By Daniel Hunter

53% of companies currently use social media as a marketing tool, but half of these are being ad hoc in their approach conceding they don’t have a social media strategy at all, according to a new report released today (Wednesday).

The report, ‘Channel Vision,’ put together by design, print and marketing specialists Catalogues 4 Business, questioned 123 organisations within the UK, asking them a number of questions around their current and future business and marketing plans.

Looking ahead at the next 12 months, many of the companies interviewed will be introducing a number of new tools to their marketing mix, with social media and digital marketing topping the list. Just over a third (36%) are adding it to their marketing activities this year, with a fifth (19%) looking to add a website with e-commerce functionality for the first time.

“It’s great to see so many companies embracing social media and digital marketing," Ian Simpson, Managing Director at Catalogues4Business commented.

"It can be a very powerful tool, but as with most marketing activities, there must be a strategy in place, and some joined up thinking. This will ensure each marketing activity is working with each other and working to the max. Otherwise you can quickly find you’ve wasted a lot of time, and money, and not got much to show for it.”

When asked what delivers sales at the moment, the companies interviewed said their top three sale driving tools were their e-commerce website, email marketing, and their catalogue. However 13% said they don’t have a catalogue because their customers prefer using the net.

“It’s strange to hear companies say they don’t need a catalogue, because their customers only shop online," Simpson added.

"Yet it is clearly a powerful sales tool, making the top three of sales drivers listed by those interviewed. If a business has products or services that it sells online it is likely to be able to deploy a catalogue. Consumers are driven to websites via catalogues and direct mail. It’s about integrating the two, offline and online tactics, so that consumers are reached through all mediums and channels.

“As the web has grown, competition for a place within it has become ferocious. Ad word and affiliate programs have developed into an industry in their own right and, combined with all the other e-based marketing activity, represent a potential significant marketing spend, yet still the single biggest thing businesses can do to drive traffic to their web site is targeted direct marketing, through mailing catalogues.

“Without doubt, many saw the relentless rise of the web and internet marketing as the death knell for paper catalogues and other mailings. In truth, they should lie as uneasy bedfellows — they are at opposite ends of the technological scale; the old dependable versus the wiz kid! But it is clear they each have their place and they can learn from each other.”

The interviewees from the report were drawn from businesses, both consumer and business-facing, in a real mix of sectors. Many of those interviewed were small and medium-sized enterprises, but the report also captured the views of some of the most significant players. One in ten had a £50 million plus turnover and 6% have annual sales exceeding £100 million.

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