The are over 6 million businesses in the US who employ between 2 and 250 people. Marketing can make or break many of these companies.

A Boston Consulting Group study reports that a mere 3% of small business ad dollars are in digital. A variety of reports forecast SMBs spending more on digital marketing services over the next 2 years. This shift represents a large opportunity for both large and small digital agencies alike to build revenue by adding small businesses to their portfolio. Small businesses make up the long tail of digital marketing services.

Because of smaller deal sizes, digital agencies need to serve more small businesses to build out top line revenue. This dissuades some agencies from targeting SMBs, but small businesses make good clients if you know how to find them and keep them happy.

  • Deals can be closed in less than a month without the need of a traditional sales force.
  • Less risk in churn because of the large number of customers you will have.
  • Campaigns for small businesses are relatively easy to manage and duplicate.

Every small business has unique challenges. As a result, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds with audience segmentation and message personalization when setting up outbound campaigns targeting smaller companies.

To prospect for small businesses at scale, simplify communication by focusing on universal pain points instead of what makes each individual business unique.


SMBs don’t want to spend time managing digital marketing programs. Decision makers at small businesses— often times the owners themselves — are already struggling to squeeze more hours into their work week. Digital providers that provide frictionless service will win in the long run.

A 2014 report by Constant Contact shows that small business owners — along with another employee — will spend an average of 20 hours per week on marketing. This time is not being used efficiently, and business owners know it. 77% of small business say they lack the time to manage digital media effectively.

Small business owners are the ultimate pragmatists. They recognize the value of marketing but, more often than not, they simply don’t have the time to capitalize. 70% of SMB decision makers wish they could take advantage of digital media to help expand their businesses and reach new customers.

There is no better way to close a small business decision maker than by selling him or her back time they don’t have.


Most small companies lack strong internal marketing knowledge and expertise. The market moves too fast. It’s tough for small business decision makers—  even those with “marketing” in their title— to keep up with everything that’s going on in digital.

If a small business does have internal marketing experience, most likely that experience is centered around push marketing. For anyone over 30 years old, new concepts central to online marketing can be difficult to grasp.

Knowing Where To Start

There are a glut of digital marketing solutions available to small business.

The average small business is bombarded with dozens of sales messages advertising marketing services each week. The various options available— SEO, SEM, SMM, email, video, etc— can be quite daunting. Even if a small business knows which channels to go after, they likely don’t know how much budget to allocate to that channel.

Small businesses want a digital agency that can consult on overall marketing strategy beyond the click.

Budget, Measuring ROI

Small businesses are price-sensitive. There is no avoiding it. That being said, price sensitivity does not equal a measly budget. Small businesses are willing to invest in marketing that works. Targeted, actionable and measurable marketing is the only thing that makes sense to small businesses.

Agencies that clearly define KPIs at the get-go set themselves up for success. This sounds obvious, but too often expectations and scope exceed reality and best practices. Example KPIs can be leveraged in agency’s marketing and sales materials.

Small businesses often simply do not know what they should expect from their online marketing campaigns. Is a 15% email marketing open bad for me? How many people will see my video? What is a good cost per click?

Digital services like AdWords can inflate customer acquisition costs. Focus on lifetime value when selling to small businesses as opposed to transactional ROI.

Failure Rate and Noisy Markets

Small businesses are always looking for a competitive edge.

  • 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months.
  • Approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month (but more employer businesses shut down than start up each month)
  • 7 out of 10 new employer firms survive at least 2 years, half at least 5 years, a third at least 10 years and a quarter stay in business 15 years or more

In a December 2014 survey by The Alternative Board, 38% of small-business owners worldwide pointed to marketing, advertising and public relations as the top area where they would have spent more money when getting their business off the ground.

Non-marketers tend to vastly underestimate how difficult it is to get the right attention from the right people at the right time. Digital agencies targeting small companies need to emphasize how they can enable a business to cut through ever growing noise in their space.

Having Been Burned Before

Somewhere in a small business’ history is the lingering taste of a sour marketing experience.

Many smaller sized businesses have tried to go the DIY route only to see lackluster results. Others have been coaxed into big ad buys with nothing to show for it, they’ve been left out to dry by a freelancer, or worked with an hapless agency.

Establishing trust is key. Small business want good communication and customer service, and they’re willing to pay for it.

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