LONDON: Few small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) regard marketing as a priority, with the cost implications frequently cited as a major factor.

Marketing Week reported research by eBay which showed that just 20% of small businesses thought that increased marketing spend or improved marketing would be central to achieving growth in 2015.

More than half (54%), however, were very or fairly optimistic about the year ahead and one fifth anticipated hiring up to five additional staff.

Separate research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests that the average expenditure of an SME on marketing is £24,000 per annum, or, as Marketing Week noted, "no more than the typical salary of a young marketing executive".

And while this modest amount can be a significant demand on the resources of a small business, Karen Fraser, director of Credos, the Advertising Association's think-tank, argued that there needed to be a change of mindset.

"I can't see a situation where you wouldn't want to spend money so that more of your potential customers know that you and your products exist," she declared.

"There is a significant number of small business owners that see it as a cost, they are not seeing it as an investment in the future of their business," she added. "That is one of the challenges for the industry to get that message across."

The Advertising Association's own research suggests that SMEs gain proportionally more than larger businesses from advertising, by a factor of 8:1.

Even if they feel they cannot justify employing full-time marketing personnel, it remains open to SMEs to take a tactical approach, dipping in and out of marketing as and when necessary and being very targeted.

"I believe SMEs have a great ability to be agile and flexible," stated Tanya Lawler, vice president of eBay in the UK, "adapting their marketing strategy and spend to their customers' changing needs and tastes, as well as the external market and seasonal trends."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff