SMBs Scrutinizing ROI of Favorite Traditional Media Formats

Are small and medium-​sized businesses (SMBs) still  interested in buying ad space in traditional media? Research from BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor shows that the answer to this question is yes and that newspaper newspaperreaderand direct mail are the most popular traditional formats for SMBs though digital formats are increasingly popular with SMBs. BIA/​Kelsey analysts note that SMB reliance on the older formats may continue to fall though because the ROI numbers don’t support continued investment.

The following percentages of SMBs use these traditional media:

  • Newspapers 32.2%
  • Direct mail 31.7%
  • Radio 22%

The numbers are much lower with respect to the number of SMBs who buy cable TV (13.9%) and spot TV (13.7%) ads.

Writing for BIA/​Kelsey, Suzanne Ackley reminds readers that the SMBs in this survey are using fewer media formats, having dropped from 8.4 to 7.6 in the past year.  Ackley looks at the ROI numbers that SMBs are assigning to their investment in traditional media. The highest numbers go to TV with 50% of users claiming an excellent (10–19X spend) or extraordinary (20+X spend) ROI. Outdoor also performs well, over 40%, and radio has strong numbers at 35%. However, Ackley suggests that marketers may continue to cut their use of traditional formats that doesn’t deliver solid ROI for them.

Some of BIA/Kelsey’s results are similar to those recently made available in the Small Business Marketing Forecast by Ad-​ology Research. In that survey, which focuses on SMBs that spend less than $1,000 annually on advertising, over 55% will either spend the same or increase their direct mail investment in 2014. However, only 10% will increase their spending on newspaper advertising.

If you're working with SMBs, do you sense an increased focused on ROI when it comes to ad campaigns? Are your clients still using a solid mix of traditional and digital media?

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.