Assessing the Market for Digital Marketing Training for Micro SMEs



Purpose – The purpose of this project is to conduct research on behalf of a start-up client and explore whether there is a business case to supply digital marketing training to help micro SME exploit digital marketing technology.


Design/methodology/approach – A literature review was conducted to explore the current understanding of the opportunities and barriers surrounding digital marketing adoption by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). A market place analysis was completed to explore the revenue opportunity within the marketplace, assess the competitive landscape and choose a competitive strategy for the start-up.


The project adopts a qualitative approach, using an online location for focus groups and using Facebook groups as research instruments. A purposive sample from a population of seven hundred and eight seven therapists was extracted from a database of professional therapists owned by the start-up.  This purposive and criterion based sample is representative of the customer segment the start-up wishes to serve, namely micro SMEs operating within the health and wellness sector of the economy.


Findings – Primary research findings discovered that micro SMEs working in the health and wellness sector experience similar difficulties surrounding marketing as other SMEs, namely owner attitude, financial pressure and time constraints.  However the study expands the current literature by demonstrating that micro SME therapists experience further difficulties surrounding digital marketing adoption. These further difficulties are based on three interrelated themes firstly a lack of trust of marketing experts and secondly the need for proof of effectiveness before investing in digital marketing training and thirdly the need for technical support as an adjunct to digital marketing training.


Research limitations/implications – The primary research undertaken is qualitative and exploratory in nature and therefore the findings are not generally applicable to the wider SME population.  Additionally, the data originates from one purposive database of therapists the majority of which are geographically located within Ireland.  Therefore the research context and the dataset limit the general application of the results to a wider population of therapists outside of Ireland.   However, the findings do represent an important starting point from which to develop a customer centric value proposition, customer analysis and a product differentiation and pricing strategy for the start-up.


Further research – A new theory to explain micro business owners reluctance to adopt digital marketing begins to emerge from the findings.   The importance of mindset and the need for trust and proof of effectiveness before investing in digital marketing training became evident.  Further research will be necessary to determine if these additional barriers are applicable to a broader micro SME population.


Digital marketing strategy – Findings from the primary research are used to develop a tactical strategy that is focused on launching the brand and acquiring new customers through content marketing. The recommended digital marketing strategy for the start-up uses the SOSTAC and RACE framework (Chaffey and Smith, 2013) to ensure compliance to industry best practice.


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Susan Wallace is a master of science graduate from Carlow Institute of Technology. Susan helps health professionals be the best, have the best and give their best to their clients.