The longstanding debate around the best strategy for capturing the SMB market and scaling operations while remaining profitable continues to simmer. On one side, you have turnkey solutions providers (agencies, publishers, and the like). On the other, you have do-it-yourself (DIY) tech platforms, with a smattering of do-it-with-me (DIWM) models covering the middle, each with their respective tradeoffs.
Recent surveys indicate small business owners prefer DIY digital marketing offerings to traditional DIFM solutions. On the surface, these findings make sense, for several reasons. One is that business owners are becoming increasingly savvy and educated. Another is they may have been burned in the past by shoddy providers. Finally, there are plenty of companies using software to make DIY an easier proposition.
Business owners perceive DIY as giving them the greatest control over their marketing message and budget while saving on the costs associated with managed services. Since DIYers are engaged with their efforts and can actively see results through dashboards and analytics, they have lower churn rates. On the other hand, they typically spend less than other advertisers.
This might indicate a bleak future for full-service providers but that isn’t necessarily the case. DIY solutions still present barriers to entry and adoption as well as retention challenges that even large and well-funded companies like Google and Wix have experienced.
Rather than an either-or approach, I’d argue the future lies in a new go-to-market model I call “do nothing” (DN). It combines context, content, software, and automation into solutions that are low-cost, have next to no barriers to entry, and require little in the way of learning or doing from customers.
Technology exists today or is currently being developed to provide legitimate DN products. For example, this time last year, The Grid garnered a lot of attention for auto-created websites. At Mono, we’ve been working with partners to auto-create websites in new, smart, and exciting ways as well.
DN is not constrained to websites. There are some really unique companies in the space doing the same thing for social media and display ads, local listings, and even video. Take this video example: It was created automatically by bieMEDIA through a process powered by smart algorithms and content conversion tools using nothing but existing structured content from a Central Index (recently acquired by Web.com) directory page.
“The emerging capability of product partners to auto-generate fantastic ready-to-market products by tapping into our structured content APIs is really gaining traction,” Central Index founder James Moore told me. “Great videos like this are just the beginning of a phenomenon that will drive down production costs and increase accessibility to leading digital services for the long-tail SMB market.”
With nothing to learn or do, converting DN customers is easy, and with limited overhead work, keeping expenses low is easy for solutions providers. But the real opportunity for providers lies in support, consultancy, and upselling: Acquire SMBs, learn their business, teach them, offer transparent reporting, gamify their experience, and then grow with them. Further, DN allows providers to streamline their back-end work to complement internal workflows, enabling them to be more efficient so they can provide better service and be more profitable.
Solutions providers have failed in the past by selling SMBs low-cost solutions that simply do not work. When an SMB has a bad experience or doesn’t see results, the business owner gets frustrated and churns. It’s time for the industry to provide quality, low-cost solutions without forcing SMBs into solutions they don’t need or want, or can’t afford.
Technology has finally gotten to a point where we can bridge the gap between cost and quality. So forget DIY vs. DIFM vs. DIWM; “do nothing” is the best approach to capturing the SMB market. It allows SMBs to “dip their toes” into the digital marketing water, see results, and grow over time.
Matt Matergia leads North American business development efforts for mono solutions, a SaaS-based platform built for resellers to design, deliver, and manage professional, responsive websites and e-commerce sites for small and medium-sized businesses. Matt can be reached on Twitter and Instagram.