The typical small business owner has a lot of irons in the fire and can’t afford to make  expensive mistakes. These small merchants often lag behind when it comes to implementing the latest marketing tools. Research from MerchantCircle shows that small businesses are finally using some forms of social media and online search effectively but they have yet to embrace mobile marketing and group buying strategies.

The latest data from MerchantCircle focuses on local small businesses with less than $2,500 to spend on marketing. For many, 25%, online marketing is perceived as too expensive. And over 1/3rd, 37%, say they do not have the time or resources to delve into new marketing techniques.  However, 70% of these businesses now use Facebook while 66% use Google and both of these channels receive high marks from the companies that use them. In addition, 40% of small operators say they are using Twitter.

But mobile marketing and group buying strategies remain a mystery. Only 15% of small businesses have looked into mobile marketing. A large majority, 74%, says that reaching consumers on mobile devices is complex and they lack understanding.

In addition, only 11% of local merchants have actually used a group buying marketing campaign. Up to 20% of these businesses plan to try these campaigns in 2011. But in a sobering finding, over half of companies who used this strategy will not do so again. The study did not reveal reasons for this finding but it is worth wondering whether a large customer base is necessary to make the economics of group buying work. If that is the case, the vendors offering these programs may need to tweak details to make this method work for small merchants.

The MerchantCircle study also found that there is no shortage of vendors prepared to help with online marketing. Over half of the businesses participating in this survey said they are contacted at least once a week via a sales pitch. Marketing services vendors have clearly discovered that small businesses need help.

[Source: Social Marketing Continues Meteoric Rise Among Local Businesses. 15 Mar. 2011. Web. 21 Mar. 2011]