Seven reasons SMEs avoid traditional advertising

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are 99 percent of all businesses across the world, yet many choose not to advertise. In some countries as few as 30 percent of SMEs advertise at all.

Many reasons for this reluctance to advertise stem from misconception or misinformation; the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality or thinking advertising means large scale television campaigns with big budgets and even bigger risk.

Understanding why SMEs don’t spend as much as they could on advertising will help you address these pain points when you sell to them.

Here are some of the worst offenders and the reality behind the excuses.


  1. They don’t have the money

    More than two-thirds (66 percent) of SMEs that don’t advertise see it as financially risky, but there’s no reason for advertising costs to spiral out of control. Advertising is testable, measurable and scalable. SMEs should focus on optimising adverts through testing before committing to costly campaigns and develop consistent, long-term campaigns to get more for their money.

  2. Online advertising is easier

     Online advertising is readily available, but not necessarily easier to execute. It requires its own set of technical expertise that takes time to perfect. Get these wrong and online advertising can become wasteful and expensive. SMEs already successfully advertising online will also already have a lot of the information needed to help make traditional advertising successful for them too.

  3. They don’t have the time

    Advertising can take time to get right, but the benefits can be huge – more than half of SMEs that advertise (59 percent) report a direct increase in sales. Learning the art of advertising can take time, so media owners can aid the learning process by using plain language explanations and approaching the project one clear step at a time.

  4. They have too many things on their plate

    Being pulled in so many directions makes it difficult for small business owners to know where to invest their time. Advertising is important, but it isn’t the only thing they have to deal with. Limiting your demands on their time and aiming to keep your requirements from them to the essentials will be appreciated.

  5. They think it’s for bigger firms

    The most prevalent adverts are usually from large companies, but small businesses actually stand to benefit much more from advertising than they do. Eight times more. More than three quarters (82 percent) of consumers see unfamiliar brands as risky, so getting the brand out there and gaining exposure is vital for success.

  6. They don’t have the skills

    Small businesses often offer a unique skill they want people to pay for, yet many don’t recognise that they can do the same for their business shortfalls: outsource. More than three-quarters (79 percent) of SMEs haven’t contracted out services, or employed agency workers, in the past two years

  7. Disappointment with previous attempts

    It’s easy to be deterred when attempts go wrong. Some go as far to conclude that they simply can’t do advertising or it’s incompatible with their business. Neither of these things is true. Many SMEs don’t properly test their adverts for effectiveness before rolling out a campaign, which, while costly and detrimental, is an easy mistake to learn from.A tight budget is still a budget and, spent wisely, it can have a huge impact on business growth and revenue. And success begets success: a successful low-budget campaign can lead to bigger budgets and more campaigns.