Small businesses are about to jump into online video in a major way.  A new study from Ad-ology, entitled 2011 Small Business Marketing Forecast, found that 45% of small businesses are planning to increase their companies' resources for online video in the coming year--that's nearly double the number from last year's similar survey. The entire forecast costs $95, but the highlights have been put together in a handy press release.

Ad-ology is, according to their website, "the science of applying consumer insights for strategic advertising and marketing."  They provide forecasts like this one to help advertising agencies, media properties, and businesses understand the competitive landscape and better target their audience.  The 2011 Small Business Marketing Forecast contains feedback from survey respondents on everything from online video to mobile advertising.

Understanding the marketplace--and knowing what your peers are up to--is absolutely crucial for small businesses who have budgets too small to allow for mistakes.  Says Ad-ology:

"What are other U.S. small business owners thinking about their sales, advertising, online marketing and social networking? What will you have do to stay at the top of your customer's mind?"

But enough about that--let's dive into the juicy details.

Small Business Marketing Spending Will Increase In 2011

Half of small business owners will increase their ad spending for 2011--last year, only 29% had those plans.  It's possible that the slow-but-sure economic turnaround in the U.S. is responsible for some of this jump, but there's no denying that more small businesses are starting to realize the importance of advertising.  And it's not just online advertising--the forecast says direct mail and newspaper advertising by small businesses will increase in 2011 as well.

Small Businesses Plan to Embrace Online Video in a Huge Way small midsize marketing 2011

Social networks will continue to be important, and the forecast says interest among small businesses in using Twitter and Facebook is up considerably.  Ditto for mobile marketing, as 36% say they'll increase resources for mobile apps and ad in 2011 (up from 21% last year).

Small Businesses Still Behind The Online Curve

Small Businesses Plan to Embrace Online Video in a Huge Way adology Only 64% of small businesses even have a website, according to the forecast, which is rather alarming to me.  I knew they hadn't all hopped on board this train we call the Internet, but I would have guessed the percentage with a website would be a lot higher.  64% is not much more than half.

22% of small business owners said that trying to understand online advertising frustrates them. For many of them, this is still uncharted waters.  I have consulted with hundreds of small businesses, and I can say with certainty that when it comes to web design, search engine optimization, online marketing, and online video... education is still the biggest part of the sales process for me. Typically I have to explain what SEO is before I can convince a small business owner that they need it, and the "explanation" phase is the hardest and most time-consuming element of the whole thing.

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Example: Just last year I worked with a small business owner on a new website project.  Only after the website was approved and launched did I learn that the client didn't really want a website... he wanted an email marketing solution. He just didn't know the difference between the two... at all. Throughout all our conversations about domain names, sitemaps, content, and design... not once did it become clear that the client wanted email marketing. Only when we launched, and the client said, "Now, how does it get to my customers' inboxes?" did the knowledge gap make itself known.

Now, I'll fall on my sword a bit and say that it's my responsibility as a consultant to get at the heart of the client's wishes, and I dropped the ball considerably on this one.  But the fact still remains that the client didn't understand the difference between a website and an email, and that was astonishing to me.  I had assumed we were past that point, and that even the small businesses late to the Internet party at least knew what a website was.

Small Businesses Are Ready To Embrace Online Video

45% of small business owners are going to increase their resources alloted for online video, up from 2010's 28%. That's huge.  Huge.  We've been saying that video is where it's at for years now, and despite its incredible popularity with major brands as a form of advertising, it's still only just now beginning to take hold with the millions and millions of small business owners out there.

C. Lee Smith, the president and CEO of Ad-ology Research, had this to say:

"Small businesses are becoming increasingly savvy on how to market online, and their plans for increased spending on video and mobile show they are ready to try new ways to reach the customer.  They may not have the resources of big businesses, but things like online (video) and social media help level the playing field."


It's tough to draw conclusions on these overall numbers alone, and Mark forgot to loan me the $95 I need to see the full forecast.  But it's safe to say that small businesses are going to be making waves this year in online marketing.  They're going to start using Twitter.  They're going to create Facebook pages and smartphone apps.  And best of all (in my opinion, of course)... they'll be creating and marketing online video in numbers we've never seen.

  • Julian R.M.

    Oh wee!! Very exciting stuff! Amazing to me that more than 1/3 of small business owners still don't have a website!!! This just indicates to me that we are much further behind in the online video adoption timeline than I thought, which is exciting but also overwhelming because as you suggest, the opportunities are there, but the education process is gonna be a PAIN for a while!

  • JeffBach

    Not surprised at the numbers at all. Would also add that nearly all business owners are unlikely to go looking for places to spend their money. Instead they MIGHT listen if you approach them and then go through the long sales cycle which (I also agree) is dominated by education. So this market segment is still tough to crack.

    My main point though is finding a salesperson that knows this space. I know the product and have the experience but I don't have the sales bkgrd or the SMB network to try and sell into. The sales people I try and partner with are no where near understanding the product and service they are trying to sell. This is as big a problem as actually finding the clients.

    • Mark Robertson

      100% right on. Most of the sales reps that address the SMB market are tired, traditional media sales reps, or they work for traditional media that has them selling many different products of the week. Obviously I'm generalizing based off my experience but I would say that the vast majority of reps Ive dealt with (with the exception of 100% interactive based), are not interested in learning, don't really believe in the power of interactive initiatives, and overall - would love to continue to sell ineffective products to SMBs for larger commissions. I know - Im not being very nice and certainly not all sales reps in traditional media are this way - but in my experience, certainly much more than 50% were.

  • Paul Solomons

    You might find Dan Roam's book useful if you find it difficult to explain SEO to
    small business owners. It's called On The Back of a Napkin. Just draw out
    the concept of SEO on a napkin and give it to the owner.

  • Kelly Lester (Easy Lunchboxes)

    I'm a very small business owner. Thank goodness for social media! I spend NO money on advertising and have grown my business purely by word of mouth. Our $$ has all gone into our products and this: - our new, branded entertainment musical web series. If the viewers enjoy it enough, hopefully they'll tell a friend or two. Viral is my new favorite word.

    • Mark Robertson

      Wow Kelly - that is very cool - I love your videos - very well done.

  • Grant Crowell

    Hey Mark, be sure to get us all doctor's outfits, just like the guy has in the video.

  • Guest

    Am I the only lone soldier suspicious of these SMB numbers I snagged from PR Newswire?

    • Mark Robertson

      what stats are you referring to that you snagged?

      • Guest

        Mark - the stats I'm referring to suggest that less than 5% of the SMB's have claimed their Google Places listing vs. the number of SMB's that have a website, blog or one of those under performing template website models, from vendors like Intuit that have limited SEO value.

        • Mark Robertson

          Im suspicious of that for sure. If only 5% worldwide, I suppose I could believe that. I wonder if that excludes companies like the IYPs, many of whom have made it part of their package to enable/claim Google places listings on behalf of the businesses via direct feed.... I would have thought that number would be at least 10-15% - But, I could believe that only 5% of the actual business owners have logged in and "claimed" their listing on their own. What do you think?

  • Real World Traffic

    "Only 64% of small businesses even have a website"

    Wow - that is a lot lower than I imagined. It's hard convincing small businesses how powerful the internet (and online video) can be for them. It sounds to me like a lot of them made new years resolutions to start figuring out this internet thing. :)

    • Mark Robertson

      Yeah, and my guess is that 50% of the 26% who do have a website, have one that hasnt been updated in years :)