Report: Education of SMB Marketers a Glaring Hole in Vendor Approaches

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The biggest predictor of success in digital marketing isn’t what you might expect. According to a new report from BrandMuscle, the greatest predictor of business outcomes is marketing maturity, meaning that the more deeply businesses engage in digital marketing, the greater the successes they’re likely to see.

In the report, local marketing partners at the highest level of maturity saw 2x higher year-over-year revenue growth than those in the bottom two levels of maturity. Even more importantly for marketing professionals, researchers found that education can lead to significant gains. According to the report, eight-in-10 local marketing partners said they are “investing significant time to learn more about marketing,” and those partners who felt better educated showed increased business growth.

“[There was an] incredible correlation and impact between marketing maturity and revenue growth,” says Jason Tabeling, executive vice president of product marketing at BrandMuscle. “This is a pretty incredible opportunity for brands to help their local partners.”

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said they are “actively” trying to learn more about marketing, and vendors who step up to the plate with their own educational modules and in-depth training programs have everything to gain.

The disconnect between how vendors think they are supporting and educating their clients, and how those clients actually feel they are being supported, can be alarming. BrandMuscle’s report found that local marketers are hungry for marketing knowledge, and yet 18% believe they get “little to no support” from the agencies or marketing teams with which they work. Twenty-eight percent say they get “check-the-box support,” which is still insufficient.

So what could marketers be doing better as they work to educate and serve their clients? The report indicates that marketing vendors should consider using incentives or rewards to encourage clients to take more interest in their own marketing strategies. Increased interest is likely to lead to clients seeing greater revenue growth.

Tabeling says he was surprised to see how much local partners plan to spend on their investments in the coming year. Despite some murmurings in the industry that social may have already peaked, BrandMuscle’s research found an expected 39% increase in social media investments and a 38% increase in digital investments.

In fact, of all the opportunities in digital marketing right now, Tabeling says he sees the greatest opportunity in social media. Many of the businesses that have claimed their local pages or accounts still don’t actively engage or regularly post. Just 39% of local businesses actually engage with their communities on social media. Businesses that do engage see a growth rate 30% better than peers who do not.

According to the research, businesses with the highest growth invest their own dollars on advertising at a level that is “on par with the small business industry standard spend,” and they also have access to corporate programs that provide co-op. Partners that have a corporate marketing program but no co-op achieve much less, regardless of what they are spending, indicating that having skin in the game is vital.

Tabeling says he hopes local brand marketers understand that by putting effort towards growing their marketing knowledge and participating in marketing programs, they will see a “clear and measurable impact” on the growth of their businesses over time.

“We see local marketing moving towards a place where the available tools and assets are more intuitive,” he says. “At the same time, [those tools should be] more sophisticated in their abilities to predict, recommend, or measure marketing campaigns.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.