Social Media, SEO Investment Rises as Paid Advertising Falls

The Autopilot report found 65 percent of companies felt that their marketing departments could do better at staying in touch with their customers.

social media and SMBs

Businesses are investing more in Websites, brand and social media, and less in advertising, with content-driven strategies designed to attract searchers, followers and subscribers to their brand through Web and social media channels as marketers' top priorities, according to a report from Autopilot.

The report found 65 percent of companies felt that their marketing departments could do better at staying in touch with customers.

Only 42 percent of enterprises indicated that marketing is doing a "good job," which is higher than small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and midmarket companies (33 percent), but still considered lackluster self-evaluation coming from marketing.

"Social media is noisy, and you don't have to be everywhere at once. Learn where your audience is engaged, and pick the right platform for your goals. Generate more qualified B2B leads through LinkedIn, get more pickup on Twitter, and build community and consumer following on Facebook," Michael Sharkey, CEO of Autopilot, told eWEEK. "Listen actively, participate in groups, be timely in replying to questions, have personality. Social is an opportunity for conversation."

More than 35 percent of companies send communications to customers less than once per month, and almost half of respondents send at most two to three communications each year.

In the small-business segment, SMBs who send communications every two to four weeks generated 575 leads per month, which is double the monthly average.

Midsize business and enterprises saw similar trends, and averaged nearly 4,000 and over 17,000 leads per month, respectively.

Total database sizes grew from under 30,000 in SMBs, to half a million and nearly 5 million contracts, in the midmarket and enterprise.

Sixty-one percent of companies use email software to send blasts, generating far more leads each month than those who use no email software, with an average of 1,283 versus 89 leads per month.

Although a small portion of respondents automate their email marketing, marketers who use automation generate far more leads and build significantly larger databases than those who don't, the report indicated.

SMB marketers who use marketing automation software are perceived to be twice as effective at staying in touch as their counterparts who don't use marketing automation; 60 percent of SMBs that use marketing automation felt they are doing a good job, versus just 30 percent of non-users.

Forty-three percent of surveyed companies do not use CRM software, and of the 57 percent that do, Salesforce is the clear leader. However, 11 percent of marketing automation users do not use CRM, instead relying on the micro-CRM capabilities built into many marketing automation systems, which include abilities to organize and manage contacts and lists.

"The shift from products and services being bought to those being rented as services has created a much more intimate vendor-to-customer relationship that more closely resembles a partnership," Sharkey said. "Cloud services and subscription-based businesses that deliver technology as a service paid monthly or annually, versus up-front, are focused on the lifetime value of the customer. Lifetime value of the customer is driven by their loyalty to the brand, which in turn, is generated from excellence in product, customer service and marketing."