Too Big To Act Small: SMBs Spend Little Time And Money On Marketing

Here’s the prevailing attitude of small business owners toward marketing: Who needs it? 

Half of all SMBs have no marketing plan for this year. And 86% of all owners would rather spend their time on something else, according to Stress, Time & Growth: Factors Affecting Small Business Marketing in 2019, a study by Outbound Engine. 

Worse, 54.45% are devoting 5% or less or their annual revenue — perhaps as little as 0% — to marketing.

Come on, guys: How do you expect to grow your business? Are you among the 25% who have no idea how? 

Be advised that 25.46% are allocating from 5% to 10% on marketing this year. And of those that did so last year, 81% experienced growth, compared to 50% of the firms that budgeted 5% or less. 

The study wisely notes that few small business owners are marketers — 36% would rather spend their time on operations and 28% would rather spend time helping customers. 



Still, 58.27% spend five hours or less per week on marketing, and only 5% go over 20 hours.

But they better wake up. Of those who spend the least time, 36% are unsure how they will grow their business in 2019.

To the extent they are active in marketing, few SMB owners think email is effective. 

The study shows that 39.72% say organic social media was their most effective tool in 2018, followed by paid social posts (17%), events (13%) and traditional advertising (11.67%).

Email is deemed as effective by a measly 9.72%, although it still beats digital advertising at 8.06%. 

What’s distracting small owners? Worry — 62% are as or more stressed about their businesses than they were in 2018, and 27% are more so.

Asked what is holding them back from achieving their goals, they answer as follows:

  • I don’t have enough money — 28.50% 
  • I don’t have enough time — 22.39%
  • I don’t know which marketing tactic is more effective for my business — 14.25% 
  • I don’t have the staff I need — 11.95% 
  • I don’t know who my customers are — 2.80%

Another 20% answer smartly that they are accomplishing their business objectives.

The study advises owners to ask themselves these four questions, then answer them and act on the results: 

  1. How do you want to grow? 
  2. Are your business goals tied to your marketing goals?
  3. Do you have a marketing budget established? 
  4. Have you identified your target audiences and what matters to them? 

Outbound Engine surveyed over 350 SMB owners. 

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