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Overcoming common small business marketing dilemmas

We all know that small business owners need to be chief executive, financial controller, customer champion and all round cheerleader for their business. So it’s no surprise that when faced with managing the day to day demands of staff and customers, marketing often falls by the wayside.

To better understand the challenges small business owners face with marketing, we asked 1,000 small and medium business owners across Australia and discovered some interesting results. We found that women are more savvy with their marketing dollars than men, that Gen Y owners are spending significantly less time promoting their business than their older counterparts, and that generally small businesses face some common marketing dilemmas.

Our research showed that women who run businesses are more likely to embrace a range of marketing channels than men and are significantly more likely to use social media. Women have a better understanding of return on investment, place a greater emphasis on cost and are clear where they want to spend their tight marketing budgets. It’s fair to say that women appear to ‘get’ marketing better than men.

When it comes to generational differences, Gen Ys are missing out on opportunities to grow their business through effective marketing. While we know that they are prolific users of social media in their personal lives, Gen Ys are far more reticent to use their digital expertise to drive their business. In fact, a staggering 51 percent admitted to doing no marketing at all. They also struggle to know where help can be found, with 56 percent of owners under 30 years of age reporting not knowing where to turn for advice.

To our surprise we found that 38 percent of all small business owners don’t spend any time on marketing their business. This inertia does not seem to be born out of a lack of will, but rather some common dilemmas that small business owners face when wanting to grow their business. Many small businesses lack clarity around their marketing objectives and are uncertain about their marketing return on investment. When faced with this uncertainty, it’s no surprise that many choose not to spend their hard earned dollars on marketing.

When quizzed about what prevented them from marketing, more than a third of small business owners reported no clear return on investment, followed by lack of time and concerns about cost. This suggests that business owners are not setting clear and measurable objectives for their marketing or not managing to track their results. Cost was the number one issue for women, with 33 percent of women reporting funding as the key challenge compared to 16 percent of men.

A third of business owners told us that they did not know who to go or where to seek advice on marketing their business. Of those that did seek help, most turned to a colleague or employee, followed by an external agency.

Clearly there is a lot of scope for Australian small business owners to take their business to the next level by being more proactive marketers. In an increasingly competitive environment and an ever more digital world, getting to grips with what works and where to invest can mean the difference between success and failure of your business.

Marketing needn’t be complicated and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. For many small businesses it makes sense to start small, be prepared to test and learn and take advantage of the plethora of free online resources and eBooks that provide simple and practical step-by-step guides to marketing your business. If you’re looking to make a bigger splash or are facing stiff competition it may make sense to seek advice from an expert.


About the Author:
Evan Ravensdale
General Manager Digital Marketing, Sensis

For more research and advice on small business marketing go to www.sensis.com.au or follow @Sensis on Twitter.

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