Warc Briefing: Small Businesses (SMEs)

Definition: A small business organizes and manages a moderately-sized undertaking, assuming risk for the sake of profit.

Quick facts

  • In the US, a small business typically has fewer than 500 workers; in the EU, it can be fewer than 50 and in Australia, 15i.
  • In the decade to 2007, US small businesses created up to 80% of the country's jobsii.
  • There are 23m small businesses in the European Union, employing 75m peopleiii.

History and future outlook

In recent decades, small businesses have been the engine of most Western economies and an attractive, if often demanding, target audience for marketers.

By definition, most business owners head small businesses and their needs and characters can differ greatly from those of large enterprises. This is in part because small businesses vary greatly among themselves. They range from sole traders, home workers, and those running businesses in their spare time up to venture capital-funded tech start-ups, family or co-operative-owned businesses. Some have turnover running into the millions.