Small Businesses Blame Bad Marketing For Not Addressing Critical Needs

Nationwide, small businesses are struggling, and many are blaming bad marketing for their woes.

Among some 400 surveyed small business owners, 21% cited a lack of responsiveness as their top frustration with marketing partners, according to the latest report from marketing agency Cargo.

In addition, 17% of SBOs charged marketers with “not understanding my business,” while 12% said “poor customer service” was their biggest beef.

“There’s good news and bad for marketers in this year’s results,” said Dan Gliatta, managing director at Cargo. “The good news is brands have improved in marketing to -- and connecting with -- SBOs since last year.”

“The bad news is there is still plenty of room for improvement, as 44% of SBOs feel brands do not effectively market to them, which basically means 44% of brand marketing money is wasted in their B2SB marketing,” according to Gliatta.

What is contributing to all the wasted spending? First and foremost, “brands really don’t understand the SBO’s true needs, hence the brand message is not resonating with [them],” Gliatta explained. Cited by respondents as an even bigger barrier to growth than bad marketing is the rising cost of employee benefits.

Partly as a result, a full 23% of respondents said they would not do it over again knowing what they now know about the difficulties of running a small business.

By Cargo’s estimate, there are roughly 8 million employer-based small- to-medium-sized businesses in the United States. According to Gliatta, however, this only spells opportunity for brands that market goods and services to small businesses.

The best way to reach SBOs: The top three resources they cited for finding products and services were search engines (22%), business magazines (14%) and trade shows (10%).
5 comments about "Small Businesses Blame Bad Marketing For Not Addressing Critical Needs".
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  1. Mike Seitz from FocusPoint Marketing, August 23, 2013 at 5:39 a.m.

    If I am reading this correctly, it sounds like their survey is saying that marketers are not providing a persuasive message that resonates and targets their ideal client or market. In this day and age, SBOs must persuasively market their businesses and their message must be the same across all platforms in order to reach the target audience they want coming in the doors. Find the message and the target customer will respond.

    Mike Seitz

  2. Al DiGuido from Optimus Publishing, August 23, 2013 at 7:20 a.m.

    Effective marketing has become a mission critical component in establishing a compelling USP and competitive edge for ALL size businesses. Media consumption patterns for consumers have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. The rise of the internet and digital marketing has left MANY in the dust. Smart small businesses need to do a better job of learning more about email marketing, social media, tablet & mobile platforms etc. They need to find service providers who lead with solutions and aren't afraid to be accountable for results as opposed to the one size fits all "quick fix" tactics that have dominate the marketplace today. Customer acquisition, retention, upsell & cross sell strategies have got to be totally transformed in order for a small business to be viable. It is truly sad how many businesses just don't get that their customers and prospects behavior and the way they look at media has changed. There is a HUGE opportunity to help these companies. It starts with an understanding that the challenge of creating new and engaging customer communications strategies will take innovative thinking...lots of focus and a bunch of hard work.

  3. Gene De Libero from Digital Mindshare LLC, August 23, 2013 at 7:25 a.m.

    "The best way to reach SBOs: The top three resources they cited for finding products and services were search engines (22%), business magazines (14%) and trade shows (10%)."

    What happened to word of mouth/referrals from their network? We trust our network before we trust a search engine algorithm. Sounds like more/better communication is in order all the way around. Maybe everyone would understand each other (and their businesses) a little better. Improved results are sure sure to follow.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 23, 2013 at 9:02 a.m.

    At one time local newspapers covering the DMA/ADI with local editions/small papers filled the need. Small businesses received results. Now, that void has not been replaced, trying but not succeeding. (My dentist just told me on Tuesday that he still sends out singular direct mail from time to time since it still works. I asked him when I was there.) Two of the major disconnects is that to adjust to other media, it is time consuming which they don't have because they have a business to run not another business to run and it gets much more expensive to the hawkers selling them programs they don't understand and can't control and are not working too well. Guess who pays for those extra costs they cannot absorb ? Until/Unless that void left by newspapers/local-regional magazines, the fuzzy reasons and fuzzy directions will continue. Everything old is new again.

  5. Seth Ulinski from, August 23, 2013 at 1:06 p.m.

    Small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) can make for a very lucrative business- Paychex ($14B market cap) elected to almost exclusively focus on SMBs, while industry heavyweight ADP ($35B market cap) elected to go after enterprise markets.

    Both are leaders in the HR services market, but carry different go-to-market strategies and tool sets.

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