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Communication breakdown: Small businesses struggling to market effectively due to low confidence, limited time, and lack of knowledge

by | May 2, 2024 | Marketing, Public Relations

No matter the size of your business, well planned and executed marketing is critical to success, which we all can agree on. But another industry truth is that marketing strategy isn’t straightforward and requires consistent shifts and pivots as the market fluctuates. Therefore enterprises and big-budget brands invest in the best and brightest communicators they can find to navigate this terrain. That’s the way business is done.

But small businesses don’t often have the resources to build such a team, or sometimes to even bring on a dedicated marketer at all. The latest Small Business Now report from small business digital marketing and automation platform Constant Contact, based on a survey conducted by Ascend2 of 1,300 small businesses in the US, UK, Australia and Canada, reveals most small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) struggle to market themselves effectively due to low confidence, time constraints, and insufficient marketing knowledge.

With more than 300 million SMBs in the world, marketing is even more essential for differentiation and conveying value to customers. However, the report reveals a concerning trend—many small businesses feel overwhelmed by marketing, and they are not confident that their current strategy is contributing to their business goals. Uncertainty about the best methods for communicating with customers and a lack of time to execute campaigns fuel a cycle of procrastination that prevents small businesses from reaching their potential.

small business marketing

“Small business owners are usually much more passionate about their products and services than they are about marketing, but they still need to attract and retain customers to grow,” said Sarah Jordan, chief marketing officer at Constant Contact, in a news release. “Our research shows that while most SMBs recognize the importance of marketing, they often lack the time and expertise to be effective, especially in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. Constant Contact is committed to providing easy, yet powerful, tools that automate marketing to help our customers achieve better results in less time.”

Confidence is low, driven in part by economic concerns

The economy is a bigger concern than in 2023, and small businesses aren’t sure their marketing is effective. To account for that uncertainty and keep up, they expect to spend more time and resources on marketing this year.

  • 81 percent of SMBs surveyed are concerned the current economy could negatively impact their business.
  • Small businesses in the UK report the highest level of concern about the economy (32 percent are very concerned) compared to other countries polled.
  • 73 percent of small businesses surveyed show a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of their marketing strategy.
  • 39 percent of SMBs surveyed plan to increase their marketing budgets this year, and 46 percent expect to spend at least 10 percent more.

small business marketing

There isn’t enough time to prioritize marketing

The daily responsibilities of small businesses often overshadow marketing efforts. When they do find the time, they say it takes too long, which leads them to procrastinate on the things that could make a big impact.

  • 56 percent of SMBs surveyed say they only have an hour or less each day to spend on marketing, and 34 percent feel marketing more efficiently is an area of opportunity.
  • Small businesses in Canada report the least time available for marketing of any country polled.
  • 52 percent routinely put off marketing in favor of other activities, with Australian SMBs the most likely to procrastinate. Comparatively, their counterparts in the U.S. are least likely to put off marketing tasks.
  • The most time-consuming marketing tasks are posting on social media (51 percent), planning and strategy (40 percent) and determining what’s working (35 percent). Those are also the areas small businesses are most likely to avoid.

small business marketing

Knowledge gaps prevent growth

Small businesses understand that they need to acquire customers, but they aren’t sure which marketing channels to leverage, what strategy works best, or how to improve their campaigns.

  • The top marketing challenges facing SMBs are acquiring new customers (60 percent), understanding what’s working (33 percent), and lack of resources (32 percent)
  • When asked how to improve ‌their marketing this year, 37 percent of SMBs surveyed said using the right channels is their biggest area of opportunity. In fact, 41 percent plan to increase the number of marketing channels they use in 2024.
  • 82 percent agree that using multiple marketing channels leads to better results, but just 16 percent are confident that they are using the correct channels to reach their customers.
  • Australian SMBs cite lack of knowledge as the biggest obstacle preventing them from using more than one marketing channel.

Read the full report here.

The report analyzes insights from over 1,300 small business decision-makers at the Director level and above at companies with under 250 employees. Polls were conducted in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and aggregated to determine global trends. All stats are representative of their associated demographics. The survey was conducted in February 2024.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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