By Daniel Hunter

More than half of small businesses in the UK believe they need to do more to market their themselves online, according to local marketing firm ReachLocal.

In the survey of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), 45% said they don't do enough, but a further 10% believe they need to do more.

That may not be so straightforward, however. The survey also found that 54% do not fully understand which marketing tactics are delivering a return for their business.

Nearly a quarter (23%) say that they spend money where they think it works, but have little evidence to back up its success.

When asked about marketing budget, respondents identified the two biggest channels as Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Advertising (SEO & SEA), making up almost 50% of spend for those with smaller marketing budgets.

Getting potential customers to find you and visit your site is only part of the challenge. Once an enquiry is made, speed becomes incredibly important — a Harvard Business Review study found that 50% of consumers choose to do business with the company that responds to them first. Despite this, the ReachOut Small Business Survey found only 31-35% of email or website enquiries are returned in less than an hour.

Paul Liascos, UK managing director for ReachLocal said, “Online marketing can be highly effective, but it’s wasted money if you can't respond quickly to the enquiries generated. The whole marketing and buying cycle has to work well to ensure that companies do not leak leads.”

The instant success of social media has made it the go to contact method for consumers, with Statista predicting that social selling will grow by 50% during 2015 and be worth $30 billion by the end of the year. But according to the ReachOut Small Business Survey, 61% of social media enquiries to small businesses aren’t responded to within an hour. Consumer patience for unresponsiveness is ruthless as the Harvard Business Review study found, with them quickly moving on to the next company on their list. The simple fact is that the SME that responds first is most likely to get the business.