by | Feb 12, 2024 | Business Building Musts, Marketing Strategies, Small Business Help

As you may or may not know I am one of the 5 Australian Business Thought Leaders who run the annual Big Small Business Survey, and the results for the 2023 are in and I’m sharing with you here some of the key issues from the survey findings.

So, let me set the scene with some information on who participated in the survey:

  • 88.8% were from Australia
  • The major age demographic was 43-58 (Gen x) followed by Millennials and then Boomers
  • 30% had been in business 10+ years, with 15% being startups (less than 2 years) and almost 20% have been in business more than 20 years
  • Over 60% turnover less than 500K per annum, and
  • The majority of people (36%) worked with themselves, with 60% doing it from their homes!

The three biggest challenges in business right now for participants in the Big Small Business Survey were:

  • Understanding the best way to grow their business (34%)
  • How and where to find customers (30%) and
  • Not having enough leads (25%).

Interestingly only 4% said their concerns were around interest rates and 10% around consumer confidence – which I would say is the opposite to what we hear constantly in the news cycles.  I often wonder if the news outlets just make this stuff up or whether they actually talk to a small business owner or two!

I thought it was interesting that the top three were about growth in business – best ways to grow, need more customers, need more leads.  There is definitely something in that, when times are tough, small business owners dig in and grow rather than retract and hide.

Where the small business owners who participated thought their biggest opportunities for the next 12 months were are:

  • Creating new partnerships and collaborations
  • Systemising and scaling their business, and
  • Increase sales overall

If you’re in the business of teaching people how to create partnerships and collaborations or how to systemise and scale – you are 100% in the right place at the right time!

Katrina McCarter, one of my fellow thought leaders on this survey, is the queen of partnerships and collaborations – so make sure you touch base with her and be her super fan in the next twelve months.

But despite all the negativity and all the work it takes to be a small business owners, it would appear that we wouldn’t have it any other way!  Over half the people surveyed said the best thing about self employment is flexibility with 63% saying they get to choose the direction of their business, 34% saying they can make an impact on the world and 33% said that they enjoy not answering to anyone!

Would you agree? I am like yell yes, baby, that is one hundred percent me!

There were five categories in the survey

  • Staffing and training
  • Pricing
  • Marketing
  • Mental health, and
  • Technology

I am going to dig into the marketing results – surprised aren’t you!

“In tough economic times when people spend less money, having effective marketing is more important than ever. Strategy and consistency are key for brands that want to get noticed, get leads and maintain market share. Business owners are facing the multi-pronged challenge of deciding on a strategy, implementing it and maintaining the work they do to market their business. In 2023, they have found themselves overwhelmed by the number of options out there and confused about which approach is right for them. As a result, their efforts are inconsistent and they’re not achieving the returns they want.”   – Jenn Donovan

(Yes, that’s my quote from inside the results!!).

Here’s some of the results we found:

The biggest challenges when it comes to marketing were:

  • 57% – not being consistent with marketing efforts
  • 46% – challenged by not producing and delivering good quality content
  • 36% – not knowing what marketing strategy works best.

Interestingly, over 70% said they had a clear understanding of their target customer, with evidence to back that up and honestly, I’ve gotta say, I think they are kidding themselves.  Almost every small business owner who comes to me with a variety of issues, challenges or problems, they ALL stem back to not knowing who their target audience is, and where they hang out.  I think the problem is that we think we know, but we don’t.  We think we are our own target audience, and the fact is that we probably aren’t.

If 70% of small business owners truly knew who their target audience was, then marketing wouldn’t be overwhelming for almost 70% of them, you wouldn’t have issues with consistency with marketing – because you know your target audience and you would know exactly what strategy worked best.

And, from a marketing professional point of view, I think this is the root cause of so much angst around marketing – we think we know, but we do not.

Off my high horse now, more than half of the survey small business owners said they were using AI (like Chatgpt) in some aspects of their marketing, and 33% said they use social media several times a week to promote their business, 10% saying they use it multiple times a day.

Embracing AI is exciting and I am so pleased so many small business owners are exploring and being curious about AI and what it can do from them.

If you remember the second biggest challenge for small business owners was systemising and scaling their business – well AI can certainly help with that.  In fact, the gift from David Jennings, another one of my fellow co-thought leaders in this field offered a free webinar on just this for people who filled out the survey.  He might just give you access if you ask!

So, what’s the solution to all these issues? Clarity around marketing is key to success. Business owners struggle to find the time and access the support they need to work from the bottom up, by identifying their goals and then crafting a marketing strategy around them. The next step is to stay the course and produce consistent content in order to build audience and engagement.

So, what did you learn about small business owners like yourself in this blog? Anything new or did you just nod along because the results sound exactly like you and your current business journey?

I would love to hear from you over in my Like Minded Business Owners facebook group, and you are welcome to ask any of your marketing or business questions!

Or if you want to chat, get in touch.  Email me or DM me on Instagram or LinkedIn – I would love to hear from you.


I would love for you to book a free discovery call with me to talk about how I can help your nail your business goals, planning, strategy, marketing and social media! Simply click the link and grab a spot!

My Like Minded Business Owners Facebook group is also a great community to join – full of awesome people in small business!

Or you can DM me on Instagram or LinkedIn, or send me an email

I wish to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land, the Yorta Yorta People, on which I conduct my business today and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. I extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples reading this blog post today.

About the Author:

Jenn Donovan of Social Media & Marketing Australia.  Jenn’s an expert marketing coach and mentor from rural NSW. She is all about empowering business owners to earn what they’re worth so they can make a bigger difference in the world.  Not only is she a sought after expert on all things marketing for Small Business, she is a keynote speaker, author of Small Town Big Impact, was the Founder of Buy From a Bush Business and a Co-Founder of Spend With Us e-commerce marketplace, and is the host of the very popular podcast Small Business Made Simple and Stories from the Bush. Jenn is all about community and humans interacting with humans!  H2H Marketing – human to human marketing. Jenn talks the talk but importantly walks the walk!

Get in touch –

On Instagram – @jenndonovan_

On Facebook – Jenn Donovan

Or on LinkedIn as Jenn Donovan


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Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!

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