By Rieva Lesonsky

How do SMEs plan to market their businesses this year? There are some interesting trends noted in Infusionsoft’s annual Small Business Marketing Trends Report, which shows while entrepreneurs are “embracing digital marketing to some extent,” they’re not doing enough to stay competitive.

The top marketing goals for business owners are: getting new customers (31%) and retaining existing customers (25%). To achieve these goals, 38% will spend more this year for managing social media, 30% will budget more for digital advertising and search engine optimization, and 24% will increase spending for website analytics.

The Report shows the digital spend is not likely to be adequate. For example, 28% of those surveyed don’t have any intention to increase their digital marketing budgets at all this year. And, what’s worse—15% don’t plan to use any type of digital marketing whatsoever.

Digital marketing tactics

Even when business owners do implement digital marketing, they’re not sure their strategies are getting results. In fact, 46% of the entrepreneurs surveyed don’t know if their marketing strategies are effective—and 17% actually admit they know their digital marketing isn’t working.

The biggest challenges entrepreneurs face when it comes to digital marketing is simply finding enough time in their days to handle it. Given the constantly changing nature of digital marketing, this isn’t surprising. It’s hard enough for marketing specialists to keep pace with the latest industry trends—much less a busy business owner.

What specific digital marketing tactics are SMEs using?

  • Social media management — 49.3%
  • Website analytics — 35.7%
  • Search engine optimization/digital advertising — 28.2%
  • Email marketing service — 26.8 %
  • None of the above — 23.8%
  • Customer relationship management — 20.9%
  • Marketing automation — 11.9%

Converting leads into sales is the second-biggest challenge the business owners say they face. Perhaps that’s because, according to the Report, so few of them use CRM and marketing automation tools.

Social media

The Report shows social media is going to get the lion’s share of the SMEs’ digital marketing budget. A whopping 74.4% plan to use social media marketing this year and almost 40% will spend more on it than they did in 2017. Overall, social media is the top customer-acquisition channel for SMEs. Facebook is the most popular social channel, used by 75.1%; close behind are Instagram (37.6%) and Twitter (35.1%). In addition, 22.8% use LinkedIn and 21.4% use YouTube.

Staying competitive

How can your business stay competitive in 2018?

Be willing to pay for social media advertising. Social media has grown in importance as a customer-acquisition tool for small businesses. Going beyond organic social media posts to invest in social media advertising and lead generation tools can help entrepreneurs get even better results.

Think mobile. Social media marketing expert Mari Smith, cited in the Report, says any Facebook ads or posts you create must be mobile-friendly. That’s because almost 90% of Facebook users visit Facebook mostly through their mobile devices.

Use video. Only about 27% of SMEs use video as a marketing tactic. Smith recommends trying “micro-videos” that are 10 to 30 seconds long and taking advantage of Facebook Live.

Don’t forget email. I was surprised to learn that just 26.8% of entrepreneurs in the survey use an email marketing service. While email may not get as much buzz as newer marketing tactics, it remains one of the most effective marketing methods for businesses in general—and for small businesses in particular. When you create in-house email lists of customers and prospects, you’ve got contacts you can communicate with directly, without a social media platform in between.

Take advantage of tools that can simplify your marketing. Most small business owners who use social media are probably familiar with social media management tools—but they should also use marketing automation and customer relationship management tools to automate their interactions with customers. With time at a premium for every business owner, finding solutions that help you communicate more efficiently—and effectively—with customers is an obvious choice.

If you’re looking for digital marketing tools, you can find some here and here at And if you need help, there are some digital marketing services here.

The overall takeaway from the Report: Digital marketing will become more and more important in the coming years. Do what you must to stay on top of online marketing trends, or risk being left behind.