Local Agency: Much Marketing Is Ineffective

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New study says marketers waste nearly half their efforts for small businesses

The Greenville-based Cargo Agency released the results of a study last week that showed large companies are missing the mark when marketing to small businesses nationwide. The survey of businesses around the nation found that 43 percent of marketing efforts were ineffective, and many of them are actually off-putting.

That’s better than last year’s findings, when respondents reported that 52 percent of efforts were for naught. But the problems remain similar.

The survey asked about the brands of large corporations, not small businesses marketing to each other. In general, business owners and leaders said too many of these don’t know who they’re talking to, and don’t seem to care. Respondents said marketers commonly make the mistake of not understanding their needs or making no effort to do so. That, coupled with messaging that is condescending, vague or overwhelming, paints a frustrating picture for small-business owners.

Dan Gliatta, managing partner at Cargo, which focuses on marketing to small and medium-sized business, said part of the problem is that large corporations and marketing agencies tend to put markedly less effort into courting small business than they do larger companies.

“Small business isn’t sexy. Big agencies don’t put the big ideas into small business,” Gliatta said.

They also don’t bother to apply some of the most basic proven marketing tactics, such as knowing and targeting the different demographics that would buy their brands.

Cargo partnered with research company Toluna to prospect and prescreen and ensure respondents reflected the true demographics of small businesses, both in terms of industry and owner demographics. Business size was between five and 250 employees. Gilatta said sole proprietors were excluded because their spending habits are more like those of consumers.

“Big brands treat all small businesses the same,” Gilatta said. “They don’t do that in the consumer world. If they’re marketing to Gen Y, they’re specific. [Business owners] take that personally. For small business owners, their life is their business or their business is their life.”

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