#SFSNYC: SMB DIY — Is Local Getting Closer to Solving the Self-Serve Conundrum?

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Even though an entire industry has popped up around the use of evolving marketing technology to secure leads for consumer-facing brick-and-mortar businesses, Street Fight research shows “fewer than a quarter of local small businesses [use] mobile marketing regularly.” While industry regulars say digital marketing is a must-have for SMBs, many local companies continue to try to tackle online marketing themselves.

At Street Fight Summit on Wednesday, Damian Rollison, VP of Product at Brandify and Street Fight contributor, sat down with three such digital marketing insiders to discuss how their companies provide value to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Reaching SMBs is a problem “I’m glad I’m not trying to solve,” Rollison said. “Small businesses think of themselves as unique with a unique set of problems,” which makes targeting and serving them a challenge for digital marketers, he said.

All the panelists acknowledged the segmentation of the SMB market and said that articulating why their marketing solutions will help each of their clients individually is key to creating value for those clients.

ReachLocal runs “unique campaigns tailored to clients,” said Sharon Rowlands, CEO of ReachLocal. She emphasized that SMBs want not only a product tailored to their needs but also a personalized service experience in the form of someone on the digital marketing side who can discuss the problems and needs particular to their businesses.

“There’s no such thing as a small business when trying to reach a small business,” said Steven Aldrich, CPO of GoDaddy. “It’s a person.” Accordingly, digital marketers hoping to work with small businesses “need to love the idea that you’re going to spend time talking to each person, to each business,” he said.

Returning to the question of offering SMBs a good service relationship, Rowlands said having a “killer app” is not enough to satisfy SMBs looking for marketing solutions. “At the end of the day, sales and marketing are the drivers,” Rowlands said. “You have to focus on what your client-acquisition model is and how you’re going to make that work.”

Samuel Artmann, SVP of Strategic Partnerships at Web.com, said his company thinks of itself as service-oriented instead of product-oriented and focuses on giving clients a good experience. “You have to create a perception of value through good service.”

Artmann also underscored the importance of not only offering a very specific and effective solution to each business but also adding value to the business by taking advantage of “adjacent” opportunities within or outside of digital marketing. Digital marketers working with SMBs should ask themselves, “How can they capture more value for the customer with whom they build a great relation?” Artmann said.

Of course, the initial challenge in succeeding as an SMB-focused digital marketing company is securing clients in the first place, as many SMBs continue to go it alone, employing a DIY approach to online marketing instead of paying for professional help.

Rowlands said digital marketers should remember that for SMBs, “Their bottom line is: are there customers coming through the door for me?” Attribution is key, and all the panelists agreed that staying in touch with clients to make sure the product is meeting their expectations is essential.

Artmann said Web.com has gotten better at incorporating client feedback into product development over time. “We’re getting more sophisticated in actually gaining from the insights that we’re getting.”

For SMBs looking to scale up and make it big, the infrastructure for DIY marketing ultimately needs to be laid, Aldrich said. “If you’re going to hit scale, the concept of DIY marketing has to be there.”

But in the beginning, SMBs can and should depend on digital marketing experts if finances permit, Rowlands said. SMBs cannot afford to spend so much time on DIY marketing that they do not have time to run their own businesses.

Joseph Zappa is Street Fight’s news editor. Photography by Shana Wittenwyler.

Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015. You can contact him at [email protected]