More than ever before businesses of all shapes and sizes need to see how digital-media is fast becoming the most important marketing tool there is.It is a powerful and effective medium that has proven itself one of the most successful ways to build a business, and is now an essential part of what every customer expects from the shops, services and companies of the 21st Century.

Yet, as this survey clearly shows, many SMEs are either confused as to what to do with digital-media platforms or are unaware of the enormous benefits attainable from having an effective, powerful, online presence.

SMEs can change that by leading their organisation into a digital future that ensures healthier profits, more effective customer capture, and a business, product or service that gains prominence through digital marketing

10 Questions. Many answers.

BridgingPoints recently surveyed a large grouping of Singaporean SMEs in order to get further insight into how SMEs, use, understand, fund, and profit from digital-media in their marketing strategies.

This included questions on perceived effectiveness of digital marketing, investment percentages, digital marketing budget allocation and attitudes towards digital marketing.

The data, key findings and analysis below represents an overview of what BridgingPoints’ discovered. Respondents to the questions were at a level in the organization where they could provide information about the types of digital marketing techniques used, and their perceived relative effectiveness, as well as the budgets allocated for digital marketing.

They were, or had access to, those who are responsible for decisions on digital marketing techniques for new income growth prospects, improved customer experience, integrated channel marketing, brand enhancement, and all aspect of digital commerce.

Although we have drawn on this sample in an attempt to imitate the features of the target population, the exact relationship between the sample and the broader market is unknown because it can’t be finitely determined.

Thus our results represent the sample base, and not the market as a whole, but it must be noted that they do represent an accurate picture of how digital marketing is approached by local SMEs.

Q1. How effective is Internet marketing at attracting customers to your business?

All Respondents:

Graph-1

Key findings:

  • 31% of respondents believe Internet marketing is very effective at attracting customers
    • A total of 21% each saw Internet marketing as both effective and ineffective
    • 13% of respondents had no opinion or felt the question was not applicable

Analysis:
Of those surveyed, a high return of 21% believed that Internet marketing is not effective at bringing in customers, yet if we look at the wider responses it can be clearly seen that the majority of respondents see Internet marketing as either Very Effective -31% or Effective -21%.

This mirrors market leaders around the world who also firmly believe in a solid digital approach and that to acquire and retain customers the value of Internet marketing cannot be underestimated.

13% of respondents –here detailed as ‘Others’– either had no opinion or saw the question as not applicable to their business. With the obvious benefits of having a powerful online marketing presence BridgingPoints will continue to endevour to show all SMEs how important it is to be digitalized.

It is our belief that no business can afford to miss the opportunities clearly gained from embracing effective Internet marketing

Q2. Do you handle Internet marketing yourself or use a freelance marketing consultant / agency?

All Respondents:

Graph-2

Key findings:

  • 52% of respondents use an in-house development approach
    • 32% use a marketing consultancy agency
    • 6% have no strategy

Analysis:
As a rule, the outsourcing of digital marketing activities is a smart move when you don’t have the in-house resources to stay on top of quickly changing technologies.

It made interesting reading to see that 52% of respondents feel they have the in-house expertise to produce the excellence this field demands. However, an analysis of many SME sites by BridgingPoints indicates otherwise.

BridgingPoints finds that a high proportion of websites miss key criteria; from missing code, to features that don’t function, to a near total lack of an online marketing presence.

It’s essential to ensure your Internet market strategy providers have a stake in your success, and we at BridgingPoints always have that in mind because your success equals our success.

Working with professional agencies, data providers and external technology providers are an intricate part of the marketing process but the data reveals that many businesses are attempting specialized tasks such as search marketing, online advertising and mobile marketing by themselves.

Amazingly 6% of respondents had no strategy at all. We hope to convince every SME that to invest in digital marketing is to invest wisely; that it is an essential and cost effective asset for any business.

Q3. Does digital marketing increase sales and / or leads?

All Respondents:

Graph-3

Key findings:

  • 45% of those surveyed Don’t Know what impact digital marketing has on sales / leads
    • 28% of respondents stated that it resulted in an increase in sales / leads of over 10%
    • 27% of respondents stated that it resulted in an increase in sales / leads of under 10%

Analysis
It is this simple: 45% of businesses are completely missing out on an increase in sales by not having any digital sales awareness and by not having a digital marketing strategy.

This contradicts the findings of Question 1 where a total of 66% of respondents believed Internet marketing to be either Very Effective, Effective or Fairly Effective.

The reasons for the gap in its perceived benefits and the actual implementation –of such a central part of a modern businesses’ success– must be addressed.

If a business has a digital marketing strategy then –as with any approach– it has to be analyzed to realize its full potential.

BridgingPoints will always provide you with an analysis that will guarantee an effective strategy for your digital marketing needs.

A majority of respondents are seeing an increase, ranging from under 10% to up to 40%, in leads and sales –the average being 22%, from their digital marketing avenues.
So one thing is for certain:

If you spend on digital marketing you see an increase in returns. One question all businesses must ask of themselves is: Can you afford to miss out?

Q4. In the next 12 months is there a plan to increase spending on your digital marketing?

All Respondents:

Graph-4

Key findings:
• 72% responded that there is no plan to increase spending on digital marketing
• 15% are undecided
• 13% are increasing investment in digital marketing over the next 12 months

Analysis
The results from this question –as in Question 3– once more contradict the data derived from Question1. Businesses recognize the effectiveness of Internet marketing but are unwilling or uncertain about how to invest in its obvious potential.

A low 13% of respondents said their spending would increase this year. A massive 72% stated there would be no increase in spending. 15% say they are undecided.

Perhaps it should be noted that according to, “Hunting and Harvesting in a Digital World: the 2013 CIO Agenda” world leading companies spent an average of 10.4% of their annual 2012 revenue in 2013 on marketing activities.

These expenses include both traditional and digital marketing costs but with an ever-increasing amount spent on the digital side of marketing one can only conclude that it makes sense to follow the leaders.

With an ever more demanding customer base that wants and embraces digitalization of their shopping and business experience companies have to respond in kind or risk being left behind.

Q5. Which of the following marketing channels are most effective at bringing you new leads and customers?

All Respondents:

Graph-5

Key findings:
• 41% see word of mouth as being the most effective marketing channel for expansion
• 14% of respondents see the internet as the most effective

Analysis
BridgingPoints has one simple question that we feel all businesses should answer: How many people does traditional marketing, compared to the Internet and social media, reach?

The majority of SMEs surveyed are not yet aware of the obvious advantages of digital marketing. Often overlooked is the advantage of consumers’ digital-data being much simpler to analyze, so strategy can be quickly changed to create more effective marketing.

Another is that a digital campaign can reach a limitless audience. How many flyers can any one person give out in one day: Especially when it can be so weather and location dependent.

A digital campaign on the web can reach the entire world. Word of mouth can quickly change or even distort your message. A digital message; however, is constant. Digital marketing is also very interactive; reaching an audience that increasingly enjoys making use of social-media.

Furthermore, the direct contact between an audience and a business means that very valuable consumer feedback can again contribute to the development of an effective marketing strategy.

Q6. How much money do you allocate to marketing your business each month?

All Respondents:

Graph-6

Key findings:
• 45% of businesses surveyed have no monthly marketing budget
• 12% of respondents stated they have a monthly budget of $400 to $500 and above

Analysis
The established pattern of a majority of businesses not knowing how to implement a digital strategy is again further underlined by this data.

As other data sets have shown (See Question 3B) digital marketing structures are proven to bring in increased sales and leads; thus ensuring growth, stability and a more certain future yet 45% of businesses do not even have an established monthly budget for a digital marketing strategy.

Social networks, customer forums, and the blogosphere are examples of media that drive inbound inquiries or actions to your company.

The enormous pressure to create, manage and distribute content for multiple marketing activities through the right channels will only increase as customers increasingly use digital channels for the purchase of products and services.

This is why it just makes sense to leave it to the professionals who understand how the industry works and that the only way to enable the success of a marketing strategy –as with anything in business– is to invest in it.

 Q7. What % of your marketing budget do you spend on Internet marketing?

All Respondents:

Graph-7

Key findings:
• 57% of those surveyed stated they invest 0% on Internet marketing
• 28% of respondents stated that over 40% of their marketing budget is digital based

Analysis
A staggering 57% of businesses do not allocate any budget to Internet marketing. This again stands in stark contrast to the understanding that a majority of businesses see Internet marketing as either Very Effective, Effective or Fairly Effective. (See Question 1)

Digital marketing brings returns (See Question 5) so to be sure a business is taking its share of these returns it must invest in the digital medium: It really is as simple as that.

To not do so is something we see it as an oversight on the part of many SMEs and one that must be remedied because if you look again at the data 43% of your competitors are investing in the proven medium of internet marketing, a medium that is increasing their consumer base, their market and their profits.

Q8. How do you rate the performance of your marketing consultant / agency?

All Respondents:

Graph-8

Key findings:
• 60% see the performance of their marketing consultant or agency as poor
• 0% see their marketing consultant or agency’s performance as good or excellent

Analysis
With a distinct proportion of businesses stating that they believed the performance of their marketing consultancy / agency’s as ‘poor’, perhaps we have to look across the data to find as to why that is.

Perhaps the reason lies in the answers to Question 6 and Question 7?  With little to no budget assigned to the development of digital marketing, perhaps it should come as no surprise that a majority of business feel their marketing agency’s performance is ‘poor’ or at best ‘fine’.

With the retained services of established and professional agencies such as those offered by BridgingPoints we firmly believe many more businesses will see and an excellent return on their investment.

Q9. Which of these statements best applies to your attitude towards Internet marketing?

All Respondents:

Graph-9

  1. We are learning how to do Internet marketing for ourselves
  2. We have a desire to – or are already doing tour Internet marketing ourselves
  3. We would like to do so but don’t have the budget
  4. We would rather pay an expert to do it for the company

Analysis
13% (A) of companies are willing to invest time and money in developing in-house abilities; yet the skill-sets needed to implement an effective Internet marketing strategy are complex, constantly changing and take years to perfect.

60% (B) of companies are already marketing their products themselves. How effective is that? How established is their in-house knowledge of (SEO), or PPC management, web design, online PR, content marketing, brand journalism, email marketing, mobile marketing, or any other number of digital media.

13% (C) of respondents profess to have no budget. Can traditional marketing be cut back? Can funds be found from other areas of the business? Ask yourselves these questions and try to secure budgeting for at least some presence in Internet marketing.

14% (D) of businesses see outsourcing as the answer. Perhaps it’s time for you to think of calling in the professionals, saving yourself time, headaches and money; all the while increasing your digital returns.

Q10. If you use/were to use an Internet marketing consultant which of these factors are most important to you?

All Respondents

Graph-10

  1. Cost
  2. Good Reputation
  3. Performance Guarantee

D Free Audit and Review Service

Analysis
37% (A) Costs will always determine action. But it has been shown that by running an effective online marketing campaign the returns soon cover any initial outlay.

26% (B) It makes sense that any company investing in a service is going to use a company of the exact same worth. A good reputation is always going to be invaluable.

31% (C) a Performance Guarantee is seen as important by nearly a third of respondents. It effectively lessens the perceived risk of using valuable resources on Internet marketing services.

6% (D) With only 6% of respondents seeing any value in a service providing a free audit and review it is clearly seen as the least effective way to promote Internet marketing services by the majority of businesses.

Summary
Many SMEs are still woefully unaware of the important role digital marketing now plays in the market place. Every single successful business uses at least some of the varied digital marketing tools now available in their business’ marketing strategy.

We cannot name one single company that doesn’t use some form of digital marketing to improve its image, results and profits. So, seeing as SMEs inhabit an evermore digital-environment, it makes sense to invest in a digital marketing campaign.

Yet many SMEs either don’t see this as important or have a poor understanding of how to do so. Even though traditional marketing still has a place, it is shrinking in our digitally based world.

For today’s businesses, it is vital to have a website, and to use the web as a means of interaction with an increasingly technological savvy consumer; but it has to be a website that knows what it is doing.

By reducing traditional approaches to marketing, and having a cost effective digital approach, SEMs can create funds that can be invested anew in the ever more important digital side of modern commerce.

Reinvesting savings into digital marketing activities is a smart move. We cannot emphasize this enough. Technology cuts costs and improves performance.

We don’t recommend chasing everything that is new and trendy, no, what we suggest is supporting a marketing culture that is agile, one that keeps an open mind, and is always ready to test new techniques and new technologies.

Digital marketing now shares the distinction of being the main activity that determines a product’s success. This should be reason enough to continuously invest in optimizing websites and paying attention to all aspects of developing digital mediums.

One area we truly feel is of the most importance is analytics; this is paramount to a digital medium’s success. But many businesses simply don’t see this as important.

We believe this is an oversight. You need to use data-analysis to support continuous improvement, understand your customers’ requirements, drive results and increase profits.

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