A 2024 Report Reveals Small Business Marketing Challenges

A 2024 Report Reveals Small Business Marketing Challenges 634 423 Morris County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC)

A 2024 Report Reveals Small Business Marketing Challenges


Despite an improving economy and record-setting consumer spending (The CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor shows total retail sales in the first quarter up 2.65% over 2023’s record-breaking sales totals), small businesses are struggling to effectively market their goods and services, according to the latest report from Constant Contact: Small Business Now: The Current State of SMB Marketing.

The report reveals what Constant Contact calls “a concerning trend”—many small business owners are overwhelmed by marketing, and 73% aren’t confident that their current strategy is contributing to their business goals.

This uncertainty is fueled by not knowing which are the best methods for communicating with customers and lacking the time to execute campaigns. Both challenges lead to “a cycle of procrastination” that hinders small businesses from reaching their potential.

Factors behind small business marketing anxiety

Economic worry drives much of the angst—81% of the SMBs surveyed are concerned that the current economy could negatively impact their businesses. In addition, small business owners say they just don’t have enough time to plan their marketing because they have so many other responsibilities. Yet, when they finally carve out some time, business owners complain that working on marketing takes too long, so they continue to put it off. Despite 34% of business owners reporting that “marketing more effectively is an area of opportunity” for them, 56% devote an hour or less a day to marketing activities.

The most time-consuming tasks:

  • Creating content (writing copy, finding images, etc.)—51%
  • Planning/creating a marketing strategy—40%
  • Determining what is working/measuring performance—35%
  • Posting on social media—34%
  • Managing email campaigns—19%
  • Managing advertising campaigns—19%

Of these, the marketing responsibilities they’re most likely to procrastinate or ignore:

  • Posting on social media—44%
  • Marketing planning and strategy—42%
  • Determining what’s working—31%

According to the survey, business owners spend most of their time interacting with customers, clients, and supporters online and in person, processing and fulfilling orders, and managing operations.

The report says a big challenge for small business owners is a marketing knowledge gap. While experts in their field, entrepreneurs don’t “have a great sense for what a ‘good’ marketing campaign looks like.”

Business owners also admitted to struggling with the basics and with figuring out what’s working. And they had trouble managing resources and keeping their existing customers engaged.

Marketing activities requiring the most help

It’s not just a lack of time. Many of the small business owners surveyed admitted that they also lacked the knowledge to tackle many of these marketing tasks, so they tended to avoid working on them.

What marketing tasks do small business owners say they need the most help with?

  • Social media marketing—54%
  • Email marketing—19%
  • Contact management—13%
  • Event management—8%
  • SMS (text) marketing—6%

Small business owners report needing the most help with social media marketing. As the report notes, this isn’t surprising since, to be effective, you have to maintain a regular posting cadence on social media networks to keep followers engaged. Of course, automated tools are available to help business owners post more consistently.

Top marketing challenges for small business owners

According to the report, small businesses don’t need to be motivated to market their companies. They just don’t know what to do. They understand that they need to attract new customers and that marketing effectively is the best way to do that, but they’re not sure which marketing channels to leverage, what strategy works best, or how to improve their campaigns.

What are their top challenges when marketing their businesses?

  • Finding new customers—60%
  • Determining what is working/measuring performance—33%
  • Lack of resources (time, budget, skills)—32%
  • Retaining current customers—31%
  • Creating a strategy/plan—25%
  • Sending the right messages—25%
  • Using multiple platforms/tools—24%
  • Motivation—19%

Improving small business marketing strategy

The small businesses in the report know they’re missing significant opportunities to market their companies. And they plan to do better this year. In fact, 39% say they will increase their marketing budgets in 2024, and 46% expect to spend at least 10% more than last year.

Most small businesses plan to focus on improving their channel mix, working more efficiently, and adhering to a strategy. Expanding their customer base is also a top priority for 2024.

What areas do small businesses need to improve the most to achieve their marketing goals?

  • Growing my customer base—54%
  • Using the right marketing channels—37%
  • Working more efficiently—34%
  • Creating a strategy/plan—29%
  • Knowing what to do next—27%
  • Dedicating more time to marketing—23%
  • Accurately measuring campaign performance—22%
  • Creating integrated campaigns—14%

The report has a lot more interesting data that you can use as a benchmark to compare your marketing activities to those of your small business peers.

Marketing is the lifeblood of every small business. While cash flow keeps your company going, you can’t generate money if consumers don’t know you exist, what you do, and how to find you. Don’t think of marketing as a series of unrelated tasks. Instead, consider it an effective way to tell the story of who you are, what you offer, and why people need to buy it.

Article courtesy of Forbes.