Nearly two-thirds (62%) of the UK's small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) marketers believe their social media activity generates the highest quality leads of their entire marketing strategy, according to a survey by UK call tracking provider Mediahawk.
Perhaps surprisingly, offline methods such as flyers and magazine and newspaper ads were highlighted as the second best (51%) for generating the best leads. Mediahawk said these surprise results suggest that SMEs must manage their marketing budgets to include both online and offline campaigns to maximise reach and sales.
Online delivers best return on investment for SMEs
Offline advertising has a reputation for being an expensive venture, so it’s unsurprising that 64% of SMEs said online marketing delivers the best return on investment (ROI). But with over a third of business owners saying offline delivers the best ROI, businesses will need to look at balancing both online and offline marketing to continue to grow and be profitable.
This divide between offline and online lead sources further highlights the customers’ fractured path to purchase, containing multiple touchpoints of both offline and online channels. To be successful, businesses need to know when and where to target their audience if they want to ease the path to conversion more quickly and seamlessly.
SMEs plan to increase budgets for social media in 2018
Social media was the most popular channel chosen by respondents for investment in 2018, with 55% of businesses planning to increase budgets in this area. The importance of this channel for future marketing is further enhanced by the fact that the majority of respondents also said social media provides the most valuable leads.
But with greater investment, it is paramount that this channel is attributed accurately within the overall path to purchase. Social media is typically a top-level interaction, so understanding how your audience move from your social channels to your other brand assets, such as your website or picking up the telephone, is also important.
How does advertising spend affect ROI and lead quality?
Of businesses that spend over £15,000 annually on offline advertising, 62% of this dataset said that offline brings in the best sales leads. This is to be expected with such a high investment in a notoriously expensive channel.
The majority of businesses with an annual turnover of up to £50,000 said that online advertising provided the best ROI, however it was businesses with a higher turnover, of £100,000 - £500,000, who said that offline marketing provided the highest return on investment.
Digital analytics often doesn’t include offline marketing and conversions
67% of those surveyed said they ‘ask clients how they heard about their businesses’ as their primary method of attribution. Considering that the majority of SMEs said online advertising generates the greatest ROI, and has the broadest number of touchpoints, this is a dangerous and unreliable method to attribute sales back to marketing efforts.
Online analytics tools were the second most preferred method of attribution, utilised by 40% of businesses surveyed. However, ‘tracked telephone numbers’ was the least used form of attribution: a scary thought considering that despite print and offline media being the second highest quality driver of sales and leads according to respondents, they are not tracking these media, with many spending upwards of £5,000 a year on offline marketing.
Michael Morrell, Mediahawk’s CEO, said: “Even while spending more on offline marketing, businesses continue to cite social media as a better source of high-quality leads. This highlights the need to properly attribute marketing spend and understand what works best for you. Tools like call tracking shine a light on the whole customer journey and drive smart marketing investment.”
By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine
Image: Tanja Cappell
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