A report from Bredin Business Information says major marketers continue to move online to reach small to medium-size businesses, despite midmarket preferences for some offline tactics such as direct mail and tradeshows.
BBI conducted two surveys in late January and February, asking 50 leading marketers about their outreach and research efforts for 2009 and 741 SMBs about their online and offline media preferences, top business concerns and brand ratings. The surveys found SMBs are relying less on traditional marketing tactics because of the economic downturn, but that's one of the top ways they like to receive product and service information, major marketers said.
Among offline tactics, marketers will increase spending on PR and telemarketing versus 2008, while direct mail, print advertising and trade shows will decline. Marketers said they plan to increase spending on every online tactic surveyed, especially microsites and resource centers, social networking and Webinars.
"Marketers are clearly reacting to the difficult economy by using offline tactics much more selectively. They are also moving online aggressively, to reach SMBs efficiently and learn how to get the most from new media opportunities," said BBI CEO Stu Richards. "However, our survey of SMBs indicates that business owners are not nearly as enthusiastic about many online formats for business purposes - such as social networking - as marketers are."
The survey found when it comes to offline sources of information about products and services, SMBs rely most on newspaper and magazine articles (43.6%) and direct mail, including letters, postcards and catalogs (43.5%). Phone calls (27.4%) and radio/TV ads (32%) are least popular.
Moving online, nearly 72 percent of small businesses surveyed said online referrals from friends and peers were the most popular source of information on products and services, with search engine marketing (57%) and educational Websites (44.5%) following. In the world of social networking, Facebook topped the list of favorites with 19.7 percent, followed by LinkedIn at 15.6 percent. Media darling Twitter was rated at 11.3 percent.
Surveying the Mad Men
Overall, the survey found marketers are more focused on winning new customers than keeping current ones. Forty-eight percent said they are balancing their acquisition and retention efforts this year, while 32 percent are concentrating more on acquisition. Only 20 percent are focusing more on retention.
Moving marketing online is a high priority for the firms surveyed. Offline tactics received an average rating of 2.6 on a scale of 1 (significantly decrease versus 2008) to 5 (significantly increase) while online marketing will increase, with an average rating of 3.5. The survey results suggest the online tactics that will grow the most are social networking (3.7), resource centers (3.7) and search marketing (3.6).
However, marketers will spend less on market research in 2009 than 2008, with an overall average score of 2.5. Online surveys (3.5) and online focus groups (3.3) are the only research formats marketers plan to use more in 2009 than in 2008.