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Generating new customers biggest concern for UK SMEs, finds Google study

In a study commissioned by Google to understand the key concerns of UK small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and how they use advertising, respondents highlighted driving future growth as their main priority. The study also highlighted the need for SMEs to have access to easy to use, fast tools to enable advertising.

Although uncertainties around Brexit are often pointed to as a key concern for business owners, 79 per cent of respondents said that the majority (60-100 per cent) of their revenues came from domestic (UK) sales. In fact, 41 per cent of SME owners and managers identified ‘generating new customers’ as their key challenge over the next year. With 36 per cent of respondents suggesting that ‘increasing business growth’ was their primary goal over the next year, and a further 39 per cent opting for ‘consistent growth’, it’s clear that SMEs are in need of simple ways to drive growth that come at a relatively low cost.

SMEs are currently under-utilising tools that can assist them in their goals, because of the difficulty and time involved in advertising and in managing their online presence, which are key avenues for driving customer acquisition. This is not due to a lack of dedication, however. Over 15 per cent are spending more than four hours per week managing their advertising, while a fifth (22 per cent) are spending more than two hours. This is a significant time investment for business owners who already have a huge amount of demands on their time, and whose priorities often lie in the day-to-day running of the business.

As customers in a fast-paced world look for solutions and products on the move, it’s crucial that SMEs are discoverable online to new customers looking for their services. However, almost a third (30 per cent) do not currently own a company website, while 71 per cent do not manage a search engine listing or map listing for their business. It’s therefore clear that there is a gap between desire and action for many SMEs.

SME owners do have big ambitions for their digital advertising, however. Almost two thirds (61 per cent) said they aimed to use online advertising to bring in new customers, and a little over half (51 per cent) suggested they wanted it to increase awareness of their business. When asked what they most wanted from an advertising product, ‘easy to use’ was the most popular suggested solution for businesses. It’s clear that advertising needs to be more accessible, easy to use and fast to manage if SMEs are to benefit from its potential gains as they seek to grow or retain current business performance.

Kim Spalding, Global Product Director for small business ads at Google, said: “Small business owners often wear many hats and are often short on time. But even the busiest SMEs know that online advertising is critical to acquire new customers and drive growth. Using machine learning and automation technology, Google Ads offers Smart Campaigns to help small and medium enterprises who don’t specialise in digital marketing to quickly create ads and reach new customers.

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