Buzzboard’s Neal Polachek and I will be collaborating on a new report tentatively called “Phase 3 of Small Business Digital Marketing.” This a kind of follow up to the earlier sales report we developed.
Arguably Phase One of SMB digital marketing lasted from the mid-to-late 90s through roughly 2005. This was a period of convincing business owners to get online and that the internet was important to their businesses. SMB 1.0 websites were built by hobbyists or nephews and cousins. It was also a period when SMBs were sold advertising and marketing solutions that mostly didn’t work (e.g., early display advertising).
Phase Two lasted approximately from 2005 until today. During this decade the credibility and importance of the internet was established. Websites were upgraded. Search and social media became central to the consumer-user experience, as did smartphones. During this period digital channels became the most critical for local business owners.
Yet there remained considerable inefficiency and a lack of transparency. Local digital marketing is still characterized by a kind of “Wild West” chaos. Churn rates, confusion, noise and ethically dubious vendor claims are all well documented. ROI is still very uncertain to many SMBs.
Overall, Phase Two has been defined by what’s now often called “digital presence management,” as well as review monitoring and new types of customer interactions. Self-service has picked up momentum but is still not viable at scale for most vendors.
Phase 3, which we are now entering, is likely to be defined by mobile, CRM-style data insights and automation and a new set of transactional capabilities, so-called “on-demand services.” And while SMB advertiser acquisition and retention challenges remain — and business owners themselves remain confused and often frustrated — there are big changes afoot.
This is the subject of LSA’s next webinar with me, Buzzboard’s Neal Polachek and Clickable board advisor and local-industry veteran Lem Lloyd. We want the webinar to be a discussion and much more interactive. We’d love your input on the following:
- Does this time line make sense?
- Do you agree with these descriptions and characterizations?
- Are we truly entering a new phase of SMB digital marketing and, if so, what will it mean as a practical matter for stakeholders?
- What specific questions or issues do you want us to investigate and discuss?
The webinar is free and this Thursday, June 11, at 11 Pacific, 2 Eastern. Register and please join the conversation on Thursday.