Marketing and digital skills the top priorities for SMB sector in 2022-23

Marcus Marchant, Chief Executive Officer of Vista Australia

New research has revealed the COVID tide has turned for Australia’s small business (SMB) owners, with two in three (65%) optimistic about growth prospects in the new financial year – despite two in five (42%) having considered closing their doors in the last 12 months.

One in four small businesses (26%) who believed a Labor Federal Government would be better for their business head into the new financial year with their preferred party in power.

What are the new SMB priorities FY2022-23?

The Vista SMB survey conducted by YouGov pointed to a marketing-led recovery among small and medium businesses. More than one in three (33%) planned to start marketing or increase marketing investment in FY2022-23. One in two small business owners (51%) have made upskilling digital marketing skills a business priority, including two in three Millennials.

“Marketing is the canary in the coalmine for small business. It’s often the first thing cut when times are tough. The findings that SMBs are ramping up marketing spend and building digital marketing skills are positive indicators of a resilient small business sector focused on growth leading into the new financial year,” Vista Australia CEO Marcus Marchant commented.

“That is a welcome turnaround after four in 10 came close to shutting up shop in the past year,” Marcus Marchant further commented. It won’t be all smooth sailing though, with nine in 10 (91%) SMBs saying they will still face major challenges heading into FY2022-23.

“Despite optimism around growth and marketing-led investments, almost every business owner had concerns about the year ahead, with a return of negative COVID impacts (41%), increased operating costs (40%) and cash flow (39%) and topping the list,” said Marchant.

“They will now be looking to the new Federal Gov’t and industry for training and support as they tackle the challenges, with digital skills the clear priority. One in four (23%) welcomed the digital tech funding and incentive programs in this year’s Federal Budget as beneficial for their business – almost double that of other non-digital training and incentives (13%).”

How are SMBs ramping up marketing efforts?

The study showed SMBs who aren’t building skills are outsourcing them. Three in 10 SMBs preferred to outsource marketing services than maintain in-house resources and expertise, including 44% of those in construction, manufacturing, maintenance and transportation.

“SMBs are taking a two-track approach to increase marketing activity, with some preferring to outsource to suppliers, and others choosing to upskill digital marketing capabilities for a DIY approach. The shift to outsourcing and the demand for digital skills development makes partnerships with digital-savvy industry suppliers who understand SMB needs a key pillar for SMBs looking to leverage their increased marketing budgets to grow in FY2022-23,” he said.