After a long period of economic stagnation, a new study of almost 2,000 decision-makers has found that 54% of companies don’t have a documented business plan and are “marketing in the dark”.
The Marketing Maturity Report, by The Marketing Centre, asked business leaders from hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses across the UK to mark themselves against 60 statements, to understand what companies are doing to grow their business in 2024.
The majority of respondents said that their business currently has no way of setting out how they will achieve their business goals, with over half saying they have no documented business plan.
The number became even more stark for marketing strategies, as only a third (33%) stated that they have a marketing action plan – meaning two thirds of SMEs have no way of detailing how marketing will contribute to meeting their aims.
As businesses across the UK look to kickstart their growth plans, less than a third (28%) said that they generate sufficient leads to achieve their growth objectives.
On top of this, only 27% said that they set clear objectives when using specialist marketing services too, such as agencies, in a sign that SMEs don’t know if their marketing is working.
Across the board, most people aren’t measuring their marketing efforts well enough, with metrics consistently the most challenging area across all industries. Only 25% of respondents believe they have clearly defined marketing performance measures.
The findings reflect the current state of SMEs in the UK, suggesting that many have a lack of understanding of how they will achieve their goals, highlighting a significant collective challenge to the country’s economy.
Of all industries, the marketing and advertising industry ranked itself highest overall for all 60 questions, followed by the fashion, packaging and financial industries, based on The Marketing Centre’s Marketing360 Assessment Tool. The automotive, agriculture and engineering industries were found to have the biggest overall risk to their marketing and business health.
Pete Jakob, marketing director at The Marketing Centre, said: “The lack of strategic business and marketing planning is a huge issue for UK SME leaders – who are essentially marketing in the dark. A well-crafted business and marketing plan is not just a blueprint, but a safeguard against uncertainties, a guide for companies to grow, and a shield for overall business success.
“The saying is true – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. With more than half of companies in the UK not having a business or marketing plan, there are significant risks, and it’s crucial for business owners to realise that a documented business plan leads the way for marketing success to align with your vision.
“A strategy gives senior leaders the confidence that budgets will be channelled into the right areas, and activity will be measured and optimised to drive brand awareness, positive sentiment and ultimately sales. A strategy helps to steer the ship, and with that comes focus on reporting, CRM systems, tools and lead generation.”