Two-Thirds of Small Businesses Go it Alone for Marketing

December 23, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Local & Directories / Small Biz

More than half of small business owners say that generating new customers is a challenge for them, yet nearly two-thirds say they do not use outside support for marketing assistance, according to a survey of US small businesses from the Yellow Pages Association (YPA).

The recently released “Small Business Marketing Poll,” was conducted by research firm Issues and Answers and undertaken to better understand the marketing preferences of small business owners. It found that the smallest of businesses – those with one to five employees – are most likely (70%) not to consult with anyone when making advertising/marketing selections.

On the other hand, half (51%) of businesses with six to 10 employees and only one-third (34%) of those with more than 11 employees do not consult with outside sources.

Additional study highlights are listed below.

Finding New Customers is Hardest

  • Generating new customers is the toughest marketing challenge among small business owners, with more than half (53%) of respondents mentioning this.


  • Other areas frequently perceived among the toughest challenges include limited advertising budgets (17%) and the lack of knowledge when it comes to where to advertise (10%).
  • Retaining current customers is the toughest challenge for seven percent of small business owners.
  • Respondents whose headquarters are located in suburban and urban areas are much more likely to face challenges in generating new customers than their rural counterparts. This could be expected, YPA said, as typically urban and suburban firms operate in a highly competitive environment.
  • Urban businesses appear to understand marketing (and problems associated with it) better than suburban and rural companies, as illustrated by a notably lower number of those who cannot name their toughest challenge.

Most Use ROI to Measure Success

  • The largest percentage (44%) of small business owners measures the success of their marketing programs by tracking return on investment (ROI).


  • ROI is used as a measure of success mostly by larger businesses (with at least six employees) and younger respondents (under age 55).
  • The number of qualified leads and telephone inquiries (29% and 21%, respectively are also frequently used for measurement success.
  • A large number of small business owners (26%) do not use any type of measurement for their programs.
  • Those who completed the survey online are significantly more likely than those interviewed by phone to use ROI as a success measure.

Most Know Why Customers Purchase

  • Some 40% of small business owners say customers purchase their goods and services because they are life’s necessities, while 30% indicate it is because they offer luxurious goods and services.
  • 20% say their businesses cater to life events such as getting married, moving, or having a baby.
  • A surprising 10% of small-business owners are not sure why customers buy their products.

About the study: The results are based on a telephone and online survey of 400 small business owners conducted by Issues and Answers. Some 200 interviews were conducted over the phone and 200 were conducted online. The sample of participating companies was drawn from Dun and Bradstreet’s business list of companies. Each company was screened to include only those that have between one and 50 employees (full- and part-time).

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