The 10 Things I Learned Last Year From the Borrell Annual SMB Survey

BorrellSMB2013ExecSumYou might have though I was getting a little crazy last week by offering a $1,000 marketing report for free, and it was pretty strong language, but it’s so true that there didn’t seem a better way of stating it.

For over 20 years Borrell Associates has been tracking the changes in local advertising and marketing as the web has emerged as the #1 tool for small and mid-sized businesses in local markets.

By taking the survey here, you will receive a copy of the complete report and lunch on us to review it when it comes out later this year. Plus, you’ll be registered to win an iPad from Borrell.

The complete report is almost a $1,000, so I’ve relied on the free executive summary for years to track this important information and the executive summary is just a bite of the entire meal that is the full report. Here’s what you can expect to be on that menu, taken from last year’s executive summary with some tasty side dishes you will glean from taking the survey yourself:

1. SMBs are hopeful. 64% are “very” or “somewhat” optimistic about near-term (12 months) improvement to the local economy.

2. SMBs are besieged with opportunities, receiving on average 5 sales calls per day, from as many as 15 different media, from print to broadcast to outdoor and direct mail, not to mention the countless digital providers ranging from stand-alones like Google, Facebook, Yelp. Groupon and others to national companies trying to offer local digital services like ReachLocal, Signpost and many more.

3. For local advertisers, after online/digital, print still takes the largest share of advertising budgets, followed by direct mail, radio, mobile, outdoor and broadcast television (had to throw this one in).

4. Digital spending continues to rise significantly. In 2011 digital share of ad budgets was 15%; in the 2013 survey, SMBs reported 19%. This equates to a 33% increase in digital ad budgets in two years.

5. Your website should be your #1 source of new customers, after referrals from other customers, of course, and closely followed by referrals from friends and family and professional connections.

6. The top 3 online investments, both by spend and focus, should be your website, social media and email.

7. Mobile marketing is the new black. 85% say a mobile presence is important.

8. The top 3 key metrics for local businesses using social media is to find new customers, grow their social media audience and drive traffic to their websites.

9. Deals are languishing. 77% aren’t participating; only half who do are satisfied.

10. “Showrooming” — using a smartphone to comparison shop while in a store — no big whoop. 9% of SMBs said it hurts business; 24% believe it helps.

For a limited time, we’re able to offer this survey to our local customers. We encourage you to take the survey here to register to win an iPad AND receive your own copy of the complete report AND come to lunch on us to review that full report when it comes out later this year.

The $1,000 marketing report you want for free

One of the best sources of information for your business and its online strategy

There’s a new way to consider your customers these days thanks to the internet. It’s not so much new, it’s quite old-fashioned really, but it’s critical to your business online strategy. The web lets you cast a wide net for your customers and empowers you to reel them in.

No, they aren’t mindless fish in a big school, most of the time at least, but they are YOUR AUDIENCE.

The more engaged they are, the more likely they will accept your offers and share them with their friends. That means more business for you. The more fanatical the customer base, oh, I mean audience, the bigger the business growth. That tried and true, #1 source of new customers — word of mouth — meets the digital age.

So where do you start? How can you measure what you’re already doing? How are other small and medium businesses using the internet?

One great place to start is with the world’s most established survey of how marketing, advertising and business investments are evolving online for small and midsized businesses. One that not only looks both at your traditional advertising and marketing, but also where it’s heading online at level of detail no other survey does.

And that’s why I’m urging you to take this once-in-a-year (maybe longer) opportunity to participate in the Borrell Associates survey so that you can receive your own copy of their annual report on how small and medium size business owners like you and your company are using digital advertising, marketing and support services…or not!


At $1,000 every year, I’ve only downloaded the free executive report and pined after the harder data in the complete report. I’d love to buy this report for every business in Omaha some day.

Because of The Reader’s membership in the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and our work helping alt weeklies around the country grow their digital services, we have the opportunity to send this invite this year.

And because Borrell knows any survey, no matter how short and easy, is still an effort in your super busy day and it’s only as good as the honest anonymously shared information in it, they’re also doing a sweepstakes and giving away one new iPad to the winning survey participant. That could be you!

Take 5-10 minutes needed to complete the survey and when the report comes out, we’ll invite you to a special complimentary luncheon to examine the results and the takeaways for your business and the Omaha market. We’ll share the big results here, but save the real digging for that lunch.


Has your Facebook Page been hijacked?

What if someone else has your Facebook Page — that account Facebook encourages for businesses and organizations that is managed from your personal Facebook account? One of my first experiences in reclaiming a hijacked page, over 3 years ago now, was a doozy.

Talk about a sinkhole. The person who built the Page for the merchant association, and managed it to more than 63,000 fans, wasn’t responding. They no longer were a member of the association board,  closed their business in the district, phone numbers disconnected, emails and Facebook messages unreturned, but yet  posts continued to appear on the Page promoting competitors.

And it was driving the members of this merchant association nuts!

I couldn’t blame them. Business is tough for small, locally-owned retailers and restaurants who banked on their physical location when they first opened their business, and who’s commitment to service and selection had built enough of a reputation and goodwill that their shopping district  had received that many Likes, more than any television station in town.

Now its posts was being sold or given away to competitors?!

Does someone have your page? Do you have phantom duplicate listings you can’t claim?

I wish that Zuckerberg had started his sophomore year at UNO with me, or that I knew anyone at Facebook. Someone to call and explain this to and get things remedied. Good luck. Phone numbers are notoriously absent, except for the repeated demands that they need your cell phone number for security purposes.

Online help isn’t much better. The first result in a Faceook help search gives you the details on claiming unclaimed pages, but that wasn’t much help here, the Page was claimed and built up. Pretty sure this violates Facebook Community Standards on Identity and Privacy (scroll down to find it): “On Facebook people connect using their real names and identities. … Claiming to be another person, creating a false presence for an organization, or creating multiple accounts undermines community and violates Facebook’s terms.” It was legit when they first built the Page, but what happens when they no longer represent the organization?

But I’m here today and can say that there are people at Facebook who can listen to reason and that right can be made right. I’ve never talked to them and I only know them by their first name and last initial. I’m not sure that’s real, but in the end that didn’t matter. Serendipity and persistence solved this after some time, and the steps I outline below are only a starting point and one experience. There is a human somewhere making a decision, after all.

In next week’s post, I’ll explain how we reclaimed the hijacked page.

How We Reclaimed a Facebook Page with 63,000 fans

The merchant association’s Facebook page had built up to over 63,000 fans and, as one of the state’s most popular destinations, was growing daily. However, it was controlled by a former board member, who no longer ran a business in the area and who was allowing posts from competitors to appear.

For a group of small businesses who invested their physical locations in this destination area, and who built up it’s charm and commercial viability through their hard work, this was a big issue. The merchant association needed to get control of this page.

Even when it seems there’s no possible way to reclaim a page, there are some things you can do that we believe can make all the difference. These steps took paying attention and lots of persistence, but anyone can do them.

Facebook Help is Not Very Friendly On This Topic

AND If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably would have thrown a little money at buying Facebook advertising just to get a sales rep there to help out as well. Facebook does have people that answer those phones.

It’s hard finding any kind of help on this topic officially from Facebook. The standard line is basically “the person that first creates a page owns it, take it up with them.” It seems that Facebook is overwhelmingly concerned with businesses buying ads. Got to “Visit the Help Center” link on the Business Resource page “Get Answers” section and it takes you to Facebook Ads Help.

Facebook even seems to ignore or intentionally misunderstand the question in its own forums.

Here’s how Facebook gave a Page back to its rightful owners without buying any advertising and how we got an advantage in our quest to reclaim a page with over 63,000 fans:

The Advantage – Facebook Autofill Places is Your Friend

While heading to the offending page to see the latest offense, I noticed as I was typing the name in the Facebook search field — omnipresent at the top of every Facebook page — that Facebook was auto-filling the most likely answers and there appeared to be a duplicate page for this area.

The plain, light blue icon gave away that it was likely unclaimed or a new page, in fact it was what Facebook called a “Places” page, a new entity from Facebook tying in physical locations and allowing Facebook users on their mobile devices to “check in” to businesses.

Facebook Places are automagically created in two primary ways:

1) Facebook licenses data from a 3rd party provider, like Localeze (the original source in 2011) and Foursquare, and if they got smarter at it, our own Infogroup here in Omaha

2) Facebook users on their mobile devices create a Place by dropping a pin.

Nowadays, you can create a Place for your business by selecting Local Business as a category on your Business page and entering address information. 

Claim Your Facebook Place

This new Facebook Place page for the shopping district was relatively new, but was already attracting some check-ins daily. If you are the rightful owner, you can claim a Places page by clicking on the gear icon and “Is This Your Business.”

In this case, I jumped on it, working with the merchant association president to provide documentation, in this case articles of incorporation. We received an email reply from Facebook confirming our claim, A PERSON, and responded with the details of the Page being hijacked. No response.

The Places page had fewer than 2 dozen check-ins at the time, but it was some small proof that this merchant association was the official representative for this area.

Report Abuse

What came next was a long, steady drip of Report Abuse every time a post appeared that did not relate to the merchant association and especially if it promoted activities by a competitor.

We can’t swear that this is important, but to make it easier for Facebook, we made sure the merchant association officer who now controlled the Places page from their personal Facebook log-in (the only way to control a Business or Places page), also reported and we recruited other businesses with Facebook pages in the area to report as well.

Over the course of 3 months this continued.

Then, one day the officer controlling the Places page sent out an email. He logged into Facebook, went to Report Abuse again, but this time he had an admin view on the BIG PAGE, the one with over 63,000 Likes.

We had control! The hijacked Page had been freed and returned to its rightful owner!

In next week’s post we’ll talk more about Facebook Places, why duplicates keep popping up and how you need to stay on top of making sure you’re claiming them.

If you have your own Facebook hijacked Page or a Places story to tell, we’d love to hear from you!