Nine Four Insights

SMB Service Provider Marketing Automation: Driving Offline to Online Commerce

Small and medium sized businesses (“SMBs”) form the backbone of the US economy. 28 million US-based SMBs generate >50% of America’s annual GDP, create 64% of net new American jobs and makeup 99.9% of all US businesses. [1] SMBs not only create jobs but also put money back into American communities. No wonder why SMBs play such a vital role in the world’s largest economy.

Generally speaking, services-focused SMBs in flooring, painting, plumbing, roofing, etc., historically concentrated their efforts within a hyper-local geography to service their immediate local community. However, that changed when the Internet, acting as a conduit, connected those SMBs with customers from outside their existing network. Search engine optimization and engagement became critical at that time. It now far surpasses the level of engagement on any other platform (ie Facebook, Twitter, Snap, etc) and ~90% of buying decisions start with online search (ie Google).[2] Thus, search can provide SMBs with valuable data around the intent of a potential future customer no matter who or where they are.

Today, there is a plethora amount of information readily available online to consumers. They usually research for inspiration as well as the best alternatives at the best price points before making a final purchasing decision. However, only 60% of SMBs have an online presence today and only a fraction of a percent of those actually prioritize search in their marketing mix. [3] In addition, many SMBs lack the mobile marketing tools which can meaningfully increase conversions by targeting ads at the right time and with the right message. Thus, given ~90% of customers start their buying decision journey online and on mobile, search ad targeting represents a massive untapped SMB revenue generation opportunity. As a result, there is little competition for prospective SMB customers online, so those SMBs that can successfully transition from offline to online and integrate search into their marketing mix have a lot to gain by not only expanding their existing target market but also increasing their local market penetration rates. In addition, those tech startups that seamlessly put tools, historically only available to larger enterprise companies, such as, search marketing in the hands of SMBs, also have a lot to gain. It’s not just search engine optimization though. Those startups that provide full-stack online business management including a website builder, marketing optimization, and commerce (among many others) not only dramatically expand SMB customer universes from hyper-local to global but also increase conversion rates by enabling customers to transact online in an all-in-one experience.

As a result, Nine Four is excited to watch this space evolve because tens of thousands of SMB maintenance, renovation and construction companies across flooring, painting, plumbing, roofing, etc still operate offline. If marketing automation solutions were built specifically for their needs, they can meaningfully impact future revenue generating opportunities for those businesses. If you’re a startup Founder working on this problem, please reach out!

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