Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Digital marketing support for small businesses

Digital marketing can be vital to the success of a small business yet one-in-three surveyed Australian businesses end up in a dispute with their provider.

And almost 70% of respondents in the latest research from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) last fewer than 12 months with the digital marketing provider they choose.

The high proportion of disputes and the large turnover in providers has prompted the ASBFEO Bruce Billson to release a best practice guide for small business to provide simple steps they can take to better match their needs and expectations with those of digital marketing service providers.

“The growth in disputes involving digital platforms and digital service providers has motivated us to provide a guide to preventative steps and better practice guidance that might help reduce the harm these disputes are causing,” he says.

“Digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way in which small businesses connect and sell to their customers and enable them to reach a significant portion of Australian and international markets.”

The Ombudsman commissioned a study by researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast, which is among the first in the world to investigate the specific relationship challenges between small businesses and digital marketing service providers. This collaboration has produced the information checklists in the best practice guide for small businesses.

The study found most of the disputes came from a mismatch in understanding what each party required.

“A digital marketing service provider is a person or agency that you engage to help with your online presence. This may include branding, website, search engine rankings and marketing strategy that can help grow your business and brand,” says Mr Billson.

“But for too many small businesses this relationship can be unsatisfactory, and for one-in-three it ends in a dispute.

“Our guide gives small business actionable tips on receiving great service and building a real partnership with a digital marketing service provider.”

There’s also a guide for digital marketing providers to better understand the needs of small businesses.

The study found digital marketing service providers often didn’t communicate risk; weren’t transparent with details about services, timeframes and results; and didn’t treat their clients as collaborative partners.

It concluded that a lack of digital literacy among small business owners prevented them from proactively asking relevant questions about the services being provided by digital marketing service providers. Half of the small businesses surveyed said that their providers pushed them to buy expensive and irrelevant services.

The best practice guides are available at asbfeo.gov.au/DMS-providers and asbfeo.gov.au/DMS-SMES.

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