Marketing Strategies in Small Business

Introduction

In recent years, small businesses have become increasingly important to national economies because of their high contributions to Gross Domestic Products (GDPs). Their importance is partly supported by their versatility and flexibility. Marketing is a key part of their success and it emerges as the functional area of business that this paper draws upon in the formulation of a research proposal to investigate the development of small businesses from a marketing perspective.

Marketing refers to creating, communicating, and delivering a business’s value to customers (Fiore, Niehm, Hurst, Son, & Sadachar, 2013). The marketing value chain process involves the evolution of ideas from the conception stage to the creation of customer value. For most businesses, this process includes the coordination of four concepts of marketing: product, place, price, and promotion (Schmitt, 2013). Based on these insights, the proposed study will conceptualize small businesses in terms of how they meet customer needs and satisfaction. Thus, this functional area of business will invariably appeal to a business’s tightly integrated effort to discover and arouse a customer’s senses to buy its products and services.

Some seminal works of literature that would be used in the proposed study will be derived from different databases and they will include journals, books, industry reports, government publications, and credible websites. Some key pieces of literature that underpin this study are based on the works of Katona (2014), Blankson, Cowan, and Darley (2018) (among others). Key theories from classical and neo-modern theories of marketing from world-renowned scholars in the marketing field, such as Philip Kotler, would also be used to get a deeper understanding of the research topic.

The work-based framework that will be used to undertake the research is premised on the view that without proper marketing, businesses will not have any sales and seize to exist (Fuat, Giana, Nikhilesh, & Rohit, 2013). This concept hinges on the understanding that marketing helps businesses to find the shortest path between their brands and customers. The same concept will help small businesses respond well to customer needs through ongoing product development processes. This view is partly supported by the works of Karatum (2017) and Shultz (2017) who say that successful small businesses do not produce one product and quickly move on to the next; instead, they stay the course and take the time to keep modifying their products to better appeal to the needs of their target customers. Lastly, the work-based context that supports this research is premised on the understanding that the concept of marketing would help to identify consumer needs.

Some concepts and theories that have been studied in class, which would help the researcher to undertake this research include how to develop a research proposal, how to conduct critical analysis, and how to undertake qualitative and quantitative reviews. Financial and risk management concepts that have been taught in class would also be instrumental in helping the researcher to understand the link between marketing and the financial performance of a business. Collectively, the concepts learned in school are not only beneficial in helping the researcher to understand how to conduct the study, but also to draw a link between marketing concepts and the performance of small businesses (Taneja & Toombs, 2014).

The motivation for undertaking this research is premised on the researcher’s interest in entrepreneurship and small business management. The critical importance of small businesses in the economy and the growing need to stay ahead of the competition are also other motivating factors for undertaking this research because although small businesses are increasingly asserting their importance in economic development, the barriers to entry are usually low, thereby attracting competition in the field (Fiore et al., 2013). The researcher understands that “staying ahead of the curve” involves the proper understanding of marketing strategies that would increase a business’ visibility. At the same time, the researcher is intrigued by the changing nature of marketing in today’s fast-paced technology world. For example, the growth and spread of social marketing in many global and local markets have revolutionized how marketers plan their strategies. These developments further increase the researchers’ curiosity and interest in the current study.

The proposed research is important because it will add to the growing body of knowledge surrounding marketing strategies in the 21st century. Particularly, it would be useful to people who are interested in understanding how changing consumer preferences and market dynamics in the 21st century have influenced how businesses operate. The findings of the proposed investigation would also be useful to practitioners who seek to understand how marketing strategies could be used to appeal to the unique dynamics of small businesses because most of the literature out there is generalized to appeal to all types of businesses. Therefore, the current study would help practitioners to get a contextualized understanding of market dynamics on the small business front. The aim and objectives of the study appear below.

Aim and Objectives

Existing studies that are aimed at understanding marketing dynamics are often varied and far-between. Part of comprehending how businesses can improve their competitive positions, relative to their business functions is understanding what other researchers have written about the research topic. Therefore, one objective of this research will be to review relevant literature on small business marketing. By doing so, it would also be instrumental to also understand the impact of marketing strategies on business performance. This analysis will outline the link between marketing and business performance because it would explain how the adjustments of the marketing formula help businesses to shore up or frustrate their success (Tribby, 2013). Therefore, a key tenet of the proposed review will also involve establishing the impact of marketing strategies for small businesses.

Part of the process of understanding the link between small business performance and marketing strategies is getting the right data. Doing so would involve designing the appropriate data collection instruments to help the researcher get the right information for analysis. Based on this need, part of the research goals would be to make a questionnaire survey of small businesses and analyze the findings. This objective would be linked with improving the performance of small businesses and understanding how marketing would help them to foster the same. Therefore, one goal of the proposed study will be to pinpoint the significance of marketing strategies on small business development. Collectively, these goals will help the researcher to demonstrate the development of small businesses from a marketing perspective. A list of the aim and objectives of the research appear below.

Research Aim

To analyze the development trend of small businesses from a marketing perspective

Research Objectives

The objectives of the paper are as follows:

  1. To review relevant literature on small business marketing in the UK
  2. To establish the impact of marketing strategies for small businesses
  3. Make a questionnaire survey of small businesses and analyze the data
  4. To pinpoint the significance of marketing strategies on small business development

Identification and Initial Review of Key Literature

Several kinds of literature will be vital in undertaking the proposed study. In this section of the proposal, ten sources of research are highlighted as having met this criterion. One article is by Raska, Keller, and Shaw (2014) which will be instrumental to the researcher because it helps to explain the main marketing concepts underlying the operations of small businesses. Although the study has a strong academic focus, it will be vital in highlighting the main theories and concepts of the discipline, thereby providing the strong theoretical and conceptual models needed to understand the marketing activities of small businesses.

The journal article by Vladimir, Polyakov, and Romanov (2013) is also another useful source of research material for the proposed study because it explains past and on-going trends in the marketing space, which would be instrumental in helping the researcher to understand how small businesses are adapting to the same. For example, the paper delves into the intrigues surrounding emerging communication technologies in the business environment and explains how marketing communication strategies and principles have evolved to give businesses a competitive edge over others. The article also takes a keen focus on advertising and explains the lifecycle of the advertising market. Future directions of marketing are also explained in the article, thereby providing the researcher with a possible indicator of where the proposed study should be focused on.

The article by Osterland (2014) also explains some of the trends in the global economic environment that affect the operations of small businesses. However, unlike Polyakov, and Romanov (2013), the researcher explains legal trends in the industry that would affect the operations of small businesses. The article talks about Congress’s efforts to limit the deductibility of advertisement costs and points out that such an effort would affect the prices and marketability of different products and services across the board. The article further explores the effect of policy changes on the marketing strategies of small affirms, with a firm emphasis on how they influence advertising plans and strategies.

Another force that researchers have noted to have a significant impact on the development of small businesses is technology. The article by Alford and Page (2015), (which is also another critical resource to use in this study) highlights its importance and demonstrates that it is critical to the survival of small businesses. This finding was developed after the researchers conducted a study on 24 owner-managed businesses in the United Kingdom (UK). The study also established that small businesses have a strong appetite for technology because they recognize the marketing opportunities they create as they strive to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced society. Key tenets of the article also demonstrate that the same organizations recognize the agility that technology brings to their operations and the stronger market orientation it gives them, relative to traditional marketing strategies (Alford & Page, 2015). Although the findings of the study are limited to the niche sample, through their article, Alford and Page (2015) present a model that could be tested across other populations.

The study by Tanej and Toombs (2014) takes a more pragmatic approach in investigating the impact of technology on small business development by specifically investigating the impact of social media on businesses. The article suggests that social media has changed how businesses structure and deliver their messages to customers (Tanej & Toombs, 2014). It shows that small businesses are increasingly relying on social media to reach current and future customers, including shoring up the viability, visibility, and sustainability of their businesses. Tanej and Toombs (2014) developed these findings by investigating the role and relevance of social media in small business development. The study was guided by four objectives: evaluating the most appropriate social media platform for marketing small businesses, analyzing the benefits and weaknesses of using social media to market small businesses, finding out how social media helps businesses to differentiate their products and services, and assessing the need for small businesses to integrate social media use in their business plans. This article will be important in understanding the critical role social media plays in the success and development of small businesses.

In the book titled “Social Media for Dummies,” Hiam and VLeBooks (2014) further explore the need for small businesses to embrace this technology platform in marketing their businesses. They argue that businesses can no longer stay away from social media because marketing businesses on this platform is not an option, but a necessity. The book is aimed at explaining how businesses can effectively use social media to create a vibrant marketing strategy to reach their customers. Key concepts that could be borrowed from the book include how to adopt social media changes on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the likes to improve a marketing plan and understanding tips businesses could use to engage communities (through their marketing plans). Lastly, the article is instrumental in understanding how businesses could leverage data and learn more about their targeted communities.

Besides simply using technological platforms, such as social media to improve the performance of businesses, Pophal (2015) takes a more detailed approach of marketing by demonstrating the need for businesses to evaluate the contents of the messages they convey to their customers. He explains these views in an article that encourages small businesses to leverage the value of content marketing on their businesses (Pophal, 2015). Furthermore, he highlights the need for the same businesses to have a strong direction (or strategy) that will inform their social media marketing strategies. To highlight the need for businesses to adopt this approach, Pophal (2015) reports that only 39% of the businesses he sampled had a documented strategy for undertaking their content marketing efforts.

The proceedings of the 1982 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) presented a more thorough understanding of the models and theories of marketing that could be used to understand the activities of small businesses. The conference was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kothari, Arnold, and the Academy of Marketing Science (2015) presented the findings in a journal, which will be a core source of research for the proposed study. The conference delved into different areas of marketing research, including industrial and international marketing. The main advantage associated with its proceedings is that peers and experts in the marketing field attended it (Kothari et al., 2015). Therefore, the findings derived from the meeting are reliable and credible. Leading scholars and practitioners in the marketing field have also edited the information contained in the journal.

Petruzzellis and Winer (2016) published a similar set of marketing concepts from the 2015 academy of marketing science and demonstrated that there is a need for practitioners and experts in the field to reconsider how traditional concepts of marketing work in the modern-day business environment. The findings of this book set the stage for some of the views highlighted by Alford and Page (2015) because the two authors investigate changes that have happened in the marketing space and that affect the performance of small businesses. At the same time, Petruzzellis and Winer (2016) present an update of the works of Kothari et al. (2015) because the latter’s findings are based on traditional and classical marketing theories and concepts. Broadly, Petruzzellis and Winer (2016) propose new marketing theories and concepts that should be used by businesses in today’s business environment. They also highlight the need to determine the most efficient and effective marketing strategies to apply in the business environment.

The work of Donnelly, Simmons, Armstrong, and Fearne (2015) supports the above views. It will be a key resource in the proposed study because it alludes to the need to use big data in formulating marketing strategies. The researchers paid strong attention to the importance of small businesses to use big data assessment techniques in the process. Their review was based on information retrieved from how customers used their loyalty cards in small retail businesses (Donnelly et al., 2015). The analysis was completed using a longitudinal case-based approach and included the views of customers from large retail businesses (such as Tesco). Generally, the researchers indicated the need to have precise and structured marketing plans for small businesses. They further argued that this proposal aligns with the intuitive feel of markets that many small business owners have. Lastly, they highlighted the need to have employees play a key role in the formulation of marketing plans. This article, together with the other nine highlighted in this literature review, will be instrumental in explaining how small businesses implement their marketing plans and how they manage the successes and failures associated with the same process.

Research Approach

Research Design

The mixed methods research approach would be used for the proposed study. It involves the use of both qualitative and quantitative elements in a study. The mixed methods research approach applies to the study because of its exploratory nature. Jackson, Deafenbaugh, and Miller (2018) support its use in exploratory research studies because they argue that using only one type of approach (qualitative or quantitative) could limit a researcher. The multifaceted nature of marketing as a business concept also justifies the use of the mixed methods research approach in the proposed study because the concept contains both qualitative and quantitative aspects of analysis (LeBaron et al., 2018). For example, marketing involves an analysis of consumer behaviors, attitudes, and qualitative perceptions. At the same time, it is linked to business performance, which is often denoted by quantitative elements such as sales numbers and the percentage of return customers. Using only one research approach (either qualitative or quantitative) could limit the researcher from effectively understanding the development trends of small businesses from a marketing perspective. Therefore, the use of the mixed methods research approach allows the researcher to analyze data more comprehensively, especially because it can manage numbers, words, pictures, narratives, and many more (Cannon, Arcara, Graham, & Macy, 2018). This approach is also useful in answering the research questions because Jordan (2018) says it helps in answering a broad range of topics.

The main weakness of the mixed methods research approach is the possibility that researchers and readers may only be familiar with one type of research approach (either qualitative or quantitative). The use of the mixed methods research approach may also pose a challenge to the researcher when developing the questionnaires for the surveys because they need to accommodate both qualitative and quantitative elements in the review (Fox & Alldred, 2018). This issue also creates another challenge in managing the overall research project because the surveyor would have to accommodate both quantitative and quantitative methodologies in the data. Lastly, researchers claim that this research method is time-consuming (Fox & Alldred, 2018). Although the concerns associated with the use of the mixed methods research approach are valid, the advantages associated with its use overshadow the disadvantages of the same. Based on this fact, the mixed methods research technique emerges as the best approach to use in the proposed study.

Data Collection

Data will be collected as a survey of 20 small businesses in London. The businesses sampled will mainly be in the retail sector/industry and they will be identified based on their turnover numbers. Here, the researcher will use the definition of Karatum (2017) and Shultz (2017) who suggest that small businesses are those that have a turnover of less than $10 million. The survey will be administered as a structured questionnaire, which will have several questions for the managers of small businesses.

The survey method is selected for the proposed study because of its high representativeness (Letenyei, Bodor-Eranus, & Nagy, 2013). The good statistical significance associated with surveys was also another motivator for using the data collection instrument because studies developed by Schaefer and Reuter (2016) have shown that the high representativeness of the survey method is associated with good statistical significance. At the same time, it is easy to analyze multiple variables using the technique (Couper, 2017).

The weakness of the survey method that may impede its efficacy in the data collection process is its inflexible design (Taylor, 2017). In other words, the structured nature of the survey instrument cannot be changed in the middle of the data collection process. However, this weakness could also be a strength of the study because the structured nature of the data collection instrument could mean that the information collected is standardized and fair (Davino, Fabbris, & SpringerLink, 2013). Lastly, some of the questions that will be developed for the survey could be inappropriate for certain audiences or businesses. This weakness emanates from the standardized nature of the survey questions. While the researcher will strive to develop questions that appeal to a wide variety of small businesses, they may not satisfactorily capture the marketing dynamics of all the small businesses sampled.

Data Analysis Method

The research will be analyzed using the Microsoft excel method. This technique will be used in the data analysis method because it is equipped to handle statistical data. The choice for this research design is pegged to the fact that data will be collected as surveys and the findings will be sampled in numerical form. The excel method will help the researcher to ascertain three things regarding the data analysis process. The first one is whether there are significant differences in terms of the information being provided by the respondents. The second one is whether the data received from the survey are correlated and lastly, it will help to establish whether the responses given about one question are significantly different from those of other questions (Rhee, Kessl, Lindback, Littman, & El-Kareh, 2018). The data analysis process will comprise of several steps, which are enumerated below.

  1. Calculation of simple statistics such as mean, median, and average
  2. Graphically representing the questions asked, with a keen understanding of the potential for error bias
  3. Developing a histogram for analyzing the questions and interpreting them
  4. Analyzing the survey responses with historical data and averaging it over time
  5. Comparing data across different groups of responses and testing to see if there are significant differences
  6. Performing a correlation analysis to establish if there are relationships between different variables measured

Ethical Issues in the Research

Anonymity

The privacy of the respondents who take part in the study will be protected. Therefore, there will be no attempt to reveal their identity or business locations because the study will purely be meant to collect information about the industry and not expose individual business strategies pursued or adopted by the small businesses. Therefore, any self-identifying data relating to the respondents will be omitted from the final report according to the recommendations of Yip, Han, and Sng (2016).

Confidentiality

All the respondents will be sufficiently informed about the purpose of the study. Part of the process will involve informing them that the views they give in the research are purely for academic purposes. They will also be furnished with enough details about the research to be able to respond accordingly. However, the researcher will strictly process the information given by them. In other words, the researcher will not share information with other entities. Part of maintaining the confidentiality agreement will be the adherence to strict guidelines surrounding data management as explained below.

Data Management

The data provided by the respondents will be stored in a computer and secured with a password. Upon completion of the research, the data collected will be destroyed.

Informed Consent

All participants who take part in the study will be expected to do so freely. In other words, they will not be coerced or induced to participate in the study. The participants will also be free to withdraw from the study without any repercussions.

Research Plan

The proposed research will be divided into six processes. The first one will be conducting a preliminary study and the second one will involve the formulation of data collection instruments (surveys). The third process will involve identifying potential research participants and seeking permission to conduct the study. The fourth step will involve data collection and it will pave the way for the analysis process, which will be the fifth step in the research process. The last step of the research study will be the conclusion section, which involves the preparation of the final report and its presentation. These processes are expected to take four months and they are explained in the Gantt chart below.

Process/Time 1– 2 weeks 3-4
weeks
5-6
weeks
6-8
weeks
8-10
weeks
10-12
weeks
12-14
weeks
14-16
weeks
Preliminary Research X
Development of Survey X
Identifying potential research participants and seeking permission to conduct the study X
Data collection X X
Data Analysis X X
Preparation of final report and presentation of findings X

References

Alford, P., & Page, S. (2015). Marketing technology for adoption by small business. The Service Industries Journal, 35(11), 655-669.

Blankson, C., Cowan, K., & Darley, W. (2018). Marketing practices of rural micro and small businesses in Ghana. Journal of Macromarketing, 38(1), 29-56.

Cannon, A., Arcara, J., Graham, L., & Macy, R. (2018). Trafficking and health: A systematic review of research methods. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 19(2), 159-175.

Couper, M. (2017). New developments in survey data collection. Annual Review of Sociology, 43(1), 121-145.

Davino, C., Fabbris, L., & SpringerLink. (2013). Survey data collection and integration. Berlin, GM: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Donnelly, C., Simmons, G., Armstrong, G., & Fearne, A. (2015). Digital loyalty card ‘big data’ and small business marketing: Formal versus informal or complementary? International Small Business Journal, 33(4), 422-442.

Fiore, A., Niehm, L., Hurst, J., Son, J., & Sadachar, A. (2013). Entrepreneurial marketing: Scale validation with small, independently-owned businesses. Journal of Marketing Development and Competitiveness, 7(4), 63-86.

Fox, N., & Alldred, P. (2018). Mixed methods, materialism and the micropolitics of the research-assemblage. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 21(2), 191-204.

Fuat, F., Giana, E., Nikhilesh, D., & Rohit, V. (2013). Marketing. Journal of Macromarketing, 33(1), 78-82.

Hiam, A., & VLeBooks. (2014). Marketing for dummies (4th ed.). New York, NY: VLeBooks.

Jackson, L., Deafenbaugh, L., & Miller, E. (2018). Group metaphor map making: Application to integrated arts-based focus groups. Qualitative Social Work, 17(2), 305-322.

Jordan, D. (2018). Contemporary methodological approaches to qualitative research: A review of the oxford handbook of qualitative methods. The Qualitative Report, 23(3), 547-556.

Karatum, S. (2017). The place of digital marketing on Turkish small businesses. Journal of International Trade, 3(2), 36-43.

Katona, F. (2014). Examination of marketing activities of small businesses in Hungary. Online Journal Modelling the New Europe, 1(10), 29-41.

Kothari, V., Arnold, D., & Academy of Marketing Science. (2015). Proceedings of the 1982 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual Conference (Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science). Cham, SW: Springer.

LeBaron, C., Jarzabkowski, P., Pratt, M., Zundel, M., MacIntosh, R., & Mackay, D. (2018). The utility of video diaries for organizational research. Organizational Research Methods, 21(2), 386-411.

Letenyei, L., Bodor-Eranus, E., & Nagy, G. (2013). Flexible surveys, a field-near application of survey data collection. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai. Serie: Sociologia, 58(1), 129.

Osterland, A. (2014). What the proposed ad tax could mean for you: Proposal not likely to affect major marketers, but could hurt small companies, startups. Advertising Age, 85(1), 1-8.

Petruzzellis, L., & Winer, R. (2016). Rediscovering the essentiality of marketing: proceedings of the 2015 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) World Marketing Congress (developments in marketing science). Cham, SW: Springer.

Pophal, L. (2015). Small business and content marketing. EContent, 38(3), 6-8.

Raska, D., Keller, E., & Shaw, D. (2014). The curriculum-faculty-reinforcement alignment and its effect on learning retention of core marketing concepts of marketing capstone students. Marketing Education Review, 24(2), 145-158.

Rhee, K., Kessl, S., Lindback, S., Littman, M., & El-Kareh, R. (2018). Provider views on childhood obesity management in primary care settings: A mixed methods analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 55.

Schaefer, M., & Reuter, K. (2016). Have you seen a Pet Lemur? Using online surveys for data collection. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 159(1), 280-281.

Schmitt, K. (2013). Online marketing gains momentum with small businesses. Pavement, 28(1), 16-19.

Shultz, C. (2017). Marketing. Journal of Macromarketing, 37(3), 328-330.

Taneja, S., & Toombs, L. (2014). Putting a face on small businesses: visibility, viability, and sustainability the impact of social media on small business marketing. Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, 18(1), 249-260.

Taylor, L. (2017). Univariate tests for phase capacity: Tools for identifying when to modify a survey’s data collection protocol. Journal of Official Statistics, 33(3), 601-624.

Tribby, M. (2013). Reinventing the entrepreneur: Turning your dream business into a reality. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Vladimir A., Polyakov., & Romanov, A. (2013). Trends and concepts of marketing communications at the modern stage of commodity market. Statistika I Èkonomika, 1(6), 90-96.

Yip, C., Han, R., & Sng, B. L. (2016). Legal and ethical issues in research. Indian Journal of Anaesthesia, 60(9), 684–688.