3 Common Myths about Online Marketing for Small Businesses


If you’ve spent time in the past with local small business owners, either as an employee or client, you’ve undoubtedly heard this phrase couple of times: “we don’t need online marketing.”

Today, most of those business owners have at least made the concession of getting a website. And it just about ends there for them. But what about optimizing it for search engines, designing it in line with a brand, offering an ecommerce platform for online purchases or engaging with customers on social media.

The truth is, most modern businesses understand the benefits of online marketing. But the average “traditional” business owner just aims at making money and minimizing expenditures. Things like online marketing seem far fetched, a waste of time and resources. What is the root cause of this dissonance? Why do businesses think they can do well without an online presence?

Let’s look into some of the most common responses from business owners.

My customers are mostly offline

A big fear for most businesses is that they consider the bulk of their user base to be offline. And although that might have been true a few years back, things have gradually changed. And they’re still changing.

According to a the Twinpine 2016 Mobile Trends report, mobile penetration in Nigeria stands at 40%. With a smartphone penetration of 30%. This means about 74 million Nigerians have active mobile phones, and a significant percentage of those phones are internet enabled. Facebook alone has over 14 million Nigerians as of the time of writing this post. And Google can reach over 100 million unique devices in Nigeria. The disconnected world we once knew has passed, today’s world is mostly online.

twinpine report on mobile penetration


Now that we have raw data covered, back to addressing the concern of the typical business owner. While there might be a case for some businesses saying their typical customer isn’t online, especially with Business-to-Business (B2B) businesses, we must keep one thing in mind. Behind every Business, is an individual.

To use an extreme example, a construction company says its typical client, real estate agents, are not online. But behind every real estate agent is a decision maker who is most likely online. And you can reach out to him on social networks like LinkedIn, and possibly Google.

Online marketing is too expensive

On this concern, lets rule out a segment of businesses. If you already do offline ads, online will almost always be cheaper as long as your audience is online. You are bound to reach more unique users per Naira online than you will offline. That much is guaranteed.

However, if you don’t run any kind of marketing at the moment, then you might consider the cost to be high. Good thing is, with online marketing, you can directly tie spend to results. So if your ad isn’t working, you can stop it immediately. This isn’t like offline ads where you pay for 1 month. And then you realize by the second day that it wouldn’t work but you can’t do anything about it. Online gives you all the control.

Offline marketing is more efficient

We’ve all heard this one before. A lot of small business owners think advertising offline reaches more customers and gives them more bang for buck. “Do you know how many people will see my ad on that billboard at 3rd mainland bridge?” they ask. My question is, do you?

The advantage digital marketing has always had over traditional is in its accountability. And arguably, anything that can’t be measured directly, can’t be considered truly effective. So while I can spend N50,000 on Facebook and get my ad shown over 200,000 times. From which I get 1,000 clicks and 5 purchases, I can’t precisely tell you the effect of using N50,000 to distribute 1,000 flyers.

If you think offline advertising is so effective, ask a traditional agency to tell you precisely how many people saw that billboard ad. No one really knows. Companies open to new media channels can tell you precisely what their ROI (return on investment) is like for their marketing budget. And that’s only because they can make data driven estimates from “mostly” online marketing channels.

In Conclusion

The world is rapidly changing around us, and with it, our more traditional methods are giving way to modern media. This means online marketing becomes more important in your marketing mix. And while your business might be getting by just fine without a website or any online outreach, it doesn’t mean you’re better off that way. Challenge your assumptions and change with the times, no matter what industry you’re in—you’ll thank yourself later for it.

Heard any other digital marketing myths, outside of these, that small businesses give as reasons for not being online? Share them with us in the comment box below.