2017 Small Business Marketing Trends Report

Chapter  1 :


Small business owners are the experts in their fields. They're risk-takers, multitaskers, creators, achievers, and leaders who work relentlessly to see their visions become reality.

But they're not necessarily marketers.

And most small business owners oversee so many aspects of their companies—from sales to finance to human resources to daily operations—that marketing unintentionally falls down the list of priorities.

At Keap, we know that too many small businesses are struggling without the strategies and tools that can make their marketing efforts less time-consuming and more effective.

To find out where small businesses are succeeding in marketing—and where they’re lagging behind—we surveyed 1,000 small business owners from across the United States about their goals, tactics, and challenges for 2017. In this report, we’ll cover:

  • Goals and challenges: What are small business owners hoping to achieve with their marketing in 2017? What are they struggling with?
  • Tactics and priorities: Which tactics are small businesses using to meet their goals, and which do they see as most important to their business?
  • Trends and opportunities: How can small businesses leverage digital marketing tactics and tools to stay ahead of the competition?

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Chapter  2 :

Summary of Data


In October 2016, Keap surveyed a panel of 1,009 self-identified small business owners from across the United States via an online questionnaire they accessed with a mobile device. Respondents were not necessarily customers of Keap, and the survey did not identify Keap as a sponsor.

We asked these small business owners a slate of 10 questions (shown with their answers in charts throughout this report). While not all respondents answered all questions, we received at least 1,000 responses for each question.

Executive Summary

  • Many small business owners aren’t ready for a digital world. Nearly one in five small business owners (17 percent) don’t plan to use any digital marketing tactics in 2017.
  • In many small businesses, the CEO is also the CMO. Almost half (49 percent) of small business owners handle marketing efforts themselves.
  • Marketing is a mystery to many small business owners. Forty-seven percent of small business owners don’t know if their marketing efforts are effective, while 10 percent know they aren’t.
  • The average small business marketing strategy isn’t diversified. Fewer than half of respondents use digital marketing tactics including email marketing, content marketing, digital advertising, and SEO.
  • Small business owners say they don’t have time for marketing. Of the many challenges small business owners face in their marketing efforts, respondents said finding time and resources for marketing is the greatest.
  • Gaining and retaining clients are the top marketing goals. Nearly 31 percent of small business owners identified driving sales as their No. 1 goal in 2017, while 23 percent said they need to keep the clients they already have.
  • Small businesses are getting more social (but mostly on Facebook). Social media is a top digital marketing priority for small business owners, with 56 percent planning to invest more in 2017. For most, social media means Facebook: Nearly three-quarters of respondents regularly use Facebook, but less than half use any other social platform.
  • Small business owners haven’t embraced tools that can aid their marketing efforts. Nearly one- third of small business owners don’t use any marketing tools, while less than half use apps that can help them with social media management, website analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), and more.

Digital marketing goals and priorities

GoalsWhat small business owners want most is more business, both from new and existing clients. Driving sales is the top marketing goal for 2017, shared by 31 percent of respondents, followed by retaining and re-engaging clients at 23 percent.

Fewer small business owners are focused on driving and capturing leads at the top of the sales funnel, with 14 percent saying their main goal is building awareness or conveying information and only seven percent calling lead capture a top priority.

ChallengesFor small business owners, the most difficult aspect of digital marketing is simply getting the work done. Nineteen percent of respondents named finding time and resources for marketing as their top challenge for 2017.

Perhaps that’s because nearly half of small business owners handle marketing on their own—which likely means marketing isn’t the only area of the business they oversee. Forty-nine percent of small business owners are the sole marketers at their companies, while only 22 percent have the help of staff members and 22 percent hire contractors for all or some of their marketing efforts.

For 18 percent of respondents, the greatest marketing challenge is converting leads into clients, a problem that speaks to their top goal of driving sales. Small business owners identified conversion as a greater problem than attracting leads, with generating web traffic and capturing leads cited as the top challenge by 15 percent and eight percent of respondents, respectively.

But for many small business owners, the greatest challenge is digital marketing itself: 17 percent said they don’t plan to do any digital marketing in 2017, while 10 percent said their challenge is understanding marketing tactics and trends.

Because small businesses struggle to use and understand digital marketing, it’s no surprise that less than half of respondents find their marketing efforts effective. Forty-seven percent of small business owners don’t know if their marketing strategy works, while 10 percent know that it doesn’t.

Marketing tools and tactics

Tactics and prioritiesIf there’s one aspect of digital marketing that small business owners are getting the hang of, it’s social media. For small businesses, social media is both the No. 1 digital marketing tactic and the No. 1 area for marketing investment in 2017, with 70 percent of respondents planning to use social media and 56 percent increasing their social media budget.

But most small businesses lack a digital marketing strategy that can help them nurture and connect with clients on multiple channels. Less than half of respondents use email marketing, content marketing, digital advertising, or search engine optimization (SEO). And less than one-third plan to spend more on those tactics in 2017.

Tools and strategiesThe majority of respondents also haven’t embraced tools that can help them manage and master digital marketing—software once reserved for enterprise companies that is now widely available for small businesses. While 42 percent use a social media management tool and 39 percent study their website analytics, less than a quarter use tools like customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation to connect with leads and clients after first contact (see the Trends & Opportunities section of this report).

Although small businesses are investing time and budget into social media, their use of social media is mostly limited to Facebook—a platform that has increasingly reduced the reach of organic content from businesses in favor of personal and paid posts. While 72 percent of small businesses regularly post on Facebook, less than half use Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Social media posts are by far the most popular type of content small businesses create. Otherwise, most small businesses don’t produce digital content that could help them attract, educate, and retain clients. While 43 percent of businesses send emails, one-third or fewer of respondents publish blog posts or articles, create videos, or offer downloadable content like e-books. An old standby, direct mail, is more popular for small business owners than video marketing, widely considered to be a critical marketing strategy for 2017 and beyond (see Trends& Opportunities).

The survey also shows that few small businesses rely on digital methods of collecting leads, a tactic that can help them organize contact information from clients and continue marketing to them via email and other channels. While 43 percent of small businesses capture information in person or on the phone, only one-third ask leads to opt in to an email list and 13 percent offer downloadable content.

Chapter  4 :


Digital marketing is constantly changing. But with those changes come many opportunities for small businesses to connect with more customers—and get ahead of the competition.

Now more than ever, small businesses have access to the same digital marketing tactics used by the most successful corporations, including marketing automation, CRM, social media, SEO, content marketing, and digital advertising. By embracing these tools and tactics, small businesses can grow and thrive in an increasingly digital world.

Chapter  5 :

About the author

Author, Amy Saunders

Amy Saunders

Amy Saunders writes content that inspires and empowers small business owners. As a lifelong Midwesterner, Amy promises to never take Arizona weather for granted and spends her free time riding horses, playing tennis and hiking in the sun.

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