I don’t know how you spend your Sundays, but if you are like me you probably use Sundays to find some downtime — away from your laptop, away from your phone perhaps — a day to recharge before heading into another remarkably fast-paced workweek. A couple weeks ago, I spent my Sunday at the Lowes Hollywood hotel attending LSA’s SMB Boot Camp. LSA, working in conjunction with a number of key sponsors – ReachLocal, Yahoo, Google and YP – had rounded up some 120 small business owners to spend their Sunday at “Boot Camp”. I am well aware that there are many SMB boot camp events being run throughout the country and the world.
Interestingly, it had seriousness to it, perhaps because it was Sunday and like many of us, the thought of working on a Sunday can sometimes put a real pause on a day of rest. So it was with a fair amount of curiosity that I attended the SMB Boot Camp.
LSA offered a wide range of workshops, presentations and opportunities for the SMBs to explore and learn. Whether it was a workshop on SEO presented by Will Scott of Search Influence or the session run by YP and Google that outlined the benefits of leveraging search, the SMBs that I observed were sitting up and taking notes. I witnessed a couple of things that I think are worth noting.
First, the commitment these SMBs made to spend nearly 8 hours on a Sunday was impressive. Committed to figuring out how to improve the performance of their marketing activities. I watched them walking up to each and every sponsor and listening to the various sales pitches – be it a pitch from Go Daddy on domains or learning from YP how they can be the “trusted advisor” everyone is searching for.
According to a simple survey that LSA ran in advance of the Boot Camp, nearly 65 percent of the SMB attendees indicated that their businesses were at least 5 years or older. If you dig even deeper – about 47% were older than 10 years. No surprise – the older the business, the less familiar they are with the new age of digital media and marketing and hence the thirst for understanding how to pull the multitude of levers. The same survey also indicates that the businesses had reasonably large advertising budgets with almost 50 percent spending $10k or more annually. The most telling data was that just 28 percent reported being either extremely or somewhat satisfied with their digital marketing efforts. If one were to take that as a barometer, it means that 7 out of 10 SMBs are yet to be satisfied with the digital marketing experience. Taken to the logical conclusion, some 17.5 million SMBs (assuming there are 25M) are waiting to be wowed.
A couple of other observations about the SMBs I watched throughout the day. They are truly passionate about their businesses. This is what makes them so special — and perhaps sometimes difficult to do business with. Their passion comes across in conversations I had with many of them, in watching how they interacted with each other and how they were extremely active listeners during the presentations and workshops.
They’re also extremely open to help and suggestions. I experienced this first hand during much of Sunday as I was helping Anthony Bratti, BuzzBoard’s senior sales leader pass out BuzzBoard audits to the business owners. For those of you unaware, BuzzBoard is a sales enablement platform being used by some 3,000 local media sales reps in North America, the U.K. and in Australia. One of the features of BuzzBoard is its capacity to run comprehensive digital profiles or audits of individual businesses. Working with LSA, the BuzzBoard team prepared audits for all the attendees in advance.
Anthony and I had the pleasure of passing them out during the day long Boot Camp. We had spread the audits out on a table and the BuzzScore was prominent on each report. As the business owners walked up to our table, if felt as if they were picking up their grade final exams. They studied their BuzzScore and you could see them scanning the table wondering how their score compared with others. Sometimes I’d see a smile and I would ask them how they scored — they’d usually say something like “a lot better than what I see on the table”.
Final take-away – the SMB’s appetite for figuring out the digital marketing paradigm remains considerable – offering everyone in the local media eco-system significant economic opportunity. I am predicting that sometime soon SMBs will begin settling on a couple of “trusted” providers. I just don’t know who that “trusted advisor” will be – do you?