Realise the enormous untapped potential in our small businesses

Small is beautiful. And it can be lucrative too. Especially if you’re a small or medium-sized business, according to new research from the Advertising Association. For every £1 that an SME spends on advertising, the resulting growth in turnover is approximately eight times as great as it is for larger firms.

Ruth Mortimer

Britain is famous for being a “nation of shopkeepers”, a phrase believed to originate with the economist Adam Smith back in 1776. But roll forward 238 years and the story hasn’t changed much. The SME sector still makes up 40 per cent of the UK’s turnover and 99.9 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK.

Despite this, the ad spend of SMEs is just 18 per cent of the whole. While it might be expected that smaller firms don’t rival Google for marketing budgets, it means that many SMEs have serious potential for growth by boosting their marketing output.

Our cover story looks at how small companies including music business, shoe brand Skribbies and clothing brand PlayerLayer are using a variety of innovative techniques to boost marketing and reach customers. This is a story that should be relevant for many marketers.

It comes in a week the Government has launched a £30m fund offering SMEs ‘Growth Vouchers’ worth up to £2,000. These enable businesses to gain expert support in vital areas such as marketing, managing cashflow, developing relevant skills and improving leadership. Each voucher may offer only a small amount of money but the skills gained could have enormous impact.

All this talk of skills brings me back to people who are doing a great job, whether in small or large businesses. Each year, our Marketing Week Engage Awards in association with YouGov set out to reward a young, brilliant marketer with our Rising Star award (free to enter) and at the other end of the spectrum, an individual who has changed the industry with our Senior Marketer of the Year gong (free to nominate and vote).

So please nominate your outstanding colleagues for Best Senior Marketer and encourage your bright young things to enter the Rising Star category at Last year’s Rising Star, Sarah Bulling of insurer LV=, explains what her win has meant for her career.

Finally, going back to the theme of size, Mark Ritson calls for an end to talk about Big Data and is starting a Small Data Movement. So there it is. Small is beautiful (unless you are talking to your finance director about budgets, of course).

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here