If you’re an SMB looking for a vendor to help with your digital needs, how do you decide when so much choice exists? You can take phone calls from vendors but when the average SMB receives anywhere from 20 to 40 sales calls per month, that means a big time commitment. Other options include surveying friends and colleagues, studying websites, reading articles, or, at the opposite extreme, ignoring digital options entirely.
Because my last article on the SMB marketing ecosystem received so much attention, this follow-up provides SMBs with additional information to determine the most popular digital marketing vendors.
Simply stated: There is wisdom in the crowd.
If more people follow a given vendor and that vendor’s website receives more traffic, it’s likely all those people know something.
My new ecosystem chart provides more information to help SMBs determine which vendors they might consider. It provides rollover links to crowdsourced data, hyperlinks each vendor’s name to its website, and displays the size of each company’s name based on its crowdsourced metrics. A printable version is also available.
In the Street Fight article published six weeks ago, I presented a view of the marketing ecosystem from the SMB perspective. That chart identified three general marketing categories (presence, operations, and media) into which a vendor’s product fit. They either provided advertising to reach audiences, digital tools to run business operations, or services to manage web presence. Within each general category were more specific product groupings. All told, the chart presented over 500 vendors.
Since publishing the story, I’ve heard from many readers who suggested the chart include additional companies and provide more comparative vendor information. It became clear that identifying qualitative differences among this many vendors would be difficult, so my efforts focused on quantitative methods instead.
After studying crowdsource models on topics as diverse as driving directions, grocery and gas pricing, salary data, news stories, education, and search queries, I began to think that the “crowd” may already have expressed preferences between these ecosystem vendors.
I wondered what the chart would look like if vendors were differentiated by publicly available data such as social media followers and website traffic. So I collected Twitter followers and Facebook likes for each company that had such a presence. There were a number of sources from which to collect estimated web traffic. At least one data point was available for most vendors.
After updating the master database, it was clear I needed a new way to visually differentiate popular vendors from others. I used an online word cloud generator to adjust the vendors’ weight by their “crowd” popularity, with the size relative within each category (several vendors appear in more than one category).
If you work for a vendor and have suggestions for either reclassifying or including your company, please contact me. And if you are an SMB trying to figure out how to navigate this space, I would love to speak with you and hear your suggestions as well!
Lorren Elkins is head of digital media at Granite Broadcasting Corporation. His Twitter feed is @Lorren_Elkins