Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are beginning to accept and espouse the use of technology in making their businesses grow, according to emerging research. While traditional advertising in print, via direct mail, and by use of the radio, may be effective for businesses with customers looking in those areas, more and more customers are looking online for their information. Businesses should look to spend their marketing money there, as well, experts suggest.

In fact, according to a survey of some 900 small- and medium-sized businesses this summer, the SMBs appear to be on track to spend more marketing dollars in digital advertising. “It represents a sea change,” said Greg Harmon, senior research analyst at Borrell Associates, who conducted the survey. According to Harmon, this shift from print represents a key milestone for smaller businesses across the county. “The industry has been waiting for this to happen for a long time.”

Today, some 22 percent of the money that smaller and medium sized businesses spend is on print advertising, while 19 percent is spent on digital advertising, says Harmon who estimates that these figures will shift, with more of the percentage being spent in digital avenues by the middle of this year. The swing, according to Harmon’s estimates, will continue to push the decline of print advertising.

A key driver of the move to digital is, not surprisingly, Facebook, says Harmon. “Eighty-three percent of SMBs are using Facebook, and that number will only increase,” Harmon noted. “It just blows my mind.” Some 64 percent were using Facebook in 2012, a 19 percent increase in just two years, he added.

Harmon calls Google’s piece of the overall SMB budget as having reached what he describes as a “stagnation phase.” Harmon also says that, “Google appears to have topped out, while the roots of Facebook just seem to be getting deeper and deeper into digital culture.” Groupon is not doing any better with its daily deal services, according to Harmon. Of the SMBs surveyed, 77 percent say they do not participate with these types of programs. Of those who say they conduct daily dealing, just half are pleased with the service. “The whole [daily deal] sector is toast,” says Harmon. “Consumers like the deals, but they’re too much trouble for businesses.”

When Harmon was asked about recent reports that Facebook is no longer popular with younger users, he said that really doesn’t matter, “Facebook is too big—and established with too many users—to be affected by [younger users’] tastes.”

Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media offers some suggestions to small- and medium-sized businesses considering online marketing. Investigate online advertising routes in the online pay-per-click venues, including Google’s adWords, Yahoo! Bing Ads, and Facebook Online advertising, says Lesonsky. These all offer easy-to-measure results information, through free analytics tools, which will better enable business owners to determine if the ads are, indeed, driving traffic to their websites, increasing a site’s “likes,” or providing other results. From there, business owners will be able to adjust their campaigns.


Lesonsky, Rieva. Fox Business Small Business, “Small Businesses Are Going Digital for 2014″. January 10, 2014.

O’Malley, Gavin., “Small And Medium-Sized Businesses Increase Digital Spend“. December 6, 2013.