Employees must be more creative in order to succeed in small and medium-sized businesses (SMB). Innovation is required at all levels — from the founder and CMO to the VP of Marketing to the Social Media Director to Paid Search Strategist. SMBs are a great place to work because you can bring creativity and agility. Employees can help to define the company vision. They can think of ways to realize this vision. SMBs often have product offerings that align with employee values and beliefs.

Let’s face it. It can be difficult to be a digital marketing decision-maker in a small business. This is due to the long hours and shifting budget priorities. Digital marketing for an SMB can be as difficult as creating a company product. This is due to the constant changes in platforms, resources, content demands and time constraints. It can be difficult to get noticed by the right audience.

A challenging digital marketing world

The digital marketing lead is given a new campaign and must answer questions about how to target, create, and execute digital advertising. Which platform should you advertise on? How can you reach your target audience effectively? What should you post?

Online advertising is crucial to amplifying a brand’s brand. However, digital marketers often don’t know where to start. SMB advertising can feel like a ball-and–chain. Marketer overwhelm is also a result of rapid changes in the advertising industry. Brands are being forced to adapt to meet the needs of their customers by changing consumer behavior and ensuring privacy. Although the digital marketing landscape can seem overwhelming, it is an opportunity for marketers to build deeper relationships with customers.

“You must continue to create and reinvent the things that work, while staying on time. It never ends. To make sure that our graphics catch attention, we have to keep improving them. This is not the same as back in the days when you could place an ad in a newspaper. The same ad would run for six weeks and then you were done. To stay at the top of your mind, you must be content.

Microsoft created a quantitative and qualitative research program in order to help SMBs grow. It also aimed to understand how SMBs currently manage their digital marketing and identify the challenges digital marketing professionals face. To understand the needs and top pain points in the digital advertising landscape, advertising decision-makers from companies with less than 200 employees took part in a 15 minute survey. Microsoft later conducted qualitative interviews to dig deeper into SMB needs. Many respondents said they had limited internal resources and relied on agencies and freelancers for support (typically content production or digital campaign optimization).

Four universal digital marketing pain points

SMB founders and employees were surveyed with different marketing POVs. They also faced unique challenges. Some respondents were big-picture thinkers who struggle to keep up with the changing digital landscape. Others valued flexibility, optimization, and results, but struggled to justify spending marketing dollars. Many were looking outward, eager for new ways to be and stay relevant on emerging social media platforms like TikTok. While others spent a lot of time in brainstorming sessions with their team, creating strategy.

The findings were as varied and interesting as the businesses that were surveyed, but there were four common frustrations among SMB marketers: content creation, time constraints, platform fragmentation and evaluating ROI/ROAS. Continue reading to learn more about common SMB marketer problems.

Content creation

SMB respondents shared their frustrations with the amount and type of content required per campaign. This is in addition to the fact that content takes effort and time to create. It takes many people and review cycles to plan, organize, create, write, update, and optimize a digital marketing campaign. The constant demand for content strains SMBs’ ability to execute the planned marketing vision.

“Coming up and putting together the right content is what drives everything these days. The right content and current information. It’s a resource thing for me. I don’t have enough resources to produce content on a timely basis. It’s important to keep it fresh.

Resources and time constraints

There are many tasks that digital advertising marketers must perform. These include determining the marketing budget, developing and distributing content, managing digital campaign campaigns, and optimizing marketing efforts. Marketers have a lot to do, but very little time or resources to accomplish it all. According to the study, SMB digital marketers find themselves in two camps: they can either become “Jacks and Jills” of marketing or have to scramble to find agencies or freelancers to complete their tasks. The result? The result?

Quality control takes a lot of time. Content is what you do.

Platform fragmentation

Platform fragmentation is another common SMB problem. Marketers have a lot of information to manage, analyze, and learn from. Digital marketers often use multiple reporting and campaign platforms that have unique algorithms and ad formats. These platforms and tools are constantly evolving. Digital advertising professionals feel overwhelmed by the number of reporting tools, CMS platforms and analytic insights that are available, as well as the feature updates within each tool. Marketers are under pressure to keep up with platform updates and to hire more people to spread the learning load.

“Algorithms are constantly changing. To understand digital marketing, you must be an expert. My marketing department also handles shopper marketing, trade marketing, and other areas. We have a limited amount of specialization.

Evaluating ROI/ROAS

It has been difficult to evaluate a campaign’s ROI (return on investment) and ROAS (return on ad expenditure) for years. However, respondents noted that it is now even more difficult to track conversions and determine true campaign ROI/ROAS due to recent privacy changes. Another common challenge is the perceived lack in transparency and consistency across platforms when it comes to metric consistency. Respondents are asked to compile multiple reports from different platforms in order to present a clear picture about a campaign’s tangible return-on-investment.

“I find conversions really frustrating. Some of that is the iOS Update stuff that occurred recently…it’s not exact because it’s denying conversions from Facebook. I want a 100% accurate ROI for digital campaign campaigns and I don’t feel that I’m getting it.

Digital advertising solutions for SMBs

Businesses need to find smarter ways to grow their online business and find new customers in today’s digital world. SMBs are limited in time and understand that every click counts. Microsoft Advertising’s new Smart Campaigns experience is designed to make online advertising simpler and allow small and medium-sized businesses to reach more customers via leading social media and advertising platforms.

Smart Campaigns allows digital marketers to reach high-value customers on the internet. These customers have more buying power, spend more online and are more likely than others to engage with ads. It’s easy and straightforward to get started. Marketers can set up ads in minutes and then watch in real time as the platform improves and measures the ad’s performance across all platforms.

Multi-platform is a new feature in Smart Campaigns. Multi-platform allows SMBs to expand their reach and maximize investment. They can use one ad tool that targets multiple channels, such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. SMBs don’t have to create ads on different platforms to launch and track a campaign. Instead, they can save time by running ads across multiple platforms in a matter of minutes.

Smart Campaigns with Multiplatform is a digital marketing ecosystem that connects marketers with the right people at the right times in their lives and work.

“Hearing that all of your information could be located in one place, and that you could access it on multiple platforms is exciting and innovative, that’s what I would be interested in… It would be great to be able log on and see everything all at once. It would be incredible.

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