Sales and marketing concerns for small manufacturers

The ability of the UK's smaller manufacturers to help re-balance the economy is being put at risk because many are finding it difficult to promote their products in new and emerging markets.

A study by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that 26.2 per cent of respondents to the survey cited problems in reaching emerging markets as their top concern, above operations management (18.7 per cent), human resources issues (13.4 per cent) and new product development (12.1 per cent).

As a consequence, many smaller manufacturers consider that they need to amend their business and marketing strategies immediately (28 per cent) or within six months (23 per cent), compared with those willing to delay changes until later in the year (7 per cent) or the longer-term (13 per cent).

However, most firms said that they required more support and guidance when it comes to breaking into new markets.

In all, three-quarters of the smaller manufacturers surveyed think they will need help on sales and marketing in the coming six months, but almost one third (31 per cent) claimed that the necessary advice is not available to them.

Phil Orford, the FPB's chief executive, commented: "Smaller manufacturing businesses should be able to be more flexible than their larger competitors and can move into new and emerging markets more quickly as the economy recovers - but this is not going to happen by itself. Producing a sales and marketing strategy should be a top priority, not an afterthought.

"Customers are highly unlikely to seek out your services under their own steam so it is important that smaller manufacturing firms embrace all of the options that are available to get their message out there."

Elsewhere in the survey, just 20 per cent of firms said they believe 2011 will be easier for their businesses, compared with the 61 per cent who fear it will be even tougher.

However, one in ten are beginning to see an increase in new orders, with one in four saying they expect to do so within six months. Some 36 per cent expect to see a surge in orders in the 'longer term'.

Subsequently, only 6 per cent of respondents are looking to recruit staff at the present time; this contrasts with the 41 per cent that believe they will be creating new jobs only beyond the coming year.