Is Mobile the Hot Ad Option for Small Businesses?

Small businesses are clearly on board with online marketing overall, but interest in mobile is up sharply, according to Ad-ology Research. More than 20 percent of small business decision-makers say they plan to commit more resources to mobile marketing in 2012, up from the 12 percent who said the same last year.

Compared to previous years of the annual Small Business Marketing Forecast, the increased interest in mobile is striking: In 2009, just two percent of small businesses surveyed planned increased resources for mobile. Online video should also see increased usage with nearly a quarter saying they plan increased resources for online video, up from 18.4 percent in 2011.

“Marketing opportunities using mobile devices are rapidly emerging just as they did for the Internet many years ago,” said C. Lee Smith, president and CEO of Ad-ology Research.

The Ad-ology study reveals more than 80 percent of U.S. small business owners have a smartphone compared to less than half of the general population. The ability to deliver a new ad message quickly is the number one factor in using online and mobile marketing for small business, the study said.

[ Also Read: U.S. Small Business Owners Dismiss Hiring Incentives ]

Social media for small business marketing has reached its tipping point. Just ten percent say they will not use social media in 2012, down from 24 percent for 2011 and 39 percent for 2010. For the first time, “improving the customer experience” was ranked at the top of the social media benefits list.

While these businesses still want social media to generate leads, they realize the importance of the conversation with consumers.

Facebook is again ranked as the social media site most beneficial for business. Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube follow as the social networks with the largest gains in small business adoption from the 2011 study.

[ Also Read: Top Social Media Brand: Facebook or YouTube? ]

“Even the smallest businesses are putting more resources into online, and really see these newer ways of marketing as a way to reach new audiences. That said, many small businesses – even ones moving into or increasing plans for online – still rely on traditional media,” Smith said.

Other key findings from the study:

• 28.6 percent of small business owners plan to increase budgets for direct mail in 2012

• Newspaper, buoyed by their new emphasis on digital, as well as broadcast TV, cable TV and radio are also expected to see increases from SMBs in the months ahead

• Nearly a quarter plan to increase budget for daily deals, with Groupon and Living Social being the most popular providers

• Nearly 7 out of 10 small business owners believe that research provided by media trade associations is “obviously biased to show their media in the best light”

• 45.3 percent plan to increase their overall advertising spend in 2012, with just 3.9 percent planning a decrease

The latest Small Business Marketing Forecast was conducted in late October 2011 by Ad-ology Research. The results were released Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Ad-ology Research surveyed an online panel of 1,010 owners of U.S. businesses with less than 100 employees in late October 2011.

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Rakesh Raman