The British Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey has revealed a rise in business confidence in 2024, as almost half (47%) of firms anticipate an increase in profits.¹
However, a recent survey by PR and Marketing agency Wild PR found that 52% of UK firms do not have a marketing budget to increase brand awareness and support revenue in 2024.
Following a challenging financial climate last year, Wild PR surveyed UK business owners² to reveal the outlook on marketing budgets, the most popular marketing services and underrated tactics.
The survey questioned 200 UK business owners from various industries, including professional services, manufacturing, eCommerce, hospitality, technology and construction.
Worryingly, the study found that a quarter (25%) of UK businesses plan to cut marketing costs, while 18% plan to reduce PR expenditures in 2024. Furthermore, the study reveals that over half (52%) of businesses have no annual marketing budget, meaning they either lack a clear marketing plan or have yet to realise the importance of investing in marketing and PR techniques.
According to the survey results, the most commonly used marketing strategies in 2023 were:
- Social media (34%)
- Email marketing (26%)
- Search Engine Marketing (19%)
- Content marketing (16%)
- Public Relations (PR) (12%)
- Print marketing (9%)
- Direct mail (7%)
- Influencer marketing (3%)
Social media marketing topped the list, with over a third of UK businesses (34%) utilising this tactic. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as there are over 62 million users on social media³, which forms an extensive collection of potential customers within easy reach through targeted organic and paid posts.
Surprisingly, PR ranked fifth on the list as almost 9 in 10 UK businesses (88%) do not use PR as a marketing tactic. Meaning that most businesses are missing out on the power PR has in raising their brand awareness while increasing their SEO profile and online visibility in the process.
Public relations covers a wide range of activities, from print coverage to digital PR campaigns and crisis communications, and overall, helps to craft a positive brand image. With this tactic slipping low on business owners’ priorities for 2024, companies could lose out to their competitors with a higher brand reputation and stronger presence in key publications.
In particular, digital PR campaigns are even more effective when coupled with specialised tactics, such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), to help businesses rank high on search engines like Google. Generating SEO-optimised on-site content, backed up by obtaining backlinks through digital PR activity, can support keyword improvements, yet less than one in five (19%) businesses implement SEO techniques.
By limiting marketing budgets or activity, businesses reduce the chance to test different methods and find the most impactful strategies to drive future growth, essential in an atmosphere of rising insolvencies.
For Andrew Taylor, Managing Director at Specialist Glass Products, maintaining the marketing budget during challenging times proved pivotal for his glass manufacturing company: “Developing a comprehensive strategy using marketing, social media, and PR allowed us to strengthen our online presence and reach a wider audience, ultimately expanding our potential sales pool.
“Having developed an integrated marketing strategy combining multiple PR and marketing tools, our website traffic increased by over 102% thanks to massive improvements in keyword positioning for key products and services. With more people finding our website, online lead generation increased by 100%. This has been instrumental in supporting us throughout the recent pandemic and cost-of-trading crisis, and we have been fortunate to continue doing what we do best.”
Katrina Cliffe, Managing Director at Wild PR, comments on the study findings: “It is concerning that so many businesses are planning to cut PR and marketing budgets in 2024.
“While reducing marketing costs can be tempting, doing so poses significant risks to a business’s future growth. If businesses were to reduce PR spending, they risk losing essential keyword rankings, damaging brand awareness, and making it harder to build up the same momentum when they start activity again.
“What’s important to remember is that undertaking any form of marketing activity, particularly PR, must not be seen as something which delivers a quick win. Consistent activity has been shown to drive long-term results. After challenges businesses have faced over the past four years, PR is a vital tactic to adopt to secure the future success of your business.”