Shade Pulled over Many Virtual Storefronts

Imagine owning a store in which you diligently opened for business daily but opted to leave the lights turned off and the door covered. Safe to say, such practices would lead to certain failure and defeat the purpose of being in business. Unfortunately, this analogy is reality for the online presence of many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). A recent audit by digital marketing firm vSplash of nearly 4 million SMB websites found that a startling percentage of them were not fully prepared to conduct business online.

Some of the most surprising findings in the vSplash study include:

To say the least, these findings represent significant opportunities for digital marketing service providers to help SMBs strengthen their online presence. The lack of an apparent digital strategy and the absence of essential online marketing elements like contact channels and e-commerce capabilities are surprising, but we should not chastise SMBs. Many SMBs are good at the product or service that they provide but lack marketing expertise or resources of their larger corporate counterparts. It is not that they do not care; they do not know how.

Results of the vSplash study also serve as a call to my chosen profession, marketing education. The low frequencies of use for basic digital marketing tactics can be traced to SMB managers lacking knowledge. For some, the issue is that the rapidly changing world of digital marketing makes it difficult for them to keep up with the latest best practices (although the statistics cited above relate to basics that are hardly cutting edge). For other managers, they were failed by business schools that have been slow to adapt to the rapid rate of change in marketing. I see more job descriptions seeking new graduates with search engine optimization and blogging skills; it is further evidence to me that B-schools must be nimble with curriculum in response to the pace of change in digital marketing to better serve employers and students.

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