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In many ways, things are harder than they’ve ever been before for the 4.5 million SMB CEOs in the United States. Between tightened restrictions on bank loans, and rapidly-changing marketing best practices, the 50% of companies that survive past their 5-year anniversary are typically run by individuals that are both savvy and tenacious. We’ve highlighted a few of the key challenges small business owners face in their marketing daily:

1      Designing a Website that Converts

85% of consumers judge a brand’s reputability by their online reputation, including 3rd-party review websites, and web design. Despite the fact that websites have become a ubiquitous tool for companies, “demand severely outstrips supply” for individuals with technical skills. SMB CEOs don’t need to act as their own webmaster, but they do need a working knowledge of web design principles and optimizing user experience.

2      Generating Referrals from Customers

Referrals from your current customer base will be the most-qualified leads a SMB receives. 65% of new business comes from referrals, and consumers are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend. SMB CEOs need to actively work to define qualified referrals, implement a customer relationship management (CRM) software for tracking, and provide incentives for recommendations.

3      Creating Content that Customers and Search Engines Love

76% of B2B marketers feel that content creation takes too much time, or is too labor intensive. When time and budget are already at a premium, it’s easy for SMB CEOs to compromise quality, or join the minority of companies who aren’t generating custom content. When expensive outsourcing to experts or lowering the velocity of content aren’t an option, small business owners need help creating more information.

4      Developing KPIs

SMB CEOS can choose to focus on hundreds of different inbound marketing analytics from engagement to bounce rate, but few can afford the time to monitor more than a few. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are something of a silver bullet, because a few key metrics can be monitored for a quick snapshot of overall health. Aaron Alders recommends the following:

  • Site-Wide Organic Traffic
  • Unique Keywords Driving Traffic
  • Referral Traffic Growth
  • Cost of Customer Acquisition by Channel
  • Growth in Total Conversion Value

5      Applying Customer Feedback Efficiently

For any brand, regardless of size, customer feedback is gold. Clients can provide a clear, outsider’s perspective on the customer experience, and efficiently applying feedback is critical to retaining business and winning referrals. SMB CEOs need to actively solicit, and apply client insights in real time.

6      Creating Content Marketing Buy-In

For many small business owners, the best and most cost-effective options for content creation are located in house. Establishing a content culture, improving employee buy-in, and creating a project management system for blogs and content offers take time, but they’re essential.

7      Building Buyer Personas

Major organizations pay thousands of dollars to gain insights on their market from consumer research firms. With a limited budget for market research, SMB CEOs must rely on competitive analysis and buyer persona profiles, which address the pain points, priorities, and demographics of their ideal customers.

8      Creating Engaging Marketing Materials

The context and relevancy of marketing materials are at least as important as creating a high velocity of content, and brands are increasingly investing in ways to engage brand advocates online. While custom gamification widgets may be out of reach for many SMBs, Facebook contests and user-generated content are possible alternatives.

9      Demystifying Mobile Marketing

Web traffic on mobile-enabled devices has recently overtaken personal computers. Today’s consumer is constantly plugged-in, and mobile optimization is crucial. SMBs need to actively work to capture the business of the 1.7 billion consumers who will access the web through a tablet or smartphone this year, by implementing responsive web design, and mobile-optimizing landing pages and email campaigns.

10   A/B Testing and Optimization

Active optimization tests have been shown to improve conversion rates on B2B websites by 30-40%. Even if SMB CEOs feel they know their customer base well, pure instinct isn’t enough to capture prospect contact information.

Recommended Resources

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To assist small business owners in identifying the right resources to beat the challenges that can stand between success and failure, we’ve curated a few of the most-valuable resources on the web:

1. Hugh Sellmore

A/B testing. PPC. SEO. There’s a lot of overwhelming acronyms involved in successful digital marketing, and if a pumpkin farmer from Ginger Hills, Georgia can figure them out, you can also. Hugh Sellmore is a fictitious, but vibrant, snapshot of an SMB CEO who leveraged self-education and research to succeed. Fortunately Sellmore, and his staff, have done much of the legwork on behalf of the page’s followers. This Facebook page is a powerful resource for curated statistics and best practices for everything from SEO to improving content buy-in.

2. Ducktape Marketing

While John Jantsch is one of the most-recognized marketing experts in the world, he’s beloved by SMB CEOs worldwide for the fact that he understands their challenges. Jantsch avoids recommendations for expensive or technical courses of action, but instead focuses on teaching the basics of barebones marketing through a filter of the latest best practices.

3. Get Busy Media

Another well-known blog, Get Busy Media focuses on rounding up the best tips and advice that are exclusively tailored to small business. In addition to analysis of the latest trends and techniques, it’s a hub for advice on picking the right tools, and using low-cost or free resources for success.

What are your favorite web resources for solving the biggest challenges small business owners face in marketing today?