Small enterprises can go toe-to-toe with the largest corporations by publishing content and managing excellent marketing campaigns, but many still fail to invest enough money into the practice to reap the benefits, according to a new study by software company Intuit.
Digital marketing is proving to be a double-edged sword for SMEs as they can transform their business and drive greater sales by implementing it effectively, but they can also be weighed down by the time and resources needed to follow documented plans and align it with broader business objectives.
The latest study by Intuit analysed smaller businesses in Australia and found that just 34% are putting aside funds as a priority for content and other marketing endeavours, which means that two-thirds are missing out on a myriad of benefits and potentially falling behind more accomplished peers.
A sizeable 46% of respondents said that they constantly face constraints on their budgets, which forces them to focus on other areas of business – though ironically, these processes could also get a boost from marketing, SEO and advertising.
Intuit says that many enterprises fall into the “trap” of prioritising spend for other business activities as marketing can often help immediately by buffering cash reserves during the formative years of trading.
“It’s concerning that so many small business owners in Australia are sacrificing opportunities to grow their business profile as a consequence of having to spend on other priorities,” Intuit’s Australia Country Manager Natira Drayton said in a statement.
She added: “This is a classic trap for small businesses.”
Day-to-day operational demands can make finding the money and time to invest in marketing hard, and it is difficult to keep cash flow healthy and achieve potential without it, according to Drayton.
While marketing is being pushed to the sidelines by businesses eager to double down on what they perceive to be more important processes, 80% of the 500 owners of small businesses surveyed said that they believe that marketing offers great value and is a useful tool.
In terms of marketing channels, 47% say that websites are the most valuable overall as these hubs enable them to publish content and bring consumers in to view their products and services with the aim of completing sales digitally.
The next popular channel is social media, with 42% eager to leverage Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and similar platforms to reach and engage with potentially millions of users around the world.
Email marketing and digital marketing are also viewed as essential channels, but again, a lack of funds and desire to optimise budgets are preventing many from pursuing these options at times when they could transform the success of a business.
Perhaps the reason why marketing is not viewed as critical is that SMEs are not aligning it with other areas of the business and are instead content with using it as a tool for reaching more customers.
Intuit found that 39% believe that the value of marketing is tied to its ability to grow a customer base, while 42% say that it mostly brings in new business leads – a similar number also claim that it helps them achieve direct sales.