Canadian SMBs still fumbling for effective marketing strategies says HP-Ipsos Reid survey

Small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners are strapped for time and unsure about how to better market their brand, according to a new poll.

A survey conducted by Vancouver-based polling firm Ipsos Reid shows SMB owners are fairly happy with their marketing efforts, but lack the time, money, and expertise to be completely satisfied.

Ipsos Reid polled 1,225 randomly selected SMB owners from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14. The results are accurate within + or – 2.9 per cent 19 times out of 20.

The study was commissioned by Mississauga-based Hewlett-Packard Canada L.P. which is looking to do some brand boosting of its own.

Yesterday, HP also launched a new line of printers to help SMB owners create their own marketing materials, the HP Officejet Printing System.

The survey results show there is demand for new products among SMB owners who want to build their brand but are unsure how to do it, according to Sean Simpson, research manager with Ipsos Reid.

“SMB owners are saying what they’ve got now is OK, but they’re still looking for more,” he says. “They recognize there is room for improvement.”

While six out of 10 SMB owners polled identified branding as a priority, less than half are very satisfied with their company’s current brand. Only about one-third strongly agree they are confident in making the right branding decisions.

These factors add up to more than one-quarter of businesses having never updated their marketing materials, according to the poll. That’s where HP wants to change some habits.

“Small businesses often start doing some branding – they do a logo, they do some marketing materials, but they don’t keep the campaign alive,” says Jean-Paul Desmarais, business customer marketing manager for HP Canada. “They can see the destination, but they need some help on the journey.”

Calling his company’s SMB campaign “Print 2.0”, Desmarais says, HP will enable users to “print on any device, anywhere.”

HP’s new Officejet line of printers, paper, ink and other accessories also come in distinctive green lined packages to make it easier for SMB owners to identify the products which were designed to work together.

This will help busy business owners hone their marketing materials with the little time they have, he continued. It also pays off to print small runs in-house rather than sending them off to a copy shop.

“Those who aren’t [creating marketing materials] in house don’t really know what their options are, or they don’t know it can be cost-effective,” Simpson said.

About one-quarter of companies print all their marketing materials in-house, and another one-quarter use a combination of out-sourcing and in-house printing. The other half either completely out-source, or print no marketing materials.

Those who don’t print material in house cite lack of time (20 per cent), money (18 per cent) or know-how (13 per cent) as the main reasons they don’t attempt to do so.

Business owners should look at spending on brand as a long-term investment that pays off over the entire life of a company, says Cheryl Sylvester, president of Toronto-based Beyond Brand Thinking. It will help attract clients and potential partners.

“Having a strong brand at the start of your business can help give your company some credibility,” she says. “The face of your company is expressed through brand.”

One of Sylvester’s clients was able to make a major break-through after having a brand make-over, she says. Their safety eye-wear product escaped from the doldrums of small-order buys to Wal-Mart’s mega-chain.

They won Wal-Mart over when they proved the product could sell itself, she says.

As an entrepreneur herself, Sylvester isn’t surprised to hear that females are more likely than males to be satisfied with their current brand (51 per cent compared to 39 per cent). Women are also more likely than men to identify strong marketing as effective (31 per cent compared to 20 per cent).

“Women starting their own businesses are more brand-savvy,” she says.

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