By Daniel Hunter

Despite most British small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) (87%) acknowledging that marketing has a positive impact on sales, the sector is losing out on up to £122 billion in sales by allowing it to slip off the radar.

Improved marketing could create £43 billion in value added from SMEs. The research by Pitney Bowes found that the average SME is only achieving 39% of its planned marketing activity. Yet when business owners were asked to predict the sales impact produced by increased marketing activity, results showed a growth of 9.2% compared to 2011 prices.

The research, carried out with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), demonstrates a clear disparity between planned marketing activity and the reality of what takes place. Three-quarters (77%) recognise that it is important to the success of their business, however a third rate their efforts over the last six months at under 5/10. 11% admit to doing none of the marketing they had planned.

"There is a great opportunity for savvy SMEs to grab a slice of the £122billion but to do so they must look for ways to embrace every sales opportunity and maximise profit," Ryan Higginson, Vice President Digital Channel Europe, at Pitney Bowes said.

"Implementing digital marketing is one way of doing this and easy-to-use, low-cost online tools can help set up a digital marketing campaign in under a day.”

When asked what’s holding them back, SME owners cited time (21%) and money (36%) — the acknowledged challenges for SMEs. Prioritisation is also a clear issue as the average owner juggles seven different roles on a daily basis and admits that buying stationery (35%) is ahead of marketing (32%). More established SMEs (25 years plus) are closest to achieving planned levels of marketing, with just under a third (31%) claiming to have achieved their marketing plan.

“This research clearly shows that when marketing drops off the radar, it costs businesses significant revenue," Entrepreneur and TV presenter, Jo Behari said.

"A small business owner always has to be mindful of the bottom line and while it’s rare to carry out a marketing plan to the letter, with just 39% getting done there is room for improvement. Putting that extra effort in really will make all the difference to the profitability of your business, or even its survival.”

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