on using email marketing. Both of these channels have quantifiable measures of success. However, 36% of respondents plan on using coupons and 20% are planning on using direct mailers, both of which are channels where measuring success is difficult and imprecise.

Social Media Channels

27% of small business owners estimate that 11-20% of first-time customers don’t return to their business. Increasing the return rate of these first-time customers would have a dramatic impact on revenue, which may be why customer loyalty programs have seen an increase in popularity and adoption over the last few years. 82% of respondents note that the purpose of their digital loyalty platform was to get customers to visit more often. The Pareto principle leads to the conclusion that 80% of revenue is generated by 20% of customers, so increasing the amount of times a single customer visits would prove incredibly valuable to a small business.

Small business owners are in a unique position within the realm of marketing. They have a high-level view of every single aspect of their business, but they are also in the trenches of day to day operations. Through this survey, they’ve given marketers and the like real insight into the current state of their marketing efforts.

Guest Blogger

Melanie Jucewicz is a Senior Account Manager at Belly who enjoys helping small businesses leverage their loyalty platform to engage and retain existing customers. In her spare time, Melanie speaks French whenever and wherever she can, travels the world, volunteers for her alma mater Grinnell College, and cheers for her beloved Chicago Blackhawks.