Problems small businesses face in online marketing

As the digital landscape evolves, online marketing follows suit. These constant strides present massive opportunities for growth and innovation, by all means. However, they also fuel ever fiercer competition, which smaller businesses understandably welcome less than international digital juggernauts.

Moreover, competition is but one of the problems small businesses face in online marketing. Consider budget restraints, strategy focus, marketing skillset shortcomings, and more, all of which require due care and diligence.

1. Budget

Perhaps the single most pressing issue among them lies in budget restraints. To prove this, we may cite Hubspot’s recent survey on the same subject, where it ranked in the top three:

However, we may first note the small sample size of 284, which may not fully reflect universal small business challenges. Second, we may note overlaps; put simply, most respondents faced multiple concurrent challenges. Finally, “resource” availability does effectively overlap with budget limitations.

Related: Best Online Marketing Ideas

For all of the above, we may begin with the overarching issue of budget restraints before addressing “time and resources”.

Unfortunately, one’s budget ultimately depends on them, so this problem offers few solutions. Still, you may begin with the following:

  • Budget allocation: An initial budget optimization comes in budget allocations. You may consult your analytics to deduce how much of your budget you can dedicate to your marketing department and each marketing campaign.
  • Cost-efficiency: Second, you may continue consulting your analytics to identify the most cost-effective marketing methods for you. Doing so early can considerably ease the strain on your budget.
  • Automation: Finally, you may consider automation across your operations to enhance cost-efficiency further. Notably, automation assets can significantly enhance social media marketing in particular.

2. Time and resources

The second among the problems small businesses face in online marketing come time and resources. Understandably, “time” overlaps with strategies and operation efficiency, while “resources” overlap with one’s budget and costs.

In turn, you may begin addressing both through the suggestions above and the ones that follow. Still, you may also focus your efforts on specific endeavors and fine-tune your practices in such ways as:

  • Enhancing time management: To tackle time constraints, you may consider workplace productivity boosters such as decorations and bonding events. You may also consider time management software, such as scheduling and activity automation software. Finally, consult your analytics to inform your time management. For example, a Vertical Response survey identified potential social media time mismanagement among small business marketers.
  • Refining your content strategies: Second, you may adapt your content marketing to better fit your resources. Here, too, consider cost-efficiency; does expensive content warrant the resources and effort it requires? It may often be wiser to lean into content your teams can confidently produce than to attempt to innovate.
  • Cut down on costs: Finally, automation tools aside, you may examine your marketing operations and cut down on needless costs. If any given platform or strategy consistently fails to yield results, you may consider discarding it instead of persisting.

3. Strategy

Adjacent to the above come strategy oversights, as research typically finds. This challenge is certainly not unique to small businesses, but they often struggle more with it due to limitations and competition.

Related: 7 Steps To Make Business Internet Strategy Successful

The simplest first step, which many overlook all too often, lies in setting SMART goals for each and every campaign. The University of California defines this acronym’s components as follows:

  • Specific: First, define your goals in simple, concrete, specific terms. State your exact actions and their expected goals.
  • Measurable: Second, identify the metrics you will use to measure effectiveness. These will strictly depend on each campaign’s exact goals you define in the previous step.
  • Achievable: Third, examine your ability to achieve the goals you have set. This will largely depend on your budget, time, and resources.
  • Relevant: Fourth, examine your goals’ relevance to your overall goals and activities. Any goals that do not directly align with your broader strategies may warrant reconsideration.
  • Time-bound: Finally, set specific dates for your expected goals. This will act as another performance metric, and help you manage time more effectively.

4. Online visibility

The fundamentals aside, research identifies online visibility as one of the key problems small businesses face in online marketing. Local businesses may of course rely on local, traditional, outbound marketing, but the overall point remains. That is, online visibility is crucial in an increasingly digital marketing landscape.

Related: How To Promote Your Business Online For Free

Here, LinkedIn research highlights the fundamental shortcomings small businesses may remedy in this regard:

  • Create a website: Only 64% of small businesses have a website. Of those who don’t, 41% say they don’t need one. However, a website is imperative toward establishing robust content marketing strategies, generating leads, and ultimately driving conversions.
  • Secure it and optimize it for mobile: Still, a website takes work, starting with security and mobile-friendliness. As regards the former, LinkedIn asserts that 84% of users leave insecure websites. As for the latter, Statista finds that mobile traffic now surpasses desktop traffic, making it equally noteworthy.
  • Engage in basic SEO: On the subject of optimizations, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will ensure your website’s functionality and effectiveness. So, while deep dives may cost too much for small businesses, basic best practices alone can offer significant help.

5. SEO

For that matter, SEO itself warrants a plethora of articles to thoroughly cover. This set of best practices optimizes websites and content for search engines, in turn enhancing their online visibility.

Of course, SEO is too expansive for small businesses to embrace it holistically. Backlinko identifies over 200 ranking factors that, realistically, require too much time and effort to optimize for. However, you may start small and expand accordingly over time:

Related: How To Claim Your Business On Google My Business

  • Optimize your website’s design: First, examine your pages’ design and optimize it for mobile devices. As you do, cull heavy plugins and addons, and compress your images down to under 100kB. Responsiveness directly affects your website’s marketing effectiveness, and loading speeds prevent bounces – as Google/SOASTA research finds.
  • Declutter your pages: Similarly, examine your pages’ layout and visual elements. Relevant images and media, proper formatting, and white space can all help minimize your pages’ information down to the essentials. In turn, better user engagement will fuel your SEO score further.
  • Engage in local SEO: Finally, most small businesses value local audiences, so they may lean on local SEO specifically. This SEO subset optimizes Google My Business (GMB) listings, and offers increased local visibility.

Should you implement those SEO fundamentals successfully, you will in turn enhance your lead generation rates. You will still need to acquire and convert those leads, of course, but your marketing departments should handle these in accord with your audience insights and content strategies.


To summarize, there are multiple problems small businesses face in online marketing. From budgeting and planning ahead to time and resource management, many of them require case-by-case solutions. Others include online visibility and lead generation, which SEO specifically addresses.

Fortunately, technology offers a wealth of affordable solutions to these issues, including scheduling tools, automation tools, and SEO tools. With them in hand and careful planning and management, your small business may tackle these challenges and continue to thrive.

Nick Djurovic (Author)

My success in the field is an uncanny product of having a Bachelor with Honors in Mechanical Engineering, Psychology, and Psychotherapy. With all these skills under my belt, I turned my focus to understanding and mastering Programming & Developing, as well as improving other processes.

In 2019 I co-founded Digital Dot New York, a digital marketing agency based in New York. I adore WordPress and I’m dedicated to a loving relationship with search engines and social networks.

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