9 Underutilized Marketing Channels for Small Businesses in 2024

Marketing Oct 20, 2023 20 minutes read

Table of contents

    Operating within limited marketing budgets and an increasingly competitive playing field are tough hurdles to face for a small business.

    We get it. Trying your best to achieve as much as possible with what you have can easily become overwhelming because you often don’t have enough staff, money, expertise, or time.

    That’s why we’re here: to provide valuable advice and deep insights into new tactics and strategies you can test to help your business stand out in a noisy world.

    We’ve conducted extensive research in partnership with Strategic Glue to learn more about the state of marketing of small businesses. In this article, you will read about underutilized marketing channels you should explore in 2024 based on the expertise of 60+ professionals.

    A note: The survey is still open, and we would love you to participate by sharing your opinion and experience. Complete our short survey at this link.

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    We’ve collected answers from 63 businesses so far. Here are their top marketing channels for promoting their products and services: 

    1. Website, 88.14%
    2. SEO, 86.44%
    3. Social media, 83.05%
    4. Email, 74.58%
    5. Paid digital ads (social, search), 42.37%
    6. Google My Business, 30.51%
    7. Direct mail, 20.34%
    8. Podcasts, 13.56%
    9. SMS (text messaging), 11.86%
    10. Traditional advertising (print, OOH, TV, radio), 1.69%

    Jump right to the channel you’re most interested in.

    Website and SEO

    Small businesses often underutilize websites and SEO due to limited expertise and a lack of time. However, this leads to missing valuable opportunities for growth through inbound leads. 

    Some common pitfalls include neglecting mobile optimization, inadequate content strategies, ignoring local SEO, not analyzing data, and skipping on-page SEO.

    Based on the data provided by 2,991 contributors in our Benchmark Group Strategic Glue: Small Business Owners and Marketing Strategy, the median number of sessions in August 2023 was 2.92K. But are there opportunities for boosting this number?

    To maximize the potential of these channels, businesses should prioritize mobile optimization, invest in quality content, embrace local SEO, analyze data, and follow on-page SEO best practices.

    It’s also key to stay informed about the ever-changing content marketing and SEO trends. James McNally of Self Drive Vehicle Hire believes it’s one of the main reasons why “opportunities for SEO rankings are still untapped and underutilized.”

    “It’s all due to the constant changing of trends in the market. Keeping up with the trends and creating content based on them is never easy,” shares McNally.

    Syed Irfan Ajmal at DMR.agency underlines two key underutilized opportunities that can be a “strategic advantage”: voice search optimization and inclusive SEO.

    “With voice search gaining momentum and continuing to evolve, marketing agencies also need to optimize content and websites for voice search. […] Especially as more users are adopting voice-activated devices like smart speakers and voice assistants.”

    When it comes to SEO, accessibility is critical.

    “Ensuring that websites are accessible and optimized for users with disabilities is a growing concern. Agencies should specialize in inclusive SEO, making websites more accessible and SEO-friendly,” concludes Ajmal.

    Social Media

    Among top mentioned underutilized marketing opportunities for SMBs (if not the most mentioned) are:

    Social Media Marketing

    According to the Social Media Benchmarks for SMBs, there is substantial room for improvement in SMBs’ performance on social media. Analyzing the reach and impressions on the three most popular social media platforms—Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn—reveals significant disparities between median values among all companies and those of top performers:

    Based on the data from 378 contributors, the median value for the organic reach of a Facebook post is 2.27K, while top performers reach 9.69K. There’s a big difference between the median and the average values (average being ~5,083), which could signal that many small businesses are indeed underutilizing Facebook as a marketing channel.

    Post reach organic

    The situation is similar with impressions: the median value for organic Facebook post impressions is 4.28K, while top performers boast 21.07K, according to 101 contributors in our Benchmark Groups.

    Post Impressions Ogranic

    Instagram metrics are similar to Facebook. The median value is a lot closer to the lower end, indicating a larger number of small businesses that don’t have a high reach on Instagram. According to our data from around 600 contributors, the median value for reach is 5.61K (56.75K for top performers).

    Reach

    For impressions, the media value is 6.86K (62.75K for top performers).

    Impressions Instagram

    LinkedIn values don’t show such a huge gap—and it could be due to the fact that small businesses use other social media channels more than LinkedIn (especially if they’re B2C).

    Based on the data from 400 contributors, the median value for LinkedIn company page unique impressions is 603, while top performers reach up to 1.76K.

    Unique impressions

    The median value for impressions in total is 1.5K, and 3.55K for top performers, based on the data from 691 contributors.

    Impressions

    Many small businesses recognize that they might be leaving money on the table by not focusing more on a strong social media strategy.

    “I feel we are not fully utilizing social media to its full extent,” shares Vivek Gargav of Caldere Associates Ltd

    “We have a presence on LinkedIn, and that is the focus of the majority of our social marketing efforts, but we are still intimidated by TikTok and Instagram and struggle to work out how we could tap into this for our business, which is exclusively B2B.”

    These two platforms can help you leverage video marketing that may not require as many resources as YouTube.

    “Video marketing through social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok that emphasize heavily on video content are still underutilized in my business. As I operate in a lean mode with only one employee, I simply do not have enough resources to take attractive videos and edit them,” says Hui C of Hello Curve.

    But, we’ve seen that user-generated content and raw videos that aren’t heavily edited can work like a charm on TikTok as they appear to be more authentic and, therefore, more compelling.

    Pro Tip: If you also feel intimidated by TikTok, we shared some useful best practices for successful TikTok marketing.

    Influencer Marketing

    Often overlooked, partnering with influencers can help small businesses tap into already established audiences that trust the influencer’s recommendation and are ready to make a purchase based on it. That means investing in such a strategic partnership that provides access to a highly interested target group could have a high ROI for small business owners. And the competition is still moderate.

    “Many companies like ours aren’t doing much of it yet,” says Simon Brisk of Click Intelligence. “Working with influencers who fit our brand could help us reach more people and make them trust us. Also, we haven’t used video marketing as much as we should. I see a big opportunity in making engaging videos to better show our products or campaigns and connect with our audience.”

    One of the reasons might be that many people still believe that influencer marketing is only suitable for B2C businesses, according to Natasha Rai of Explainerd.

    “The reason for underutilization might be the misconception that influencer marketing is more suited for consumer products, but it can be equally effective in our B2B space. Exploring influencer partnerships can open new avenues for business growth and brand exposure.”

    Jonathan Zacharias of GR0 agrees that Instagram and TikTok are hiding many opportunities for small businesses to reach their target audiences when working with influencers.

    “One potential untapped marketing opportunity in many businesses could be leveraging social media influencers. With the rise of platforms like Instagram and TikTok, influencers have become powerful catalysts for engaging with target audiences. By partnering with relevant influencers in your niche, you can tap into their established fan base and gain exposure to potential customers who may not yet be familiar with our brand.”

    Other than reaching new people, influencer marketing helps establish trust and “genuine and relatable connections with a target market”, claims Sally Johnson of Greenlightbooking.

    “We can reach their devoted followers who rely on their recommendations by discovering micro-influencers inside our area. Additionally, these collaborations have the potential to humanize our brand, resulting in greater user loyalty and deeper connection. Adopting influencer marketing could thus open up a new path for business expansion for us,” shares Johnson.

    Matthew Smith of Ticket Squeeze provides an example of how influencer marketing can give a boost to small businesses in the entertainment industry.

    “Collaborating with influential personalities from sports, music, or other entertainment sectors could amplify our brand visibility among their dedicated fan bases,” Smith comments, and adds that there must be a match between the influencer’s and your company’s values for the collaboration to be successful:

    “These partnerships can create authentic connections, tapping into existing communities that align with our offerings. The potential for compelling content, behind-the-scenes access, and exclusive promotions could spark interest and engagement. However, this avenue requires a careful selection of influencers whose values match our brand, ensuring authenticity.”

    Email

    For 74.58% respondents in our survey, email marketing can help small businesses attract more traffic and make more sales.

    This channel provides a more “intimate” space to communicate with customers and offers more personalization opportunities than other platforms, giving you a chance to tailor your content and tone to a specific prospect or customer.

    Luke Van Der Veer of Luke Van Der Veer believes his company still hasn’t fully tapped into the power of email marketing as their limited resources are stopping them from creating deeper connections with customers.

    “We often send promotional emails, but we haven’t completely tapped into the power of customization. I can create deeper connections with customers by segmenting our email list and creating material that is specific to their interests and actions. Due to limited resources, we have been hesitant to adopt personalized emails, even though they often have greater open and conversion rates,” explains Van Der Veer and adds that appropriate tools could help him ”improve consumer engagement and increase revenue through tailored email campaigns.”

    Simon Hughes of Design & Build Co. is also aware that email marketing can help nurture relationships with clients and potential customers.

    “We are aware that we could be dedicating more resources in to gathering relevant and high-quality email contacts and building our customer database. This is something we hope to improve and increase the number of personalized, relevant, and inspiring emails to our potential customers as well as loyal clients,” says Hughes.

    Doug Van Soest of SoCal Home Buyers shares that his team is trying to leverage AI to make up for the lack of time that has been preventing them from focusing on email marketing.

    “We have been experimenting with numerous strategies and AI tools to make it faster and more effective. Once we find the best approach, our campaign will start running smoothly. Reaching our email marketing goals won’t be any longer daunting after that.”

    Doug Van Soest

    Doug Van Soest

    Co-Owner at So Cal Home Buyers

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    Pro Tip: If you need more email marketing tips, you can check out this guide.

    Paid Digital Ads

    For 42.37% of our survey participants, paid ads are another underutilized channel. It may be challenging for small businesses to run paid ads without a specialist to optimize the budget. Without deep knowledge of how paid ads work, it’s relatively easy to slip and waste money without generating decent results.

    Different advertising platforms may bring in different results—depending on your size, budget, and where your audience hangs out.

    “We had tried Google Ads and Facebook Ads when we had a smaller product catalog. They didn’t produce a positive return, but we’d like to eventually retry them now that we’re more established and we have a larger catalog to promote,” says Shelby Kranker of White Clover Paper Co.

    Testing your ads to learn what works is critical, so you can run informed campaigns and spend your advertising budget in an optimal way. A/B testing is a good way to tweak small details in your ads to discover what’s more appealing to your audience.

    Sakhavat Ismayilov of FS Code shares that the lack of budget allocated to social media advertising, this marketing channel is clearly underutilized at his company. But, Ismayilov believes running ads on social media platforms could bring in great results.

    “Historically, our marketing budget has been allocated predominantly to other channels, such as content marketing, SEO, email automation, and more. As a result, we need to dedicate more resources to explore the full capabilities of social media advertising.”

    Pro Tip: If you’re unsure whether to use paid search or paid social to promote your products or services, our blog post will provide you with expert insights.

    Google Business Profile

    Formerly know as Google My Business, Google Business Profile is an underutilized marketing channel for 30.51% of participants in our survey. Listing your business within GBP would help more people find you in search and maps, as it’s an essential part of an effective SEO strategy, increasing your reach and potentially conversions.

    Here are a few examples of how maintaining a Google Business Profile can help boost your online presence:

    • Interactions with customers: Encourage customers to leave reviews on your profile. Respond to reviews, both positive and negative, with a kind and helpful tone. Engaging with reviews shows that you value customer feedback.
    • Providing valuable answers about your business: Keep an eye on the “Questions & Answers” section on your profile. Answer customer inquiries promptly and provide accurate information. This helps build trust and improve user experience.
    • Boosting local SEO: Optimize your profile for local search by including relevant keywords in your description and posts. Use local SEO best practices to increase your chances of appearing in local search results.

    Pro Tip: You can monitor your Google Business Profile performance with this neat Databox dashboard template. It’ll give you an overview of how many people are finding you organically, how many interactions you’ve had, the number of phone calls you’ve received through GBP, and more.

    Direct Mail

    Over 20% of the survey respondents named direct mail as one of the most commonly underutilized marketing channels for small businesses.

    The digital marketing landscape is noisy, but what about the good old marketing materials in your physical mailbox? Tim Connon of ParamountQuote believes there can be found excellent opportunities to stand out and identify potential customers with high intent of purchasing.

    “Direct mail has still been proven to be effective in our industry. […] It’s effective because of the amount of effort the prospect makes to fill out the postcard mailed to them and mail it back to us. This proves a high level of commitment from the prospect which results in a high buying intent for our agents to contact,” Connon comments.

    Although direct mail could potentially be too slow in lead generation, there are several scenarios in which you may consider using this channel.

    • When your target audience is highly specialized or falls into a narrow niche, direct mail can be a focused way to reach potential customers. It allows you to send tailored, highly relevant messages to a specific group of people who are more likely to convert.
    • If your business relies on local customers, direct mail allows you to target specific geographic areas effectively. This can be particularly beneficial for businesses such as restaurants, local services, or retailers.
    • In some industries, there may be less competition in the direct mail space compared to digital channels. This can provide an opportunity to stand out and reach potential customers with less noise.
    • Direct mail is not limited to acquiring new customers. It can also be used to nurture and retain existing customers. Sending personalized thank-you notes or exclusive offers can help in maintaining customer relationships.

    Podcasts

    Podcasts are becoming more and more popular: 13.56% of our survey participants think this channel still has a lot of potential as a marketing channel for small businesses.

    Podcasts typically offer a significant reach potential, depending on the language you’re using. If in English, they’re accessible to a global audience, which means your small business can connect with potential customers well beyond your local area. This expanded reach can be particularly beneficial if your products or services are not geographically bound.

    If storytelling is a formidable strategy in your niche, podcasts are an ideal platform for engaging storytelling that can resonate deeply with your audience. Sharing your business’s journey, customer success stories, or industry anecdotes can captivate your listeners and leave a lasting impression. This storytelling can humanize your brand, making it relatable and likable.

    “In our effort to empower and assist caregivers of neurodivergent children, podcast guesting stands out as an untapped gem. Podcast guesting presents a unique avenue for us to connect with our community on a deeper level,” explains Seth Besse Undivided and adds that podcasts allow them to “authentically share insights, stories, and expertise”, which allows them to build trust among their audience.

    “While we’ve hesitated to step into the spotlight due to the sensitivity of our industry, participating in podcasts enables us to address concerns, offer valuable information, and show our dedication to transparency, which fosters a stronger bond with our audience. It’s a chance to make our brand more accessible and highlight our expertise, which ultimately helps us achieve greater success in our marketing endeavors,” concludes Besse.

    The relatively low cost of entry is another advantage. Starting a podcast doesn’t require a massive budget. All you need is a good microphone, recording software, and a hosting platform. It’s an accessible way for small businesses to produce high-quality content without breaking the bank.

    “We have yet to explore the potential of podcasting as an effective marketing channel, but we believe it could be a cost-effective way to reach our target audience.”

    Ricky Allen

    Ricky Allen

    Interior Designer and Director at Ever Wallpaper

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    Pro Tip: Explore some of the best practices and tips from eight brands running a podcast on how to measure your podcast’s success.

    SMS (Text Messaging)

    SMS marketing isn’t dead—and should be utilized more, at least according to 11.86% of our survey respondents. Text messaging can help reach wider audiences, maybe even senior citizens who may not be using modern texting apps, social media, or Google.

    SMS marketing is an effective and versatile strategy for small businesses. It provides a direct and highly accessible channel to reach customers based on permission, as the foundation of SMS marketing is obtaining explicit consent from customers before sending them messages. 

    This is typically done through opt-in processes, like asking customers to text a keyword to a shortcode or signing up via a web form.

    SMS messages also have an incredibly high open rate, often within minutes of receipt. This immediacy makes it ideal for time-sensitive promotions, reminders, and urgent announcements. An SMS has a character limit (typically around 160 characters), which forces you to be concise and direct in your messaging. Craft messages that get to the point and pique interest, and include clear calls to action (CTAs).

    SMS marketing allows for segmentation and targeted messaging. You can send specific offers or information to different customer groups based on their preferences or behavior, making your messages more relevant and engaging. Also, you can personalize your SMS messages by addressing recipients by their first name and tailoring content based on their preferences or purchase history. Personalization enhances engagement.

    Many SMS marketing platforms offer automation features, enabling you to schedule messages, set up drip campaigns, and send automated responses. This can save time and allow for consistent communication.

    Small businesses can use SMS marketing for a variety of purposes, including promotions, event reminders, appointment confirmations, order updates, customer surveys, and more.

    Our integration with Twilio allows you to track the number of SMS messages you’ve sent to customers or prospects. You can build a dashboard with the most relevant KPIs to track the effectiveness of this marketing channel.

    Traditional Advertising

    A small percentage of our survey participants (1.69%) mentioned traditional advertising as a form of marketing that shouldn’t be neglected. Print ads, OOH campaigns, TV and radio advertising can still bring in results for small businesses if the strategy is executed correctly.

    Traditional advertising channels often have a wide reach, allowing small businesses to connect with a diverse audience, including those who may not be as digitally engaged. This is particularly useful for businesses that serve a local or diverse customer base. Established media platforms like TV, radio, and print can lend credibility to a small business. Being featured in these channels can boost brand trust and recognition.

    OOH advertising, like billboards and transit ads, provides excellent local targeting. It allows small businesses to reach people in specific geographic areas effectively, although they may sometimes require significant investment.

    TV and radio channels often have niche programming that caters to specific demographics. Small businesses can select the channels and time slots that align with their target audience.

    Traditional advertising isn’t implemented in a vacuum: it can complement digital marketing strategies. For example, a TV or radio ad can drive traffic to your website or social media platforms, creating a seamless cross-channel experience.

    Pro Tip: Whether or not you choose to invest in traditional advertising, you may benefit from these tips for setting a marketing budget for a small business.

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