Small businesses have many options when it comes to promoting their products and services online. Many of these businesses choose to make search engine optimization (also known as content marketing) their primary online marketing channel because of it's low barrier to entry and known efficiency to deliver new leads and customers cheaper than paid search advertisements.
Unfortunately, as most small business owners find, simply building a website and writing a few articles doesn't do much. To solve this problem a new breed of web marketing optimization tools have emerged. These tools provide search engine optimization and conversion optimization features that allow savvy users to find opportunities, select strategies, and complete the execution of highly optimized web marketing programs.
Some of the more popular tools include Google Analytics, SEOMoz, HubSpot, Optimizely, and Conductor.
But for millions of small business owners these tools just add more complexity, cost and responsibilities to their already hectic lives. In result, small businesses - in comparison to their larger counterparts - see a significantly lower return on investment when using these tools. Today's web marketing optimization tools overpromise and under serve their small business users because of three false assumptions:
1. They assume that the small business user is a marketing expert, or has the time to become a marketing expert.
2. They assume that the small business itself has a larger marketing budget than it actually does.
3. They assume that the small business user will spend many hours working in their product.
Let's look at some examples of these false assumptions at play in today's leading web marketing optimization products.
False Assumption #1: All Small Business Owners Are Marketing Experts
Log in to any leading marketing optimization tool today and you will be instantly met with a dashboard of data. An industry favorite, the dashboard is a screen absolutely stuffed with charts, tables, graphs and menus that make thousands of data points available right at your fingertips. In reality, first sight of the dashboard gives the small business user an experience of pure helplessness.
If you have this required training, dashboards are empowering and will get your investigative juices flowing. But unfortunately for the average small business, the person in charge of their website has no experience doing online marketing and in some cases has no experience doing any type of marketing.
Just for a second, remove everything you know about web marketing from your brain. Now take a peek at the Google Analytics dashboard in the diagram above. It really is terrifying. Log in to Conductor or HubSpot. They're actually worse. Optimizely is an interesting tool because it is actually really easy to use. But, being that it is a content testing tool, they still leave the most important decision up to you. What you should actually test.
All of these tools fail to meet the needs of small businesses because they assume that small business users are marketing experts or have the time required to become a web marketing expert. HubSpot even recommends that their new users complete a 25-hour �jumpstart� training university.
What small businesses need:
Simpler tools that acknowledge the lack of experience with web marketing that most small business users have. Web marketing tools should start with only the basics and introduce more complex concepts and data when the user is ready.
But what if you could entirely remove the need for users to analyze data at all? Small businesses users wouldn't even need to see the data if a tool could just tell them what they should do next.
False Assumption #2: Small Businesses Want to Risk Their Entire Marketing Budget on a Single Marketing Tool
Even when small business users happen to have the knowledge and background required to actually use complex marketing tools, they still can't use them after the free trial period ends. Many of these products have starting price-points above $250/month and others require large annual payments upfront.
A recent BIA Kelsey study shows that 90% of small business (18 million small businesses globally) have total annual marketing budgets of $3,000 or less. This means that most marketing optimization tools start by asking for a small business' entire annual marketing budget.
Conductor starts at $500/month and quickly goes up from there. HubSpot's published pricing shows a starting level of $200 a month, but if you already have at least a few customers or contacts you suddenly have to pay hundreds more each month. Don't miss the fine print about setup fees and the annual pre-payment requirement.
What small businesses need:
Pricing that makes sense for smaller marketing programs. Other industries like email marketing have pricing that scales based on list size where small businesses can get started for less than $10/month.
Since we are talking about marketing tools here, what about a product that starts free and only requires businesses to pay after their web marketing program is successful?
False Assumption #3: Web Marketing is All You Need to Do This Year
So let's say you happen to be a trained web marketing expert and your small business has a huge marketing budget. You're all set, right?
Unfortunately most of today's web marketing tools will still fail you because each one has developed their own non-standard way to show you those millions of data points you're paying them to store for you. You'll spend days or weeks learning to use the system only to find that it requires your constant attention to produce consistent results.
Most tools assume that there is someone in your company whose entire job is web marketing. In the average small business where the marketer is also CEO, head of finance, head of technology, janitor, and chief-fire-putter-outer, its rare to find an extra 40 hours a week in anyone's schedule. For many small businesses allocating more than two hours each week to web marketing is a real challenge.
HubSpot offers a week-long course to train you on their own product (for which they charge you $2,000). Conductor has a 40 hour course, which is pretty much required because they send you a 20mb Excel file full of data each month that they expect you to mine through to find little hidden nuggets of wisdom about your marketing program. SEOMoz is supported by a community of volunteer product experts whose opinions on best practices vary widely
What small businesses need:
Tools that take less than a minute to begin using and that put clear focus on the easiest and most impactful actions that a user can take right now. An ideal tool would show the relative importance of each action and would break larger items up into small tasks so that progress can always be made in increments as small as five minutes.
A Huge Opportunity: Web Marketing Optimization Tools for Small Businesses
Today's leading web marketing optimization tool providers are laser-focused on building complex, robust, costly solutions for the world's largest companies. Because of this a huge opportunity exists for web marketing products that are tailored to the needs of the world's 18 million real small business users.
The perfect small business marketing tool must be suitable for the novice user, have pricing that starts very low and scales only when businesses grow, and must quickly answer more questions than it creates. This is what small businesses need, and this will make web marketing easier and smarter for everyone.