Check out my StreetFight article (The Complex SMB Marketing Ecosystem)

As I begin to work on the next version of the SMB Marketing Ecosystem Infographic, I wanted to make sure the StreetFight article was posted to my website.  The new version will include additional companies, better organization, and an attempt to differentiate companies from each other by using available crowd-source metrics.

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The Complex SMB Marketing Ecosystem

With so many companies selling similar services in the local digital space, distinguishing the subtle differences between vendors can sometimes be challenging.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a small or medium-sized business owner (SMB).  In addition to their operational demands, they must also navigate the complex new world of digital marketing. Pity the poor SMB trying to figure it all out. There could not be a worse time for SMBs to be confused. As nationally-focused outfits hone their digital offerings to compete against Amazon, eBay, and other pure-plays, SMBs are generally lagging behind. In a recent PwC study, 52% of internet users said their favorite retailer was Amazon, and 13% said it was eBay. But just as traditional media once owned audiences, SMBs still have a chance to hold on to their customer base. Forrester estimates that 70% of consumers look up products online and then visit a store to purchase. A recent Yodle survey found that 82% of consumers currently use local businesses.  Now is time for SMBs to capitalize on consumer preference for local shopping.

In a Thrive Analytics study, almost two-thirds of SMBs said web development and SEO were their highest digital priority. Social media management, content marketing, loyalty marketing, reputation management, mobile presence and other channels were still cited by over a third.  However, even with these good intentions, 47% of SMBs feel they do not have enough expertise and 43% do not have enough time.

If you look at how effective SMBs are at managing some of these challenges, a 2013 study by vSplash (now BuzzBoard) found that over 90% of SMBs had no social media widgets on their home page, 95% did not have mobile optimized sites, and over 50% did not list either a phone number or email address on their home page. And this survey did not even address topics such as loyalty programs, listings management, reputation management, et cetera.

So, if an SMB is going to make progress, most will rely on the services of a third-party vendor.  But the list of vendors is enormous and the market segments they fall into are often amorphous.

As the head of digital strategy for a broadcaster operating local TV stations around the country, I’ve been challenged to clearly understand the digital marketing space from an SMB perspective.  I’ve been selling to and speaking with SMBs about their digital marketing needs for years. From this, it’s clear that most SMBs are confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed by the digital marketing options they face.  I’ve also spoken with hundreds of vendors in the space about the services they offer. While some do a great job describing their offerings, many do not.

To help me better delineate this space, I asked my network of relatively senior digital executives if they had ever seen a chart (similar to the popular Lumascapes) that maps out the digital marketing ecosystem from the SMB perspective. Not surprisingly, such a chart does not seem to exist.

So, I went ahead and developed my own, both to enhance my understanding and to assist SMBs in identifying potential suppliers in the various digital marketing categories.

Given such a complex process, the folks at Street Fight asked me to provide a little insight into how the chart was compiled.

  1. The first step was to understand the marketing needs of an SMB.  Essentially an SMB has three broad marketing needs: reach audiences, operate their digital platforms, and enhance their online presence.  So, I began by segmenting across that spectrum.
  2. I then identified the major product categories (there turned out to be about 20 or so) and began aligning them within the broader construct.
  3. With a framework in place, the next challenge was to identify vendors, assess their product offerings and position them in the appropriate ecosystem location. This part was fun as I learned about many new companies and took a deeper dive into those I already knew.  I began by identifying those companies that had either been mentioned in the relevant press, attended an industry event, was listed as a search reseller, or was a member of a related industry trade group.  With that information I built a database of keywords, logos, contacts, descriptions, URLs, and addresses.  While some data was collected manually, much was gathered through a series of automated crawlers.
  4. Since some vendors offer more than one service, they appear in multiple categories.  And a handful of other vendors offer a full-suite of services.  To reduce repetition, those vendors are categorized as “full-service agencies” and qualified if they offered four or more of the identified services.
  5. Since the chart quickly became crowded, I also hyper-linked each gray category box to a table with more information on my website. Those tables provide specific website, Facebook, and Twitter addresses, geo locations, and a description of the services provided.

My goal is to help SMBs better understand the types of services they should consider using and provide a basic resource in their search for a provider.

This is just the first version and I expect the map to evolve.  There will certainly be tweaks and adjustments as the landscape changes, market experts write new stories, and others submit suggestions.

If you are a provider 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 hear suggestions from you as well!