SMB Challenges Prompt Local Search Association To Launch Certification Program

As it becomes increasingly difficult to identify quality and reliable digital marketing partners to help promote products and services of small business owners, the Local Search Association on Monday launched a certification program focusing on helping SMBs find subject matter experts.

The LSA Digital Marketing Certification Program works in a similar way to a scaled-down version offered by search engines Google and Bing, but this one focuses on small businesses.

About 44% of small business owners admit they are challenged to find partners who deliver a return on investment, while 38% say they face hurdles selecting partners they can trust, according to a survey conducted in November 2016 in which 200 small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) participated. As a result, the study -- conducted by Thrive Analytics -- found that 80% of small business owners say certification under LSA standards would likely or very likely influence their choice in the digital marketers to hire.

About 56% of those participating in the study cite finding a reasonably priced service provider to be the top concern. Some 44% say that finding companies that can deliver a return on investment, and 38% say finding companies they can trust creates challenges, too.

Lack of communications skills also seems to be an issue with finding an efficient service provider, because SMB also have concerns about companies not understanding their business, getting good customer service after signing up for support, and determining whether or not their marketing dollars are working.

The LSA, which published a list of certification FAQs on its Web site, plans to vet companies through an application process that requires digital marketers to demonstrate they meet the organization's best practice standards in ethical sales practices, service standards, hiring and training practices, service agreement and contract controls, transparency and security and privacy information standards. 

Digital marketers will receive a Certification badge, along with teachings on how to help their team explain the value of local search services.

Some 80% of those participating on the study want clear pricing and costs estimates and fair representation of expertise. Between 70% and 80% want written procedures, schedule of payment, and more efficient terms of agreements. And 60% to 70% want accounting reports, enforcement of noncompliance, and they want the companies to set reasonable expectations of work done.

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