A recent survey conducted by The Marketing Centre, drawing insights from nearly 2,000 decision-makers at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), reveals a striking gap in business and marketing planning among UK businesses in 2024.

The findings underscore a concerning trend in the marketing landscape, with 54 percent of surveyed businesses lacking a documented business plan and an even larger 67 percent without a marketing action plan. The automotive, agriculture, and engineering sectors face elevated risks to their overall health due to this planning gap.

Key Findings

  1. Documented Business Plans: A significant 54% of respondents stated their businesses lack a documented business plan, highlighting a critical gap in strategic planning.
  2. Marketing Action Plans: Only 33% of SMEs have a marketing action plan, indicating that two-thirds of businesses lack a detailed strategy for marketing contributions to achieving goals.
  3. Lead Generation Challenges: Less than 30% of businesses generate sufficient leads to meet their growth objectives, emphasising the importance of a robust marketing plan for clarity on target customers and effective engagement strategies.
  4. CRM Utilisation: Only 40% of businesses effectively use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software across sales and marketing teams, impacting their ability to follow up on leads and seize opportunities.
  5. Metrics and Measurement: Metrics emerge as a weak area, with only 27% setting clear objectives for specialist marketing services and 41% measuring customer profitability.
  6. Agency Performance: Among businesses using specialist marketing services, only 62% find them providing good value for money, raising questions about the efficacy of such partnerships.

The Underlying Challenges and Impact on SMEs

In a business environment marked by uncertainty and challenges, SMEs are grappling with rising costs, energy price hikes, reduced financial support, and supply chain disruptions. The absence of a well-developed business and marketing growth plan also becomes a significant hurdle for SMEs aiming to thrive in this dynamic landscape.

The reasons for the planning gap vary, from time constraints and not knowing where to start, to a belief that smaller businesses can achieve their goals without a solid plan. However, the survey findings indicate that this lack of planning is a potential hindrance to growth and resilience.

In an environment where the economic, social, and environmental landscape is undergoing rapid transformations, a coordinated and integrated plan becomes imperative. Without it, businesses risk facing challenges without direction, hindering their potential for growth.

Insights from Pete Jakob, Marketing Director at The Marketing Centre

The Marketing Director for the UK at The Marketing Centre, Pete Jakob, provided commentary on the survey results. He said, “The marketing discourse in recent times has been dominated by discussions around technology and AI in particular. However, the lack of stratgic business and marketing planning is a far greater issue for UK SME leaders. A well-crafted business and marketing plan is not just a blueprint, but a safeguard against uncertainties, a guide for companies to grow, and a shield for overall business success.

“The saying is true – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. With more than half of companies in the UK not having a business or marketing plan, there are significant risks, and it’s crucial for business owners to realise that a documented business plan leads the way for marketing success to align with your vision.

“A strategy gives senior leaders confidence that budgets will be channelled into the right areas, and activity will be measured and optimised to drive brand awareness, positive sentiment and ultimately sales. A strategy helps steer the ship, and with that comes focus on reporting, CRM systems, tools, and lead generation.”

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