How Businesses Leverage Digital Marketing: 2022 Survey
Prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, digital marketing was on a fairly clear trajectory. Experts understood how various industries would continue to leverage existing technology and strategies across the digital landscape to build and maintain their brands, and emerging technologies were quickly establishing a role in evolving strategic marketing plans.
The Great Pause, which is how analysts are referring to the economy grinding to a near-complete halt for the entirety of 2020 and most of 2021, forced businesses to reconsider the role of digital marketing and new and emerging technology in their strategic efforts to survive and subsequently recover from the period of crisis. Now that we’ve reached a point where we can confidently say we’ve weathered the worst and kickstarted the economic landscape back into life, we’re seeing previously anticipated trends reemerge as well as new strategies and marketing tactics emerge in response to changing consumer behaviors and expectations.
With our focus on supporting B2B service providers and connecting them with small- to medium-sized businesses needing support in navigating this new and uncharted marketing landscape successfully, UpCity has surveyed 600 respondents from businesses across the United States and Canada to gather insight into current and trending marketing strategies. Through this survey, we were able to ascertain which industries and geographic regions are more likely to leverage digital marketing and how resources are being allocated. We also delved into how COVID-19 changed respondents’ digital marketing budgets, what tools they are currently using for digital marketing, whether they are outsourcing or handling marketing in-house, and what their top goals are for 2022.
Our findings will address the following aspects:
- Geographic regions
- Industry results
- Digital marketing tools
- Digital marketing help
- Digital marketing goals
While statistics and studies help us understand how businesses are allocating resources, it doesn’t give a full perspective from the boots-on-the-ground professionals struggling to integrate existing systems with new strategic marketing needs. Therefore, we’ve also featured throughout our analysis feedback and commentary directly from the digital marketing experts themselves. Their responses give insight into their experiences, provide tips for other professionals to find a way forward, and even share their own ideas for how small businesses can successfully create a digital presence.
27% of U.S. Companies Used Social Media Marketing as Their Main Digital Marketing Channel Pre-COVID
Prior to the pandemic, social media marketing was a powerful tool utilized fairly equally by B2B and B2C organizations. Interestingly, regional preferences are split, with 30% to 40% of both B2B and B2C businesses in the Northeast and Midwest prioritizing Social Media Marketing. These values drop fairly somewhat in Southern companies, where 25% to 30% of businesses prioritize Social Media Marketing. In companies operating out of Western states, there’s a split between B2B and B2C trends, with B2B keeping to Social Media Marketing and B2C companies relying more on SEO marketing strategies.
Social Media Marketing
• 32% B2B | 39% B2C
• 25% B2B | 27% B2C
• 38% B2B | 38% B2C
• 18% B2B
Search engine optimization (SEO)
• 18% B2C
33% of U.S. Companies Still Use Social Media Marketing as Their Main Digital Marketing Channel Post-COVID
In the wake of COVID-19, businesses were forced to shift marketing efforts in response to changes in consumer demand and online behaviors. The data from our respondents illustrate this scramble to react to consumer behaviors in differing ways. Business-to-business across regions responded differently, with the Northeast and Midwest shifting focus to other channels and the South and West increasing Social Media Marketing efforts. With B2C services, however, the shift was across the board to increase Social Media Marketing efforts, with the Western states noticeably shifting focus from SEO to Social Media channels.
Social Media Marketing
• 23% B2B | 45% B2C
• 30% B2B | 37% B2C
• 33% B2B | 52% B2C
• 20% B2B | 27% B2C
It’s important to note that for this survey, the majority of our Canadian respondents were based in Central Canada and the West Coast of Canada. Other regions were inconsistently represented in our sampling, but have been included to provide as much insight into marketing activities throughout the region as possible with the given information.
23% of Canadian Companies Also Used Social Media Marketing as Their Main Digital Marketing Channel Pre-COVID
Canadian companies seemed to be less enamored with Social Media Marketing prior to the pandemic. Before COVID-19 started causing shutdowns in Canada, only B2B companies in Atlantic Provinces and the Northern Territories and B2C companies in West Coast territories prioritized Social Media Marketing prior to the pandemic. Interestingly, B2B organizations largely leveraged Affiliate Marketing, while B2C businesses leveraged SEO and Content Marketing tactics over other channels.
• 33% Social Media Marketing B2B | 50% Content Marketing B2C
• 21% Affiliate Marketing B2B | 35% Search engine optimization (SEO) B2C
• 22% Social Media Marketing B2B | 33% Search engine optimization (SEO) B2C
• 100% Affiliate Marketing B2B | 33% Search engine optimization (SEO) B2C
• 32% Affiliate Marketing B2B | 58% Social Media Marketing B2C
28% of Canadian Companies Still Use Social Media Marketing as Their Main Digital Marketing Channel Post-COVID
As the Canadian economy recovers and shifts to consumer behaviors, business marketing tactics have changed regionally. Both sectors in the Atlantic Provinces have embraced Social Media Marketing tactics, while Central Canadian B2B businesses have done the same. West Coast and Northern Territory businesses stayed the course, while Prairie Provinces B2B and B2C companies changed tactics drastically, but continued to focus their efforts outside of Social Media Marketing.
• 33% Social Media Marketing B2B | 50% Content Marketing B2C
• 30% Affiliate Marketing B2C | 26% Social Media Marketing B2B
• 21% Social Media Marketing B2B | 33% Search engine optimization (SEO) B2C
• 100% Pay-per-click Advertising B2B | 33% Email Marketing B2C
• 38% Affiliate Marketing B2B | 50% Social Media Marketing B2C
Industry Breakdown of Respondents
In the following chart, we break down our respondents by a number of attributes that help us determine how marketing strategies are being leveraged by businesses according to their business profiles. The composition metrics we’ll cover include:
- Respondent Title or Role
- Industry type
- Years in operation
- Total annual revenue
- Monthly Marketing Budget Pre- and Post-COVID
Respondents to our inquiries were largely business owners, showing that owners and leadership in many SMB entities prefer to act as the conduit for information about their business. Business-to-business respondents represented a dominant percentage of our respondent base, and about a third of businesses that responded could be well-established and stable, having been in business between three and five years. A quarter of our respondent base represents small businesses with annual revenue between $3 million and $5 million. From the information gathered, we saw a slight downshift in the number of companies budgeting between $2,000 and $4,999 per month on marketing from pre-COVID activity to post-COVID activity.
65% business owners
35% marketing & technology employees
31% have been in business for 3-5 years
25% $3M-$5M annual revenue
29% $2,000-$4,999 monthly budget pre-COVID
27% $2,000-$4,999 monthly budget post-COVID
The spread of industries in which the companies participating in our data survey operate are interestingly clustered around Education services and Technology related industries (Information Services, Software, and Telecommunications), combined accounting for 35% of companies. The remaining businesses are spread fairly evenly across service-focused industries.
• 15% Education
• 11% Information Services
• 8% Finance & Insurance
• 8% Healthcare
• 6% Construction
• 6% Software
• 4% Agriculture
• 4% Manufacturing
• 3% Marketing & Sales
• 3 % Arts & Entertainment
• 3% Telecommunications
• 3% Others
29% of Businesses Had a Monthly Digital Marketing Budget of $2,000-$4,999 pre-COVID
|Business Size||Years in Business||Annual Revenue|
Monthly Digital Marketing Budget Pre-COVID
|Monthly Digital Marketing Budget Post-COVID|
less than $500
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses that had been operating for between six and nine years with annual revenue streams ranging from $3 million to $9 million maintained average monthly advertising budgets of $2,000 to $4,999. Smaller businesses’ marketing budgets tended to remain under $2,000 per month, while the $5,000 per month threshold was exceeded by about 51% of larger organizations with more than 5,000 employees and annual revenue streams in excess of $10 million.
27% of Businesses Still Have a Monthly Digital Marketing Budget of $2,000-$4,999 post-COVID
There are some interesting trends that emerged post-COVID based on the size and the scope of the businesses that responded to our survey.
- Businesses with more than 5,000 employees tend to be more well-established and have turned the corner and evolved from SMB into entities capable of generating in excess of $10 million in annual revenue. With a larger revenue stream at their disposal, these businesses maintained a marketing budget in excess of $5,000 per month before and after the impacts of COVID-related shutdowns.
- Extremely small businesses, with less than 100 employees, and mid-sized businesses with smaller annual revenue streams between $3 million and $5 million were forced to cut marketing budgets significantly post-COVID.
- Established small businesses of 100 to 500 employees with mid-range annual revenue streams of $3 million to $5 million were the most likely to embrace digital marketing, showing a tendency to increase their marketing budgets post-COVID.
Digital Marketing Tools
48% of Respondents Use Facebook as Their Top Social Media Platform
When it comes to the various tactics that can be leveraged to strengthen a digital marketing campaign, few marketing channels are as impactful as social media. Even email marketing, still one of the most profitable and effective marketing channels, depends upon the inbound lead generation made possible through social media. Social media platforms offer up a number of advantages:
- Increased website or eCommerce site traffic, resulting in higher conversion rates.
- Improved rankings in targeted search results across search engines.
- Boosted social proof and brand awareness.
- Additional channels to provide customer service interactions, improving satisfaction and overall brand loyalty.
- Creates data streams that allow you to improve market insight and improve marketing efforts.
- Establish brand authority through the additional content marketing channels that social media platforms provide.
According to our respondents, the Meta landscape of Facebook and Instagram are the preferred social media platforms utilized for marketing purposes, with Google’s YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok rounding out the named platforms of choice.
• 48% Facebook | • 20% Instagram | • 10% Youtube | • 9% Twitter | • 7% LinkedIn | 2% TikTok | 2% Other
“It does not surprise me that 48% of digital marketers across the U.S. and Canada use Facebook as their top social media platform. In our experience, it has one of the best returns on investments and almost any audience we want to target can be found here. Most importantly we can easily track the results from our efforts through their insights tool (ads and organic posts). Which helps us refine our efforts.”
—Christopher Lara, Boston Manager, TheeDigital
When crafting a social media marketing campaign, it’s important to focus your efforts on the platforms and channels that align with your target audience or existing customer base, depending on the purpose of the campaign. It’s also important to utilize each social media platform in a way that aligns with user behaviors most associated with that platform, and it’s advised that businesses diversify their marketing campaigns by leveraging several social media platforms relevant to their brand. Most platforms provide access to advertising performance metrics to provide insight into how effective your marketing efforts have been during a given period, allowing users to tweak and restructure marketing strategies based on consumer behavior or lead conversion.
We brought this subject to the B2B community of professionals at large, asking them what social media platform they prefer for digital marketing and why, and how often they’re using it in current strategies.
“Instagram is still my most favorite among all social media platforms available. With Instagram, you are able to target your market, since the community that will follow you are only those interested in your niche. It’s not difficult to convert a sale on Instagram because almost all of your followers are prospective buyers. I browse Instagram for business almost every day. Unlike with Facebook, there’s not much or rapid change in Instagram, which makes this frequency enough to monitor the progress of your page. Also, digital marketing is more effective when there’s a specific market to target which is what Instagram offers.”
—Ahmed Mir, Founder, Sip Coffee House
“I prefer to use Twitter, especially operating in the B2B industry, where we require real-time engagement with our user base. It allows us to share real-time updates on our platforms, communicate with customers, relay important announcements, and even gauge user opinions using polls. We use the platform daily.”
—Eden Cheng, Co-Founder, PeopleFinderFree
“We mainly used Facebook and LinkedIn for our digital marketing strategies. We prefer Facebook to promote our products and services as there are a lot of Facebook groups related to betting activities and betting-related software. With that said, our niche and target market are heavy users of Facebook. We use LinkedIn to gain connections and new recruits for our company. We use these platforms for all of our promotional projects.”
—Scott Hasting, Co-Founder, BetWorthy LLC
17% of Digital Marketers use SocialPilot as Their Go-To Social Media Marketing Tool
Social media marketing management tools help companies keep up with data streams that are constantly evolving and changing. We’ve written about this niche of marketing tools and 2021 trends at length elsewhere, but even moving into 2022 tools should fit not only your budget but also your long- and short-term business needs. Social media marketing tools will need to be multifunctional and able to manage your content and activity on multiple social media channels. With the reliance of so many business leaders on data, the ability to consolidate and analyze metrics of ad and content performance across social media channels is also a crucial must-have in the management tool a business chooses for social media marketing in the coming year. Within our cohort of respondents, about half of the businesses are using SocialPilot, Audiense, Sprout Social, or Rebrandly as their tools of choice.
• 17% SocialPilot | • 13% Audiense | • 11% Sprout Social | • 10% Rebrandly | • 9% Hootsuite | • 9% Mention | • 7% Other | 6% Loomly | 4% Buzzsumo
What tools are popular with our B2B services community? We took the question to the experts and found out some interesting tools in play.
“As an email marketing agency, we require analytic tools to help us better understand how to grow, one such tool that we use for social media is Buffer. It has great automation features which help boost convenience. It offers a free trial and it offers you the ease of posting content according to your scheduled time. One of the reasons we prefer it over other tools is how user-friendly it is.”
—Dan Ni, CEO, Messaged.com
“My favorite tool for social media marketing is Buzzsumo. I find it very convenient to search for social media influencers relevant to the niche and their latest top-performing content. It also helps me to get ideas for my blog. I use Buzzsumo to find influencers for my Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn network. I use it for my clients as well. I like to keep myself updated on the latest social media marketing strategies and Buzzsumo helps me with that. My favorite feature is actually the ability to compare posts. I use it to compare the top posts in terms of social shares, and then to decide what kind of posts might be the best ones to put on my own social media pages. I use the tool twice a week to keep myself updated on what is trending, what is getting shared, and what is the content type that is performing the best.”
—Ben Miller, Founder, Focus on Digital
“Missinglttr has evolved my business beyond imagination. It allows me to scrape content such as blog posts from my website. Then it converts it into bite-size pieces, making it easier for the audience to digest. I use it whenever I publish a blog post on my website. This tool can be integrated across all social media platforms, saving me from the headache of reposting content. Missingltter enables me to schedule posts and track performance as the campaign progresses.”
—Katy Wrench, Digital Marketer, Hometree
45% of Digital Marketers Prioritize On-page SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies play a crucial role in modern digital marketing strategies. By optimizing content, posts, and marketing efforts to improve search engine rankings, businesses can push their brands higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) and thus increase the quality and volume of traffic flowing through inbound marketing channels back to their website and sales team. Efforts can come in three approaches:
- On-Page SEO tactics revolve around the page and code itself and encompass headers, image optimization, the way in which data is structured and presented, properly written and formatted content, and page meta descriptions.
- Technical SEO tactics are designed to improve the way in which a website is found, crawled, translated, and indexed by search engines. This approach is concerned with the structure and format of the website itself.
- Off-Page SEO tactics entail efforts away from your website such as link building, content marketing, activity in discussion forums and other channels, and connecting with social media influencers. The goal with off-page strategies is to show search engines your site and content are relevant beyond your own digital real estate.
Our survey results show that on-page and technical SEO account for an almost equal lion’s share of SEO strategies in use in the field, with only 11% of companies focusing on off-page strategies.
45% on-page SEO
44% technical SEO
11% off-page SEO
28% of Respondents Use Google Analytics Most Often for Their SEO Needs
Like social media management tools, SEO strategies need to be planned and executed through careful planning and that’s made possible by powerful tools capable of tracking the metrics necessary to measure impact, effectiveness, and ROI on marketing tactics. SEO platforms and tools help to automate time-consuming and complicated SEO audits, help to centralize your KPI tracking, and help to improve key marketing strategies like content marketing through the use of complex tools that track and suggest the right keywords and keyword strings to use across channels. Because SEO is primarily concerned with improving performance across search engine rankings, it makes sense that Google tools and tools that integrate with Google’s platform are the dominant solutions for managing SEO efforts with our respondents. Google Analytics and the Google Search Console are the leading SEO management tools, joined by the Moz platform.
• 23% Google Analytics
• 19% Google Search Console
• 19% Moz
• 7% Majestic
• 7% SEOquake
• 5% Answer The Public
• 5% Screaming Frog
• 4% Woorank
• 4% Ubersuggest
• 4 % SpyFU
• 3% SEMrush
• 3% KWFinder
• 3% Siteliner
• 3% Other
• 2% Ahrefs
With the importance of SEO clear, we wanted to know what the B2B community was using for search engine optimization strategies and campaign execution.
“My favorite SEO tool is Ahrefs. I use Ahrefs every week to monitor for changes in our backlink profile and to identify whether we have new backlinks coming in. I find that the user interface is far easier to use compared to alternatives like Moz and SEMrush.”
—Patrick Casey, Director of Growth Marketing, Felix Health
—Daniel Carter, SEO Manager, Skuuudle
“As a seasoned IT specialist, I believe Moz provides an excellent assortment of both free and paid SEO tools. Moz allows you to simply execute site audits, keyword research, and track your search engine rankings. We strongly advise you to use the MozBar Chrome extension, which delivers quick analytics while viewing any website or SERP.”
—Carl Panepinto, IT Specialist, CloudTech24
“The only content analysis tool that my team uses is the SEO Content Assistant by SearchAtlas, it’s an all-in-one so you can avoid signing up for several SEO tools. With one powerful tool you can optimize your content for search engines as well as analyze on-page SEO technicals like headers and meta tags. This tool has become a part of my day-to-day workflow when creating SEO-friendly landing pages and blog posts.”
—Sophia Deluz, Director of Marketing, LinkGraph
27% of Respondents Use Google Ads Most Often as Their Prefered PPC Ad Network
Pay-per-click campaigns are an often-used marketing strategy used in conjunction with other approaches to drive traffic through inbound sales funnels. It’s important to choose PPC software that supports your overall marketing strategy. Whether you’re managing PPC advertising in-house or have outsourced it to an agency, the tools used to establish and manage your PPC campaigns must be aligned with the platforms you rely upon for advertising.
Platforms should also support the type of PPC advertising you rely upon, which can range from search ads, display ads, and social media ads to remarketing ads and other forms of paid advertising. Again, with Google being the most dominant search engine, Google Ads is one of the top choices from our survey for PPC advertising. When you take into account the Meta landscape is made up of Facebook and Instagram amongst other brands, Meta actually comes out ahead of other platforms as the choice for PPC ad management. Rounding out the top three platforms is Amazon Ads, which stems from the platform’s popularity as an online retail channel for brands across most industries.
• 27% Google Ads
• 22% Facebook Ads
• 13% Amazon Ads
• 11% Instagram Ads
• 9% Microsoft Ads (Formerly Bing Ads)
• 9% Twitter Ads
• 4% LinkedIn Ads
• 4% Pinterest Ads
• 2% Other
B2B professionals across industries are leveraging a number of different PPC software tools. We asked the community at large what their preferred tools are going into the new year and why they are using that tool over others.
“OrbitalAds is an AI-Powered Keyword Management Platform, and in my opinion, is the most potent of its kind. Additionally, it features a slew of algorithms to aid in the optimization of Google Ads search campaigns and the elevation of key performance indicators (KPIs) related to conversions. Using its Search Term Analyzer and Smart Locator, it can determine the most relevant ad groups for your existing keywords and uncover new ones based on thousands of Google searches. In fact, these are just two examples of the platform’s many features. Using this application and its automated processes will free up hundreds of hours of your time, allowing you to focus on more important and strategic endeavors.”
—Neil John, Tech Enthusiast & Software Engineer, One Computer Guy
“For me, SpyFu is the only paid PPC tool worthy of investing in. We can see how our website compares to competitors as well as how clients’ websites compare to their competitors. It can also identify searches for organic keywords for content creation. I prefer it over others because it quickly finds information about a competitor’s website! We can see what keywords they rank for organically, how much they spend on PPC, and what their ads look like by simply entering a domain name. It is a paid tool, but we get so much out of it that we don’t mind paying monthly.”
—Ron Evan, Digital Marketing Specialist, Thrive Internet Marketing Agency
“Bannersnack allows you to generate display advertising in any shape or format you choose, including HTML5 animations, videos, links, and custom code. It’s really simple to operate. You may create your banner from scratch or use a template, and you can include animations, interactive components, and powerful Call-To-Actions to make it stand out. You can construct your own banner by dragging and dropping photos, text buttons, and other elements. Finally, the banners work with all of the main ad networks.”
—Zaeem Chaudhary, Architectural Draftsman, AC Design Solutions
20% of Businesses Use Hubspot as Their Go-To Email Marketing Tool
Email marketing remains one of the highest ROI marketing tactics in play, due to the generally low cost of entry and management and the potential conversion rates emails are known to deliver. Effective email management tools integrate with your CRM platform and other marketing tools and practices to help segment leads in order to create and deliver the most efficient messaging for each lead segment. Combined, Hubspot and Mailchimp were given as the best go-to email marketing solutions by half of the respondents to our survey, with platforms like GetResponse and ConstantContact making the list as well.
• 20% Hubspot
• 19% Mailchimp
• 12% GetResponse
• 12% ActiveCampaign
• 7% ConstantContact
• 7% ConvertKit
• 6% Drip
• 6% Omnisend
• 6% SendinBlue
• 4% Other
As important as email remains, we want to give our readers as much insight into the tools in use across industries by B2B companies for email marketing campaigns. We took this inquiry to the B2B community and gathered some feedback on the tools they’re using.
“For customer engagement, we use Intercom. It’s not the cheapest option out there but it covers key areas such as knowledge base, live chat, engagement, and product tours. We use this tool because it’s easy to use, it provides great support, and it’s a category leader in my opinion.”
—Carsten Pleiser, Founder, Design Buffs
“As one of the largest and fastest-growing email marketing services, Constant Contact is a name you should be familiar with. It’s also the most user-friendly email marketing service out now, making it ideal for beginners. Your email lists, contacts, email templates, and marketing schedule can all be easily maintained. You get limitless emails, tracking and reporting, built-in social media sharing features, free image library, list segmentation, and Facebook ad integration for Shopify stores in each account. Additionally, their Email Plus accounts include advanced features like email automation, drip marketing, surveys & polls, and coupons, as well as online donations and subject line A/B testing, which lets you send targeted emails to maximize your open rates.”
—Ernests Embutnieks, CEO & Founder, Wolf of Desk
“Mailchimp is an ideal choice if you’re just starting or running a small business. Mailchimp’s basic service is free until your list hits 2,000 subscribers. It offers the main functionality you need without making managing your email marketing too complex. Mailchimp also offers a slew of features and digital marketing tools such as segmentation and personalization, landing page builders, form builders, audience insights, CRM tools, and predictive insights.”
—Nick Antonopoulos, Founder, SEO Design Chicago
Digital marketing tools are as diverse as the strategies they have been designed to support, and businesses have any number of solutions they can implement to maximize the impact of their marketing efforts. From the responses we received, it’s apparent that while businesses have leaned heavily into social media marketing, they are using those platforms as the foundation for complex and extensive marketing strategies focused on building and maintaining leads and creating communities that can in turn be relied upon for repeat business. Lead generation and customer retention are the driving forces when building marketing technology stacks, and the tools have come to reflect the changing ways consumers are interacting with brands in post-COVID economic conditions.
Digital Marketing Help
Marketing has become an exceedingly complex and involved process that intersects in some way with every role and department in play in modern businesses. For small businesses and even larger entities, annual marketing strategies might be painted in broad strokes before the start of the next fiscal year, but throughout the year, it might be necessary to bring in an expert to handle specific campaigns or support marketing initiatives that extend beyond the scope of the organization’s current staffing levels or skills. This is especially true in the current economy, where technology and strategies are constantly evolving and becoming more complex.
As businesses strive to become more organizationally agile and lean in order to reduce operating costs while growing sales, they are taking several approaches to marketing as a function within their operations.
Businesses are outsourcing to knowledgeable and experienced freelancers, a segment of workers that itself has exploded in the wake of COVID-19. Project managers and business owners can turn to a number of platforms designed to broker relationships between businesses in need and freelancers looking for opportunities. Unattached to specific corporate entities, freelancers are hired on a contractual basis to handle specific projects or campaigns and fulfill specific marketing functions.
If an organization has the depth in skill or budget to maintain skilled staff and infrastructure, they will tend to take the in-house option. Taking the in-house approach, a business will train existing staff or hire new employees to manage the tools and systems in place to support existing marketing strategies and take place in planning and budgeting for future marketing needs depending on business goals.
An increasing trend in marketing is for organizations in need of a full end-to-end marketing solution to hire a third-party agency. This happens if the business doesn’t have the budget or existing staff to maintain a full-time department dedicated to the task. These managed services agencies can be hired to help plan, execute, and revise marketing strategies across all of the necessary channels.
In this section, we look at how our respondents are using a mix of these three methods to fill in the gaps in their own business and maintain a level of competitive advantage in their industries.
42% of Businesses Hire Digital Marketing Freelancers
“Considering the number of very small businesses out there, it doesn’t surprise me that 42% use freelancers instead of agency or in-house teams. Small businesses need to be nimble with their marketing dollars and can’t always justify additional team members or the costs that come with larger agencies. In fact, more agencies need to be transparent with prospects who approach them but might not be the right fit. Too many agencies will take on any client of any size and not be able to provide real value with the available budget. Freelancers can be a great alternative in cases where small businesses need to start with one or two digital marketing tactics. As they grow and their needs scale up and become more complex, investment in a strategic, specialized agency partnership becomes more valuable.”
—Brian Allen, VP of Digital Marketing, Spinutech
35% of Respondents Use Freelancer.com to Source Digital Marketing Freelancers
• 35% Freelancer.com
• 15% LinkedIn
• 14% Fiverr
• 11% Self-sourced freelancer
• 10% Upwork
• 5% Contently
• 5% PeoplePerHour
• 4% ClearVoice
• 2% SendinBlue
• 0% Other
Finding freelancers can be a challenging undertaking, and getting insight and social proof on effective tactics can go a long way to ensuring you’re using the best platforms and recruiting for the right business cases to support your marketing strategy.
“As a digital marketing agency, we work with freelancers and virtual assistants regularly. We use Freelancer and UpWork to find reputable freelancers and virtual assistants. The tasks we outsource are based on outreach and data retrieval, essentially those which could be done by tools but we want a human touch. This includes things like initial outreach prospecting and contact gathering. These tasks are hard to hire a full-time person for as they can be very sporadic, so we find it’s more efficient to outsource them as part of our wider processes.”
—James Crabtree, Director, Complete White Label
“I used MarketerHire when working with digital marketing freelancers. Generally, I outsourced digital marketing tasks like updating my brand’s social media with fresh and relevant content. Furthermore, guest writing for industry blogs was also handed over to the freelancers. We had a severe shortage of content creators and marketers last year. The employee upturn made it impossible to recruit able candidates in time. Thus, the company decided to outsource these intricate tasks to qualified freelancers on MarketerHire.”
—Christiaan Huynen, CEO, DesignBro
“I’ve been using Mediabistro to connect with digital marketing freelancers for the past three years. I believe this platform is tremendous for freelancers to easily look for their desired gigs and for digital marketing enthusiasts to enlist the services of competent freelancers. One digital marketing task you should definitely outsource is graphic designing. The scope of graphic designing is so deep that you’re better off outsourcing it if you want to save time and money and get the best results.”
—Daniel Foley, Marketing Specialist, Unagi Scooters
Our respondents prefer the Freelancer.com platform by a significant margin, with the top three rounded out by LinkedIn and Fiverr. Each of these platforms helps businesses establish different types of relationships with gig workers and freelance professionals and acts as a broker to ensure payment arrangements and scope of work and other considerations are agreed to and expectations fulfilled.
When searching for workers on these platforms, it’s important to pay attention to the freelancer’s skills and expertise, as well as ascertain whether they have hands-on, real-world experience with the type of project you’re looking to hire them to complete. Hourly or project rates should also be something you should consider before hiring a freelancer, to ensure the final cost of the project won’t exceed your budget.
These platforms often include ratings and feedback given by previous clients, to give you an idea of the freelancer’s service history and the quality of work they are known to deliver. Finally, the platforms will often offer examples of the freelancer’s previous work; if work samples aren’t available on the hiring site, you should request a portfolio or links to previous projects and references to determine what to expect of their final deliverables.
35% of Businesses Use an In-House Digital Marketing Team
Culture and opportunity are driving factors in employee retention, especially in the wake of the pandemic. This means that rather than outsourcing marketing projects, there is a case to be made for investing in training your team in new skills and allowing them to take on increasingly complex marketing tasks. As the organization grows, and budgets grow with revenue, bringing in new staff to expand on the types of projects you can handle in-house ensures a strong culture where retention will improve because employees know that the company is willing to invest in their skills and provide them with the opportunity to improve themselves. In-house teams also allow you to control the pace and execution of projects, and there isn’t the chance of your team disappearing or renegotiating rates mid-project, as might occur with freelancers or marketing agencies.
• 34% 6-10 in-house digital marketers
• 27% 11-19 in-house digital marketers
• 21% 1-5 in-house digital marketers
• 18% 20+ on-house digital marketers
With the stress on building corporate culture and a return to in-house marketing tactics by many companies, we wanted to gather more insight from the B2B services community to find out why they’re choosing to bring marketing in-house.
“There are numerous reasons why companies are returning to their own marketing departments. One of the most difficult tasks for many companies is to explain to other organizations their basic requirements in alignment with their vision. It is also said that professional marketing companies bring fresh perspectives and new ideas that can help organizations see things in a new light, and they don’t arrive with a pre-existing bias that can be a significant problem. Businesses need a suitable balance of both viewpoints, and it has been seen that external agencies have difficulty immersing themselves in the culture.”
—Travis Lindemoen, Managing Director, Nexus IT Group
“There are many advantages to using an in-house marketing team rather than a third-party firm for tasks like banner ads, social media management, website promotions, and captions. Sometimes, employers are unable to find qualified candidates for open positions. No meaningful results can be achieved unless the teams are led by seasoned professionals. With in-house teams, many businesses are able to save money in the long run.”
—Michael Butt, Vice President of Marketing, Verta.ai
“Imagine having a creative staff that is solely focused on your company’s work and aligned with your values, mission, and goals. There are companies where employees have a share in the company. In comparison to outside agencies, this motivates people to put in more effort to achieve success. These teams demonstrate a level of dedication and commitment to the company’s objective that is difficult for people who are not employed by the organization to achieve.”
—Danny Trichter, Founder, Accessibility Checker
80% of Business Plan to Expand Their In-House Digital Marketing Team in 2022
While the benefits of a more invested project team and improved long-term staff retention coupled with gaining the reputation for being an organization that invests in its staff might make creating an in-house marketing department attractive to 80% of our respondents, it’s important to remember some of the drawbacks to this approach. In-house teams can be more expensive to maintain, as the costs of maintaining a full-time employee extend far beyond salary. This can be especially burdensome on the budget when you’ve hired for specific skill sets and experience and appropriate projects only come up infrequently, a lack of efficiency that negates any cost-benefit budgetary control an in-house team might make possible.
In a similar vein, while you might be able to train up your staff in certain skills to handle specific projects, it’s important to remember that you can’t train your team to handle all projects. There will be situations where it will be faster and more cost-efficient to outsource in some way rather than attempt to create the in-house mechanisms to execute a project.
21% of Businesses Opt to Hire a Third-Party Agency
Small, nimble businesses with limited staff could choose to try and either bring in contractors for one-off projects while trying to manage ongoing marketing in-house, but that would mean the staff isn’t focusing on direct client management or generating sales. In fact, modern marketing campaigns and tactics can be extremely time-consuming and resource-intensive, which can overburden a staff already performing multiple duties and struggling to build a brand from the ground up. Therefore, for strategic marketing initiatives, annual planning, and executing ongoing campaigns, it makes more sense to outsource to agencies in order to free up in-house staff and resources.
27% of Users Prefer Working With a Digital Marketing Consultancy
Of the respondents focused on working with outside agencies, 27% of them preferred to hire the services of a digital marketing consultancy. Behind consultancy agencies, 19% of respondents depend on full-service digital marketing agencies. In the third spot, respondents were split evenly between social media agencies and agencies focused on supporting online ad/PPC campaigns. The full breakdown of preferred agency types can be found below.
• 27% Digital marketing consultancy
• 19% Full-service digital marketing agency
• 17% Online ad/PPC agency
• 17% Social media agency
• 10% SEO agency
• 10% Web design agency
• 1% Other
22% of Respondents Find Social Media Marketing the Most Difficult to Tackle on Their Own
While social media channels are amongst the most popular outlets for marketing and advertising, social media marketing isn’t without significant challenges. The scope of marketing goals that can be impacted by effective social media campaigns makes it difficult for brands to hone in on how impactful their efforts are relative to any single goal such as increasing brand awareness, increasing engagement, lead generation, or other goals that might be folded into a campaign. Other challenges include determining which platform will most effectively reach your ideal customers and have the most impact on lead generation and conversion. While it’s a popular medium for content and advertising, brands must also combat the fact that unpaid, organic engagement on social platforms with branded businesses is relatively low, and subsequently influencer activity is also dropping.
• 5% Video Marketing
• 8% Mobile
• 8% Display ads
• 10% Affiliate marketing
• 10% Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
• 11% Search engine optimization (SEO)
• 12% Content marketing
• 15% Email marketing
• 22% Social media marketing
Certain tasks are more suited for delegating to outsourced talent, and for the B2B community, there seems to be a pattern to the type of work and reasoning behind outsourced projects.
“I outsource SEO, SEM, and Content Writing through PeoplePerHour. Outsourcing these tasks allows me to focus on the decision-making process without continuously chasing after my in-house team. Hiring freelancers enables me to manage and prioritize my tasks effectively.”
—Angela Blakenship, CEO & Hiring Executive, Best Neighborhood
“We outsource copywriting, SEO, web design, blogging, PR, graphic design, branding, PDF Word formatting, and other related tasks. We are a bootstrapped translation agency and these tasks fall outside of our main focus in-house, which is handling translation and localization projects. There are times we need help on these tasks and don’t have the time to go through thousands of agencies on Google and need a quick turnaround.”
—Robert Bolohan, Co-Founder, Lotuly
“Typically I will ask for support designing quick infographics or quick visuals for blogs or other long-form writing. But most of the time I’m looking for proofreaders to be a second set of eyes on content that I care about before it goes out into the world. With my virtual assistants who are being paid for more than just one gig at a time, it may be everything from checking my funnels to making sure that landing pages and Lead magnets are working. And also to make sure that my email service provider is successfully delivering emails to my members.”
—Sean Kosofsky, Consultant, Mind the Gap Consulting
Users Rated Positive Online Reviews as the Most Important Trait When Seeking Outside Digital Marketing Help
Online reviews play a vital role in consumer behaviors and should be a focus in any online reputation management strategy. Reviews then are just as important for a B2B service provider such as a marketing agency or freelancer. Digital marketing agency reviews can often be found as with any other business entity, on their own site, across social media, and in industry-focused directories and listings such as the UpCity marketplace. Freelancers often incorporate their client feedback and reviews into their portfolios and online service listings, but you can also search freelancers through the websites they offer services through. Fiverr and Freelancer.com for example will include reviews of freelancers, adding a layer of transparency to the platforms that assure potential customers they’re getting the services being offered.
The following ratings are based on a scale of 1-5 (1 being the most important)
Positive online reviews
A diverse range of services
Number of years of experience
Reviews for digital marketing agencies and freelancers are just as crucial as with any other industry and B2B professionals take reviews just as seriously in choosing a marketing partner, and rankings and review quality definitely play into the choice, but all perfect reviews aren’t always the preference.
“Reviews are everything. Make sure the person you hire has lots of great testimonials or if you want to work with someone who is just starting out, make sure they have a strong portfolio and language skills (written and verbal). Personally, I would not recommend hiring a freelancer or agency with average reviews. There is just too much competition out there. You can find someone to do the same work for the same price who has better testimonials and client results. I have gone on to hire freelancers on a permanent basis after an outstanding performance on a smaller job.”
—Sara Reed, Consultant, Sara Reed Business Coaching
“Online reviews are important in hiring a digital marketing freelancer or agency because it is one way to see their credibility and if they are capable of providing you with a good result. An agency or a freelancer with an average review can still be a choice when hiring because it just proves that they are real. One or two negative reviews don’t define them after all.”
—Teo Vanyo, CEO, Stealth Agents
“Online review is a crucial aspect for hiring any freelancer as the review tells us about the work performance of that freelancer. Also, their behavior to the clients, whether they are punctual or not, whether they are trustworthy, etc. Reviews create the perfect transparency about the freelancer, which always helps the client choose. We can hire average review freelancers because sometimes new talented freelancers don’t get enough opportunity to showcase their skills. So, it’s a deal of mutual benefit without spending much money.”
—Steven Walker, CEO, Spylix
From small businesses to large corporate enterprises, digital marketing is a business function that must be incorporated into the overall marketing strategy of any business. Finding the right model for your brand can be challenging, but the industry has evolved over the last decade to ensure that whether you’re tackling marketing with in-house staff, bringing on freelancers for one-off projects and campaigns, or partnering with a managed services agency for long-term marketing support, that there is a combination of solutions available on the market that fit your brand’s specific needs.
Digital Marketing Goals
Prior to 2020, businesses laid out their marketing goals according to trends across their industry coming out of 2019, and strategies were built around meeting these goals—strategies that were shredded in the wake of the pandemic shutdowns hitting the American economy in earnest at the end of the first fiscal quarter of 2020. As recovery efforts have struggled to gain ground in the latter portion of 2021, businesses find themselves finally able to reassess their recovery strategies going into 2022.
Now is the time to truly take inventory of what your business has accomplished, what strategies have helped the brand to not only survive, but strive in the post-COVID economic landscape, and forge a path forward with your marketing services provider or in-house marketing team to reposition your brand for success in the coming year. Let’s take a look at what strategies our respondents are taking moving into 2022.
24% of Respondents are Most Focused on Boosting Conversions Rates By Creating Quality Content
As a primary component in effective inbound marketing pipelines due to evolving search engine algorithms, content has come to have an entirely more relevant role in generating traffic and converting leads. Consumers are focused on engaging with brands that can show value beyond products and services, and are spending more time seeking out and engaging with content to learn more about the brands they consume. Content helps your brand establish credibility and authority over your competitors, and should be written to engage and educate with both customers and interested visitors, helping to boost the qualification of your leads and increase conversion on the back end.
• 2% Other
• 8% Writing effective call-to-actions
• 8% Running CRO tests
• 12% Improving key landing pages
• 14% Gathering customer feedback
• 15% Improving site speed
• 17% Conducting market research/competitor analysis
• 24% Creating high-quality content
A Majority of Digital Marketers Said That Their Top Digital Marketing Goal for 2022 is to Increase Sales and Revenue
Many brands struggled to survive the Pandemic, and even those that successfully navigated the Great Pause, still find themselves behind projections or struggling to make up lost sales during 2020 during the full shutdowns that impacted some geographic areas and industries despite the recovery that we’ve seen in 2021. Digital marketing is crucial because consumers are spending more time than ever researching products, finding brands they support, and overall spending more on eCommerce than any other period. With their attention on digital channels such as social media and search engines, it makes sense to use digital marketing strategies as your primary method for capturing leads and converting them into leads.
(On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the most important)
Increase sales & revenue
Stand out from competitors
Provide better customer service
Use marketing data to make better business decisions
Increase website traffic
Save on costs
Establish your business as an authority in your industry
Rank higher in search results
More brand awareness/PR opportunities
Create an online community
The experts that we spoke to about prioritizing digital marketing to increase sales and revenue had differing opinions on this matter:
“I’m not surprised that most digital marketers consider increasing sales and revenue their top goal for 2022. If you think about it, marketing’s core function is to build a pipeline of relevant prospects, re-engage with lost opportunities, move leads further down the funnel — all of which can in turn enable more sales and revenue. But this is going to be quite challenging because most verticals today are extremely crowded with multiple players. Here’s where great marketing (and great copy) will make the difference — helping you stand out from your competitors. ”
—Ganesh Mukundan, Content Marketing Manager, Hiver
“It’s bewildering that the majority of digital marketers’ goals are about something they really can’t control. Yes, digital can be tracked (albeit that capability is dwindling) but the responsibility of sales and revenue shouldn’t fall on digital marketers, and when it does, it’s bound to cause customer experience issues. Think about how many customer or client interactions occur with departments prior to a purchase – and marketing probably isn’t one of them. Executives, sales staff and other leadership need to assume responsibility for revenue and encourage digital people to zero-in on digital goals: providing the best website experience, ranking number one in search, outpacing competitors in social engagement, etc. Do that, and the rest will follow. ”
—Stephanie Wubben, Business Development Strategist, Blue Compass
66% of Businesses Say Their Current Digital Marketing Strategies are Effective in Achieving Their 2022 Goals
While the COVID-19 Pandemic decimated certain industries and the swathe of destruction left very few companies unimpacted, the takeaway from the Great Pause for most was that it was a perfect opportunity to reassess and restructure marketing strategies and business structures around client acquisition and sales generation. This means that many brands have had the time and opportunity to work within their four walls or with agency service providers and freelancers to lay the groundwork for digital marketing success in the coming year. A full 95% of our respondents felt that their current strategy was at least somewhat effective at achieving the goals they’ve laid out for 2022.
We wanted some additional insight into the goals that B2B business leaders have laid out for 2022 and took the query to the community at large.
“We want to spend 2022 adding value to our brand. More than just converting sales, we are very much focused on creating retention and we want to do such by providing value for our brand. We want our brand to be seen and recognized as one that cares and empathizes with its customers so that we can create a safe community for them as well. Giving attention to social cues and the like are very much essential factors in terms of providing distinction to the company from its competitors. What does your brand serve apart from its products? This is the question that we want to answer as we plan our digital marketing goals this 2022.”
—Ahmed Mir, Founder, Sip Coffee House
“Our goal for 2022 is to improve organic search and to look at opportunities from structured data and the SERPs features. Because Google and Microsoft are constantly changing how they seem to help improve user experience and monetize their adverts, experienced SEOs pay close attention to the search engine results pages (SERPs). As marketers, they enable us to engage our audiences more effectively than our competitors and to attract more visitors by raising clickthrough rates.”
—David Wurst, Owner & CEO, Webcitz
“My goal is to examine how AI may be used in conjunction with SEO and other digital marketing methods in 2022. Artificial intelligence is already being used in marketing by companies in fields such as retail, finance, and healthcare, and my goal is to utilize it even further for digital marketing. While AI is most commonly used in marketing automation to automate simple functions like reporting on website visitors and suggesting keywords that can improve a company’s search engine rankings, I’m also looking into AI applications that can anticipate what customers will buy in the years ahead based on their previous purchase decisions and browse history. What AI can accomplish will wow you!”
—Abe Breuer, CEO & Owner, VIP To Go
The bottom line is that while we might be navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic in some fashion for years to come, the economy is steamrolling forward and it’s time that you get your brand ready for success. Focusing on your digital marketing goals for 2022 and ensuring you have a solid content strategy in place now will help your business hit the ground running in 2022.
Ignore Digital Marketing At Your Own Risk in 2022
Rolling into 2022, it’s important to understand how to best structure your marketing strategy for success. As we’ve explored marketing practices and preferred tactics in this piece, we’ve discovered that a multichannel approach is no longer necessary for a strategic advantage, but instead a requirement in order to remain competitive. Whether you’re handling your marketing in-house, through an agency, or supporting your strategic initiatives with freelancers, you have to tackle your social media platforms and have a strong content marketing plan in place to grow and maintain sales in the coming year.
As a business-to-business marketplace, the UpCity platform has a wealth of marketing knowledge to help small businesses and startups educate themselves on the intricacies of modern digital marketing strategies and determine where their weak points are. Armed with this knowledge, visitors can use the list of service providers to identify B2B services capable of supporting their long-term and short-term marketing needs. Taking these first steps before we round the corner into 2022 can ensure the stabilization of your brand and a positive revenue stream for the year.
UpCity’s Survey Method
UpCity used Pollfish to survey 600 digital marketing experts across the United States and Canada. A majority of the respondents are Business Owners (33%), C-Level Executives (13%), Middle Managers (12%), Senior Managers (9%), and Directors (9%) at companies of 501-1,000 employees.
Most of the respondents own or work at B2B companies (70%) compared to B2C companies (30%).
Twenty-five percent of businesses have annual revenue of $3M-$5M and fifty-five percent of those companies have been operating for 3-5 years.
About the author
David J. Brin
Having recently escaped a 20-year career in Food & Beverage operations management, David is now a Facility Director for a Code Ninjas franchise, a STEM-education concept that uses game development to teach children how to code in various programming languages. David got his start writing professionally as a communications assistant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and has been a freelance copywriter providing white-label services to clients since 2016. His clients operate in industries ranging from managed IT services and software development to marketing and advertising.