Small businesses focused on honing their marketing and digital skills

A new survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of design and marketing firm Vista reveals that 65 per cent of Australian small-business owners are optimistic about growth prospects in the new financial year, despite 42 per cent having considered shutting down in the last 12 months.

With the recovery underway, 33 per cent of SME owners have planned to start marketing or increase marketing investment in FY2022-23, while 51 per cent have made upskilling digital marketing skills a business priority, including two in three millennial small-business owners.

“Marketing is the canary in the coalmine for small business. It’s often the first thing cut when times are tough,” Vista Australia CEO Marcus Marchant said. “The findings that SMEs are ramping up marketing spend and building digital marketing skills are positive indicators of a resilient small business sector focused on growth leading into the new financial year. That is a welcome turnaround after four in 10 came close to shutting up shop in the past year.”

Despite the positive developments, majority of SME owners do not feel confident overall as an overwhelming 91 per cent of them say they will still face major challenges heading into FY2022-23.

“Despite optimism around growth and marketing-led investments, almost every business owner had serious concerns about the year ahead, with a return of negative COVID impacts (41 per cent), increased operating costs (40 per cent) and cashflow (39 per cent) and topping the list,” Marchant said.

“They will now be looking to the new Federal Government and industry for training and support as they tackle the challenges of a new financial year, with digital skills the clear priority,” he added. “One in four (23 per cent) welcomed the digital technology funding and incentive programs in this year’s Federal Budget as beneficial for their business, almost double that of other non-digital training and incentives (13 per cent).”

The study also noted that SMEs who aren’t building skills are outsourcing them, with three in 10 small businesses preferred to outsource marketing services than maintain in-house resources and expertise, including 44 per cent of those in construction, manufacturing, maintenance and transportation.

“Small businesses are taking a two-track approach to increase marketing activity, with some preferring to outsource to suppliers, and others choosing to upskill digital marketing capabilities for a DIY approach,” Marchant said. “Both the shift to outsourcing and the demand for digital skills development makes partnerships with digital-savvy industry suppliers who understand small business needs a key pillar for SMEs looking to leverage their increased marketing budgets to grow in FY2022-23.”