Small business digital marketing priorities 2016 – survey results now in

SEO, website, social media, content marketing, paid advertising? When it comes to digital marketing, what are small business top priorities this year? Survey results here.


SEO, website, social media, content marketing, paid advertising? When it comes to your digital presence and marketing, what are your top priorities this year?

That’s the question we put to our clients, contacts and social media followers in our Small Business Digital Priorities survey. The results of the survey are now in and they make for interesting reading. Here’s how our small business friends are planning to focus their digital efforts in 2016.

Not a large-scale scientific survey, more a ‘finger in the air’ temperature test, but fascinating results none the less.

Q1: When it comes to your digital presence and marketing in 2016, what are your top priorities?

As you can see from the chart above, Top of the Pops in their overall priority list for the year is ‘creating better content‘ with 31% giving this top priority and 51% classing it as important.

Close second on weighted average was ‘update or redo our website‘ but website was the outright winner when it comes to the number of people marking it top priority, leader of the pack for 43% of all respondents (a further 22% marked it as important).

Mid league we have ‘creating more content’, ‘content marketing strategy’ (good to see that this was top priority for 31%, with a further 31% classing it as important too), closely followed by improving how the company uses social media.

Lower down the listl for our survey respondents was ‘work on our proposition and message’, ‘getting to grips with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)’ and PR. And holding up the rear for the year was ‘Invest in paid advertising‘. Not one of our respondents selected this as top priority, with only 15% seeing it as important and 70% admitting it’s not on their list.

Other priorities mentioned by respondents included ecommerce, understanding customer journeys through an ecommerce website, sorting out the on-boarding process (poor free trial to conversion), and also email marketing (we should have included that – it’s really important!)

And just to show that digital’s not everything to every business, one respondent clicked ‘not on my list‘ for all options.

Top Priority


We’ve got this sorted

Not on my list for the year

Create better content





Update or redo our website





Create more content





Content marketing strategy





Improve our social media





Work on our proposition/message





Get to grips with SEO










Invest in paid advertising





Q2: What’s driving your digital priorities?

Trends are informative but as ever, freeform answers are where the real joy lies. The words people use to describe their challenges are fascinating. I’ve included a few of the freeform responses below and grouped them. Perhaps at the very least it’s good to know we’re not alone in our marketing challenges and business struggles.

Why website change in 2016?

  • Our website looks dated and no longer presents the company on what we’re trying to prioritise: content.
  • Our website is tired, lacks clarity and cleanliness. It does not reflect who we are.
  • The website needs to change, as we need to reposition ourselves to the market. Our brand will not change, but we need to be clearer on what we deliver and to who (information we were not so firm on when we initially relaunched the website 2 and a half years ago). All of our new content will be in line with the new message on the website, so everything will flow from this platform – that’s why it’s the top priority if we want to be seen to be consistent and clear across all channels.
  • We’re going to re-do our website to give more space and prominence to our content and client projects we’ve worked on – we want to showcase what we can do.
  • Need for refreshed and updated site and content associated with, designed based on content approach.
  • Because our business has changed and the website needs to reflect this. We need to make our business work this year!
  • Because I need a calling card, to prove I exist and link with like-minded people.
  • It’s out of date (not mobile friendly) and doesn’t reflect where we are now.
  • Been struggling with a poor web developer for 12 months!
  • My current website is wrong on so many levels. I’m starting from scratch.

Why do you need better content?

  • It’s the foundation for the next stage of business evolution.
  • In order to keep up with competitors and demand from customers.
  • Always need to improve our content, helps with the old Googles and informs our clients better about what we do.
  • Need more regular content.
  • As a sole trader, I am always in danger of being a legend in my own lunchtime (and those of a limited number of current and former clients). The task now is to make a noise, attract new interest and generally Tell The World.
  • We’ve got great content to offer, we’re just not great at getting it ‘on paper’ and out there.
  • New CRM integrated site has shifted the purpose of the site into more of a lead generation tool.
  • Because automated marketing.

Why focus on content marketing strategy?

  • It’s a scattergun approach at the moment. I react rather than plan ahead and I want to change that in 2016.
  • We need to increase visibility to get more clients.
  • I need to find a sustainable way to feed all my online streams, with regular, even-sized amounts rather than boom and bust approach.

Why social media improvement?

  • I publish printed copy which is popular with the older generation. I need to replace them with internet-savvy whippersnappers as the older crew ‘top-out’ of my reader group.
  • I don’t have a strategy and I don’t schedule posts, so I waste time.
  • Facebook campaign / understand how to use Facebook effectively.

Why SEO – Search Engine Optimisation?

  • No point in having a great website full of useful content if Google is ignoring it!
  • Because the SEO on our site is virtually non-existent, and obviously needs to be existent.
  • I don’t know what SEO is.” (We shouldn’t have assumed that! We need to write a blog post on this evidently – watch this space).

Overall drivers mentioned:

  • We need more sales!
  • Current efforts just not generating enough (any!) inbound leads.
  • To better define our services.
  • Continuous improvement.
  • We want to get better at demonstrating what we can do – our range and our style.
  • To support growth objectives and to reposition the brand.

>> Do any of these strike a chord with you? Hit reply and let us know.

Our overall conclusions

Surveys often raise more questions than they answer, but that’s no bad thing. Here’s what we make of the results and responses to this one.

Business change = website change

Taking stock of the results, it looks like many new websites are on the cards this year (web designers/developers rejoice!). Website is front of mind for so many businesses, as both the comments and the rankings show. Not surprising maybe, as your website is the shop window for your business, and business doesn’t stand still.

Business change necessitates web change, and there’s evidently plenty of change afoot in 2016. And even if your business is enjoying a period of stability (lucky you!) the digital landscape is changing around it. It’s now crucial (not just ‘nice to have’) to have a website that you can update yourself with new fresh content, a website that loads quickly and is easy to read on any device (as this one will be in a couple of weeks). In business, you are what you say on the web – and our respondents are feeling this more deeply than ever.

Better content, better business

Content is a priority for small businesses in 2016. Probably no surprises there as many who responded were contacts of ours. Some, but not all, of the respondents came from our list – so we’re aware that may boost the popularity of content in the rankings. People who fill in a Valuable Content survey are likely to be already switched on to the content craze, and we need to bear that in mind.

We were pleased to see that people rate ‘better content’ more highly than ‘more content.’ Quality trumps quantity any day, particularly for a small business with limited time and resources.  Although we’d add that ‘more regular content’ is a good aim too. Encouragingly, ‘content marketing strategy’ appeared higher up list than we expected. There is a direct link between thinking through and documenting your content marketing strategy and creating better content – some smart respondents made this connection.

Marketing automation on the up

Marketing automation is getting more of a mention now, and that reflects what we see and hear on the ground too. If you have invested in marketing automation you will need great content if you’re going to get results from it. If you’re one thinking of marketing automation, get your priorities straight. Why do you need the tools? What will they do for your customers (and for you), how can you make this valuable to them as well as to you? As with everything marketing related, put your customer first.

Paid advertising

We’re not fans of receiving it, we never click, and we haven’t yet used it, but we were surprised how low down it ranked for our contacts. Maybe it’s the self-selecting content-focused nature of our group again. Many don’t like the direction online advertising is heading. Remarketing etc just feels wrong.

Or maybe there’s a more pragmatic reason it’s being neglected – it’s just too expensive? We’d welcome your views on this.

Small business – not for the faint-hearted

More than anything else what struck us was the way people described their challenges. We are moved by how hard our respondents are trying, and how much they want to make their businesses work. It’s tough running your own business. Their responses make us want to help more than ever.

So what does this mean to you and your business? Do you have work to do to improve your digital presence? Do tell us if we’ve represented your challenge, or if there’s something the survey has missed.

Big thanks to all of you who completed the survey. Good luck this year. We’ll do all we can to help you succeed.

Information on our survey respondents:

Survey date January 2016. 46 businesses responded. Of these, c. 46% were business owners, 28% marketing professionals, 9% freelancers, 7% business leaders responsible for marketing. In terms of business size, 33% were from businesses of 6-20 people, 30% solo-preneurs, 26% 2-5 people, and the remaining 11% from businesses of 21-100 people. Survey respondents could tick top priority, important, got this sorted, or not on my list.

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