Small businesses worried by their marketing performance 

A quarter of UK-based businesses believe their marketing isn't working at all, research finds.

Also, a third of companies complain that the difficulty of making an impact with advertising is the biggest barrier to success, according to a study by Catalogues 4 Business (C4B).

The research questioned more than 300 UK organisations as part of a study into corporate marketing strategies. Respondents to the study were drawn from a diverse mix of businesses, both B2B and B2C, which spanned multiple industry sectors.

Some 33 per cent say that they implement advertising as a sales and marketing tool, which put it in third place behind networking (39 per cent) and email marketing (34 per cent) respectively.

The widespread use of advertising as a marketing instrument comes despite a third of respondents stating that they believe it is ‘hard to make an impact through advertising’.

Ian Simpson, managing director of C4B says that marketing plays a huge part in developing a successful business: ‘Without an effective marketing plan, that’s properly implemented, the chances of success are severely hampered. The fact that one in four businesses are concerned about the value of their marketing is an eye-opener.’

‘What’s particularly interesting is the amount of businesses that believe advertising is ineffective, yet still use it as a marketing tool. Surely they should consider a different approach if this is the case? There are many different forms of marketing out there which businesses can undertake.’

Despite many businesses expressing concern about the success of their advertising, it is still regarded as the second most successful deliverer of sales, with 19 per cent of businesses attributing their sales specifically to the medium, placing it second only to ‘networking’ at 24 per cent.

Simpson continues, ‘It’s interesting to note that despite advertising not working for a lot of businesses, it still provides a real sales boost to others. It just goes to show that businesses need to adapt their marketing to suit their offering.’

Some forms of marketing work much better than others, but it’s all dependent on the type of business that you run, he argues.

‘Who is your target demographic? How are you most likely to reach them? For some that could be social media, for others it could be using field sales, and for yet more it could be via a brochure or a catalogue. It all changes depending on the product that you’re looking to sell.’

Some 9 per cent of the businesses questioned say they plan to start using advertising over the next 12 months. Only social media (10 per cent) and search engine optimisation (also 10 per cent) appear higher in the list.

Simpson observes that advertising still looks set to be a popular inclusion in the marketing mix over the next year. ‘However it is interesting that relatively modern marketing techniques have surged to the fore,’ he adds. ‘Social media is a comparatively new medium as is search engine optimisation. The results of the study suggest that tech savvy firms are looking to keep up with modern trends and exploit modern practises in order to stay ahead of their competitors and to progress.’

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Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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