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Are SMBs the Chicago Cubs of internet marketing?

I have written for the past several years about SMBs and their need to do Internet marketing. I still believe that with all of my heart. There is, however, sometimes a disconnect with what we believe is absolutely true and what is possible. I equate it with being a Cubs fan. You know that having the Cubs win the World Series would be extremely cool and wonderful. That’s what you believe and you know it is good. The reality is though that there are black cats and goats and Steve Bartmans in the way that make it seem almost impossible to be reality. (Sorry Mike, but it’s true, right?)


I am beginning to think that, for the average SMB, real Internet marketing might be out of reach. The SMB wants to win desperately. They say they will do anything to get to success. Unfortunately, in many cases the reality hits and it hits hard.
The reality of Internet marketing is that it takes resources. Real resources. The three major ones are people, money and time. In the best cases for the real small SMB’s, Two out of three of these things are not available in the right amount to make Internet marketing techniques (such as SEO, paid search, blogging and social media) a reality.
I hate thinking this way but I have decided that being an Internet marketing realist is the best way to go. How did I get to this point? By working with enough SMBs to make the point. I have performed market assessments for many SMBs that show exactly where they are in the competitive landscape, what their competition is doing, and what they need to do to succeed in their vertical online. Each client has really appreciated the report. It’s what happens next that is making me move my target to the SME (small and medium enterprise) market.
With the vast majority of clients, the next thing that happened was a blank stare. The stare that signifies their realization that they know exactly what they need to do. They also realize that what it takes to do it may be more than they can handle.
Don’t get me wrong, there are more than a few SMB’s that can make these things happen. I will say though, that they are the exception and not the rule. I wish it were the other way around but it’s not.
I have seen enough to decide that going after a market that has less flexibility but more resources (the SME) is the better way for me to go. While there are millions of SMBs there are “only” 115,000 or so SMEs in the US (define as having 100-1000 employees). I can service about half of those so there is plenty of room for others. (OK, OK, maybe 1/3.)
So, is this the end of SMB Internet marketing? Hardly. There will be plenty of SMB success stories around Internet marketing. That’s because there are always some SMBs that will find a way to get it done. They will read some books and get as much free advice as possible and they will learn enough to get it done. That’s why they are the backbone of business in the US.
As for making a living serving them? I wish it were more possible but it’s not a truly viable market. I hate to say it but it’s true. Like the Cubs, you want to root for SMBs but years of experience tell you it’s not the way to bet. At least in my opinion, that is. What about yours?

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  1. Avatar Mike Moran

    Sad, but true, Frank. I have worked with a few SMBs over the years, but not very many, because they really are at a loss to implement the advice in many cases. The few successful ones I have worked with have relied on me to help them in a far more hands-on way. I have a friend that I am working with now who has me actually update his Web pages for him and that works. It will be interesting to see if companies such as HubSpot can standardize the offerings and lower the prices so that SMBs can truly take a step forward.
    And just for the record, as a perennially optimistic Cub fan, despite their failure to win the World Series since 1908 (no, that is not a typo), I’ve never blamed Steve Bartman for the Cubs’ playoff loss in 2003. He’s a fan who paid his money to get in. The guy the Cubs paid to play shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, booted a sure double play grounder a couple of plays later. Perhaps the Cubs would not have won the game, but I can’t blame some poor schlub who wanted to catch a foul ball. Anyway, I am ready for the new season, and will be wearing my favorite Cubs shirt, which says “Any team can have a bad century.” I just hope it isn’t two centuries…

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