Introducing “Global Growth: The Small Business Marketing Roundtable”

4 Small Business Marketers Discuss Their Challenges, How They’re Overcoming Them, and How LinkedIn Is Helping

November 29, 2018

This fall, I interviewed four forward-thinking small business marketers from around the globe — one each from Brazil, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The result of these conversations is “Global Growth: The Small Business Marketing Roundtable.”

In this Roundtable, I asked our four panelists questions about their unique marketing hurdles, their approaches to leaping over these hurdles, and how content marketing, LinkedIn, and other methods are helping. Their answers are illuminating for any SMB marketer — or for any marketer looking to market or to sell to SMBs.

Before diving into a brief summary of the lessons from this conversation, I wanted to thank the four participants for sharing their time and their insight with me and with anyone else who takes a look at the Roundtable:

Here are seven key takeaways from the Roundtable:  

Generating quality content with small teams remains a challenge

The biggest challenges of small business marketers often relate to creating effective content with small teams. Here’s what Wilcox had to say about content marketing and his clients:

Content is the biggest hurdle for our clients. If you put an ad that just says talk to our sales rep, no one is going to want to click on that. So, it’s this conversation where we say what kind of lead magnet do you have, what kind of content do you have that’s valuable enough that someone is willing to give their e-mail address in exchange for? Generally, what we recommend is go put on a webinar using one of your best decks that maybe you already use with prospective clients. — Wilcox

Stephenson added that prioritization is a big challenge for her small (but growing) team:

Our biggest challenge was—particularly at the beginning of this year—having a very, very small team of just two people. We’ve since then grown that to four people. And I think the way that we’re trying to overcome the relatively small size of our team is prioritization.  — Stephenson

It’s hard to balance branding and demand generation

No matter what size business they work for, marketers always struggle to balance spending on building brand and driving leads. At small businesses, the problem can be magnified by lack of resources, personnel, and budget. Here’s what two of our Roundtable panelists declared about their own branding vs. demand generation choices:  

(Our biggest challenge) is branding. We have been in Brazil just a few months, so nobody knows we exist. — Mendoca Ferreira
For B2Linked, definitely demand generation is what 95% of our clients are after. We have probably 5% of our clients where it is a pure branding play. — Wilcox

Marketers at SMBs are working closer with sales

Sales and marketing alignment is more than a hot term in the business world: It’s an action item, especially for marketers at small businesses. All of the Roundtable panelists said that working closely with sales is a priority.

We’ve developed a healthy relationship between sales and marketing. We have weekly meetings with the head of sales and ensure frequent feedback on leads generated. When they have their sales call, we listen to their feedback and they’ll then provide the team with, “Oh, this person was brilliant for X, Y and Z” or “This person wasn’t so great for these reasons.” With that feedback in mind, I’ll look through the database and look at the lead origin of those leads and how that came from our targeting on LinkedIn or other sources. — Metcalfe
As the head of marketing, I sit right next to the head of sales. We’re talking constantly …  we are aligned to the same goals and that is sales pipeline. I think both teams realize we can’t live without each other. When the sales team uses LinkedIn, for example, they need marketing content, our website, sales assets and messaging to communicate via LinkedIn. Marketing might use a different part of LinkedIn, but it’s the same tool. We need to be working together, so when sales are outreaching, we know that we can target those same people with ads or relevant content.  — Stephenson

Marketers rely more on metrics that ever before

Marketers use a variety of metrics that measure effectiveness throughout the funnel, but today SMBs, like their counterparts at enterprises, are able to measure their influence on revenue generation better than ever before.  

Our main metric is CPL and CPS, Cost Per Lead and Cost Per Sale. Those are most important for us. I look at them every day, but we have a weekly report and monthly report to show to all the team. — Mendoca Ferreira
Our key marketing metric is the return on ad spend. I’ve done a lot of work on trying to drive the highest volume of leads for the most cost-effective price on a CPA basis. — Metcalfe

The size of the marketing budget often depends on performance

While the majority of our panelists were optimistic that their marketing budgets would increase in the coming year, they acknowledged that budgeting could change quickly and was, more than ever, tied to performance.

I think the marketing budget is always up in the air. I don’t think you’re ever anymore going to get a 12-month budget to work with— particularly for SMEs. And if you are a startup and you’re working in tech, we are very reliant on sales performance. So, if all of our plans go ahead, if our sales team is selling and closing and our customer success team are retaining clients, then absolutely my plan is to be growing the marketing budget. — Stephenson
Of our 30 clients, we have a couple who are raising their budgets by 100% or 200%. Then we have a large chunk that are growing budgets an incremental 10%, 15%, 20%. Then, of course, we got some who are staying flat or even decreasing. On average, we’re seeing increasing marketing budgets in the double digits. — Wilcox

Digital gives SMBs a fighting chance

The rise of the digital world, where websites make everyone a publisher and where social media can connect marketers to their audiences for little to not cost, has leveled the playing field.

The thing is the smaller the team the more agile you can be. What I’ve seen is we’ve got some very small teams that are producing amazing content. With paid social media, it’s in an ad format where it doesn’t matter whether you’re IBM or a two-person company that just opened yesterday, you have the same ability to reach people. — Wilcox

LinkedIn can play a key role for SMB marketers.

The marketers on our Roundtable use LinkedIn in different ways, but all find LinkedIn’s targeting capability a powerful asset.

One of our key targets is executives, and with LinkedIn, we can know exactly where people are working, what people are doing, and how long they are working. All this information helps us to find the correct people. — Mendoca Ferreira
We are using Website Demographics. To give you an idea of its effectiveness, for Sponsored Content the average click through rate is a .35%, and when we run website retargeting we’re oftentimes getting over a 1% click through rate. We love website retargeting for that. — Wilcox

For more insight into how small business marketers are overcoming their challenges, read the full Global Growth Roundtable today.