Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) across Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) are the most likely to put off marketing tasks and procrastinate managing their email marketing campaigns, according to a recent study by Constant Contact.

The ‘Small Business Now: The State of SMB Marketing’ report found that ANZ SMBs are cognisant they need to do more on the marketing front this year, with an uncertain economy spurring many of them to double down on marketing in 2024.

ANZ SMBs are more likely than any other country polled to spend more time on marketing, increase their budgets, and the number of marketing channels they use in 2024.

“Nearly 90% of small businesses across Australia and New Zealand are concerned about the current economic climate impacting their businesses negatively this year, which might suggest they’d want to pull back on their marketing spend to reduce costs. But the data tells us they intend to increase their marketing efforts in a bid to survive economic headwinds,” Constant Contact vice president of Asia Pacific, Renee Chaplin said.

While just 27% of ANZ SMBs feel ‘very concerned’ that the current economy will negatively impact them – the lowest level of concern displayed across the four regions polled by Constant Contact – 56% said they were ‘somewhat concerned’ and 17% said they were ‘not concerned’.

“This level of concern shouldn’t surprise many, as Australia in particular experiences higher wages and has just seen interest rates skyrocket. The key to why interest rates have risen is to curb inflation – in other words, to reduce consumer spending. This might explain why they’ve spent so little on marketing this year,” Chaplin added.

When asked ‘how much do you currently spend on marketing each year’, 50% of respondents reported they spend less than $15,000 per year, with 23% reporting they spend less than $1,500.

“Those that double down and invest in marketing during these times are able to increase loyalty to retain customers and attract new ones when they need it the most,” Chaplin said.

Marketing is the most likely activity ANZ SMBs will delay undertaking, with 13% saying they always procrastinate on marketing tasks – the highest among all polled regions – and 46% saying they ‘regularly’ procrastinate. Combined, 59% of local SMBs always or regularly procrastinate; the most among polled regions. Almost three in five (58%) ANZ SMBs spend less than one hour per day on marketing, tied with Canada for the least time spent per day.

The study also found that customer retention is among the most pressing concerns for SMBs in ANZ, especially when compared to other regions. More than one-third cite retention as the top challenge for their business in 2024, and the second biggest overall marketing challenge.

The study also found ANZ SMBs are most likely of any country polled to use email marketing (59%) as their primary marketing channel, followed closely by social media (58%). However, these channels work best when used in tandem with other marketing efforts, like SMS and events. ANZ SMBs understand this; 85% agree that using multiple channels in a marketing campaign typically leads to better results but just 17% say they are always running multichannel campaigns.

As expected, the top issue preventing ANZ SMBs from adding more channels to their marketing mix is a lack of knowledge (37%), which is higher than any other region polled. Two in five (40%) respondents acknowledge they need to work more efficiently to achieve marketing goals this year – again, the highest of any region polled.

Amid the level of procrastination and lack of marketing knowledge, SMB owners across the region are proactively looking to do more this year on the marketing front. In fact, SMBs across ANZ are the most likely among polled regions to spend more time on marketing this year (51%), increase marketing budgets (46%), and increase the number of marketing channels they use (47%).

Furthermore, 48 per cent of ANZ SMBs plan to increase their marketing budgets by at least 10% YoY — second only to the US (54%).

“The key to success will be how SMBs spend an increasing budget and, more importantly, into what channel they focus that budget. If they do this effectively, business owners might see marketing challenges decrease which in turn will help them better attract and retain customers, helping to ward off economic concerns,” Chaplin said.