Small business owners are less confident when it comes to future growth than they were 6 months ago. These findings have been release after the government announced that the number of private sector businesses in the UK has reached a record 5.4 million, but what’s it like for these businesses trying to compete with giant global organisations that have deep pockets and large support teams?

It’s become clear that there are common challenges faced by start-ups, and much of it comes from their perceived need to spend heavily on digital advertising in order to gain visibility in a world where Google search dominates.

One London based start-up, Moteefe, which helps people sell custom made clothing through social networks has experimented with Google ads. It’s achieved some reasonable click-through-rates, but found that it didn’t generate conversions, yet Moteefe still had to pay Google because organisations pay for each click. Google’s model favours large businesses with big budgets and the cash flow to spend well over £200,000 on a Google ad campaign to building awareness. This is simply not an option for start-ups that need to spend frugally and see immediate ROI from any level of investment.

The Mayor has been very clear in his desire to position London as the home of European start-ups and see Tech City flourish. But can we expect these companies to realistically compete when a high spend on search and Google is still the biggest barrier for start-ups being found?

Here are three steps start-ups can take to adapt and survive in the competitive digital world, without relying on Google:

  • Never underestimate the power of A/B testing in today’s digital world. Pretty much all elements of marketing can now be tested, from the design, content and timing of an email marketing campaign to the images and hashtags shared on social networks. Test, analyse and adapt to ensure budgets are being spent on the most effective method of communications
  • Make data driven decisions. Short form social video specialist company, Burst has focused on this to gain a competitive advantage; continually listening and learning from customer data
  • Large organisations haven’t fully woken up to the importance of personalisation. People no longer take notice of batch and blast branded content. Small businesses should take advantage of having the agility to develop meaningful relationships with customers. Use tools that offer personalised communications depending on the individual to help deepen the relationship and drive sales

By Amir Jirbandey, Mailjet