Selling seashells on search and social

by Tom Kaneshige. Digital marketing truly does break barriers, from product lines to geographical borders, opening doors to a vast horizon of possibilities.

by Tom Kaneshige. Did you see our favourite Superbowl commercial, Squarespace’s Sally’s Seashells, with rising star Zendaya playing an entrepreneur named Sally who’s working alone inside a tiny trailer amid dwindling sales? No doubt many small businesses feel similarly trapped.

Sally’s story, though, is fun and exciting as she takes chances and launches into the big time. Sally sets up an online seashell store on Squarespace, kickstarts sales, expands into adjacent products and services, maintains a steely focus on local customers, presumably becomes a digital marketing savant, and emerges as a sea star sensation! “Shucks,” says Sally, playfully. (If you haven’t seen it, catch it here.)


This isn’t just fictional advertising, either. Digital marketing truly does break barriers, from product lines to geographical borders, opening doors to a vast horizon of possibilities. It offers the best of both worlds. Digital marketing expands brand awareness to the world, quite literally, while at the same time fomenting a localized connection on a personal level. People want to do business with people like Sally; and now they know about her through digital marketing and can engage with her either online or on the seashore.

Don’t take our word for it, just look at the research. Searches with local intent make up 46% of all Google inquires and over 2 billion direct connections with local businesses. YouTube videos are building up massive followings and shopper influence. And 87% of shoppers read online business reviews on Google and Facebook.

“We’re seeing the transition of agencies who didn’t think a lot about digital targeting and digital marketing now needing to optimise their website for SEO or create a referral or word-of-mouth program on social,” says Tiffany Grinstead, vice president of personal lines marketing at Nationwide, in CMO Council’s newly released strategic brief, Revenue Gain From The Local Demand Chain. “They’re suddenly coming to us and saying, ‘Our stream of income from my retail establishment has slowed with the pandemic, so how do I pivot?’”

Digital ROI is worth it

Herein lies the problem. Too many small businesses are late to the digital marketing game, if they’re in it at all. Only 58% of local businesses have claimed their Google My Business Listing. Social media advertising is waning. More than half of local businesses are concerned about their online reputation, yet roughly the same number don’t manage their online business reviews.

Small businesses don’t get digital marketing or think they can’t afford it. But they’re wrong. The cost of shoring up search, social and other digital marketing channels is often cheaper than the cost of traditional marketing, which comes as a shock to small businesses, say marketing leaders. Simply put, digital marketing’s return on investment is higher and more measurable.

Still not convinced? There are ways to get around both a lack of resources and a lot of scepticism. For instance, small businesses can make global and national brands pay for regional and localised digital marketing. Big brand marketers know the value of the local demand chain, which is why they’re making creative digital marketing funding programs available to their local partner channel, such as matching investments. In return, local partners have to provide local market data.

“In some cases, we make the investment for a proof-of-concept pilot,” says Dustin Childers, global marketing manager at Caterpillar, in the CMO Council strategic brief. “We say, ‘We will introduce you to customers you didn’t know existed in your territory and demonstrate a revenue pipeline. If you like the results, we’ll negotiate a percentage back.’” How many seashells will that cost Sally? It’s a small price to pay for stardom.


Main image credit: CMO.


Tom Kaneshige is the Chief Content Officer at the CMO Council. He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles.




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