Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Small businesses to invest “more time, less money” in marketing during 2021

New research has found that UK small businesses will dedicate more of their time to marketing activities during 2021 but invest less hard cash, as marketing budgets continue to be squeezed.

In a survey conducted by digital marketing agency Mr Digital, 15% of small business owners who took part said they would need to reduce their marketing spend over the next six months as they continue to try and survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

A third of the survey’s respondents said digital marketing was vital to the survival of their business but would be relying on networking with 43.4% saying it was their most important marketing channel, followed by social media (27.7%). Just 3.6% of small businesses said they would prioritise online paid advertising.

Ross Crawford, managing director of Mr Digital, said: “Small businesses have been hit hardest by the pandemic and many now face a huge cash-flow problem. As the backbone of our economy, it is important small businesses survive the pandemic and quality marketing will play a vital part in their survival.

“Many business owners will be tightening their budgets in 2021 as there is so much uncertainty across many different industries and so they will need to focus their efforts on channels that require less monetary investment, such as networking and social media marketing.”

The online survey was completed by more than 80 small business owners from around the UK in a range of industries including hospitality and leisure, financial services, healthcare, retail and consumer and engineering and construction. It asked business owners about their future marketing and business plans. The size of the companies ranged from sole traders to businesses with between 50-100 employees.

About 13% of small business revealed they were worried or seriously worried about the survival of their businesses over the next six months. Just over a third (32.3%) of respondents said they hoped to drive growth by acquiring new customers from their marketing activity, with 20.8% saying brand awareness was a top outcome for the next six months. Interestingly, more businesses were interested in getting higher engagement rates (10.6%) then they were Google rankings (4%) or website traffic (3.5%) combined.

Crawford commented: “It was surprising that just 2.4% of business owners said they would be investing in google advertising and 1.2% said they would be investing in social media advertising, especially as we find is the quickest way to generate new business. The next 12 months will see business owners being more efficient with their marketing budgets to ensure they get the return on the investment they need to survive.

“With tighter marketing budgets, I’d recommend monitoring the return on investment from each of the channels to identify which one or two produce the best results and then focus on those. It’s far more effective to get one channel working effectively than have lots of things working very averagely.”

Mr Digital specialises in supporting small to medium-sized businesses to generate real return on investment (ROI) from their sales and marketing activity.

The full survey results can be viewed here.