How the Marketing of SMB Marketing Services is Evolving

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The marketing of digital marketing services was once built on guarantees of leads, new customers, clicks, and the like. But when it comes to promoting small and medium-sized business (SMB) marketing products and solutions, the rhetoric and tactics have shifted. The new direction is more personalized and driven by content.

The forces behind this shift are two-fold. First, the volume of free online marketing resources has forced providers to offer practical, how-to information in order to remain relevant, prove expertise, provide value, and build an audience. Second, the persistence of churn has led solutions providers to adopt more of a relationship-building approach rather than a strictly sales-driven model.

Another way to characterize the shift is that the sales process is more consultative than ever before. Providers have changed their positioning, strategic initiatives, and even job titles to emphasize they are in the business of helping and partnering with SMBs, rather than just selling to them.

ReachLocal calls employees “Internet Marketing Consultants;” YP just launched a new YP for Business blog called “The Local Doer,” which provides SMBs with practical marketing insight; and DexMedia is the latest to introduce a free online presence assessment tool. These are just a few real-world examples of how SMB marketing service providers are changing the way they communicate with the market.

In addition, many providers now offer free audits and assessments that identify the weak spots of an SMB’s digital marketing. This kind of exercise generates leads because providers typically require contact information to run the audit.

A marketing approach focused on generating leads instead of locating them and blasting them with emails, phone calls, and flyers, is far more strategic. By toning down their sales language and replacing it with practical, useful information, marketing vendors give SMBs room to decide for themselves if they need help with something or not.

This puts SMBs back in the driver’s seat, which is where they like to be. According to a recent Constant Contact study, SMB owners said the best parts of running a small business were freedom (30%) and controlling their own destiny (29%).

The shift in approach can also be seen as a response to high churn rates, which reflect unmet expectations set in part by providers’ marketing efforts. Lack of perceived ROI and poor customer service/satisfaction are the top two churn factors, according to Google. Still, the search giant contends that 52% of SMB churn is ‘controllable’ and entirely preventable.

Providers are scrapping the rhetoric of promises in favor of a more informative,supportive, and consultative voice. Instead of telling SMBs how much they need help and how they couldn’t possibly manage their own marketing, vendors are being less heavy-handed by freely sharing tips and letting SMBs decide for themselves. In so doing, they’re betting that educating and empowering local entrepreneurs will be a winning approach that sets more realistic expectations and establishes the basis for longer-lasting business relationships.

Joe-MorselloJoe Morsello (@joemorsello) is the Communications Manager at the Local Search Association (@LocalSearchAssn), an industry association of media companies, agencies, and technology providers who help businesses market to local consumers.