SMEs 'regarding marketing as essential to growth'

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Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are seeing marketing as an essential element in their future business growth, according to a new survey.

An analysis from Royal Mail MarketReach has highlighted the degree to which UK SMEs are showing ambition and a renewed focus on growth, with 89 per cent saying they are looking to expand their business this year.

It was shown that 81 per cent of British SMEs believe marketing is critical or essential to their growth, with 37 per cent regarding it is the primary driver of their business. 72 per cent of the firms polled say they are investing up to 20 per cent of their turnover in marketing.

The reasons for this are manifold, with 66 per cent of SMEs saying they are looking to acquire new customers, while 46 per cent want to build stronger relationships with their existing customer base. This is higher than the number of enterprises currently looking to expand internationally (24 per cent) or sell through more channels, such as marketplaces (31 per cent).

Multichannel marketing is becoming increasingly popular, with firms utilising an average of 3.5 media channels in their marketing. The most popular channels for SME marketing are email (82 per cent), social media (62 per cent), online advertising (50 per cent) and direct mail (46 per cent).

However, the report also indicated that many firms are facing certain barriers when attempting to expand their marketing, with 68 per cent of SMEs saying it can be difficult to get customers to take action as a result of marketing activity.

The most commonly cited barrier to using a new marketing channel was a concern about measuring the commercial return on their investment, with other key issues including the associated costs, capacity to handle customer responses, and a lack of knowledge about who to contact to set up marketing in a new channel.

Jonathan Harman, managing director of Royal Mail MarketReach, said: "Our research shows how important marketing is for UK SMEs. It helps them grow by acquiring new customers and building better relationships with their existing ones. But it is clear that lack of knowledge, fears about cost and concerns about measuring their returns could be holding them back."