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It’s time to share the results of our small business marketing survey.

We wanted to find out how micro to small businesses manage their marketing. There are some interesting results, but please note we had a small sample. I’d love to do the survey again next year and get more answers.

But without any further ado here’s a look at what we found.

Most small business owners aren’t happy with their marketing

We asked them to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10. We had some zeros, but no tens.

And over half our responses were 3 or less!

marketing satisfaction rate

Why are they so unhappy? Some of the other answers give us some clues:

Most small business owners do their own marketing hands-on


In 6 out of 10 businesses, the business owner does the marketing. This comes as no surprise but it’s a good indication of why they’re unhappy with results.

Marketing is wide-ranging and always changing. Even experts who do it full-time (like us) have to specialise. We can’t keep up with everything properly. If you’re a small business owner doing marketing on top of your ‘real job’, how are you ever going to keep up?

Time is not the only challenge, but it is the biggest

The top three challenges in marketing are lack of time, lack of money and lack of skills.

small business marketing challenges

While marketing is being squeezed on all sides, this does mean that even a small change could geneate a big impact.

Marketing budgets are lower than recommended

One very surprising finding from the survey was that the commonest marketing spend amongst our respondent was less than 5 percent of budget.

small business marketing spend

Why is this surprising?

  • Marketing budget research done by The CMO Survey suggests that marketing spend is 7 to 12 percent of budget.
  • That’s also the range recommended by BigCommerce.
  • It’s generally accepted range amongst the accountants that I know, who should know how much their small business clients spend on marketing!
  • Finally, this article from The Manifest says ‘A good rule of thumb for small businesses with revenues of less than $5 million is to spend 7–8% of revenues on marketing‘.

On reflection, I think the lower result in this survey was due to a skewed response. Many of the respondents are members of BNI (Business Network International). It’s quite possible that they don’t think of BNI as marketing but as sales, so ignored it when answering this survey.

However, at least half of BNI’s value is in marketing. Think about the predicted process – start by building visibility, then credibility, then profitability. The first two are definitely marketing goals! BNI costs a few thousand a year in hard cash. It also costs in time. If you value your time at $80 an hour, then it costs more than $10,000 a year. If our respondents had thought of that, the results might be different.

Growing marketing skills and expertise

If business owners have limited time and limited budget, they need all the help they can get with skills and expertise. So we asked what they wanted to learn about. Or if they knew something already, what they wanted to learn more about.

marketing topics percentage small business want to learn

We’re using this information to set our marketing blog content priorities, so that we can be as useful as possible.
(So if you want to learn more about marketing, make sure you sign up!)


Four of the top topics – blogging and content marketing, social media, SEO and email marketing – are very closely related. They’re actually all different aspects of content marketing. We have developed a small business content marketing package to help busy business owners with this area of their business.

So those are the results. The team at NoBull thank everyone who participated and wish you the best of luck with marketing in 2020 and beyond. If there’s anything we can do to help, just drop us a line.