Marketing seems to be a Cinderella discipline in British small businesses, with over a third admitting to having no brand values or even acknowledging the strategic importance of marketing.
What's more, according to survey conducted by Loudhouse for Microsoft, only half of UK SMEs even have a dedicated marketing budget, a figure that falls to just four our of 10 in businesses with less than 10 employees.
The smallest companies with up to10 employees are also the least likely to have built any sort of brand with almost six out of 10 shunning the creation and communication of brand values within the business.
This is echoed in small business marketing activity, where there is a heavy focus on tactical sales activity over more in-depth marketing.
And it's a similar story as far as communications with the outside world are concerned, with two-thirds of SMEs lacking any clearly-defined house style and eight out of 10 letting material be sent out without it being checked by senior staff.
In contrast, growing businesses of 10-50 employees are far more likely to have implemented a brand strategy, with seven out of 10 having already introduced brand values.
But despite this, the overwhelming majority of marketers in small businesses – more than eight out of 10 – have less than five years experience and do not have formal marketing qualifications. Two-thirds are even lacking in previous sales experience.
What's more, marketing's lowly status is underscored by the fact that almost half (43 per cent) of those responsible for customers, sales or marketing receive no formal training or briefing for their roles.
"Creating a genuine identity for your business can have a major effect on the success of your company and a direct impact on your bottom line," said Karl Noakes, head of small business at Microsoft UK.
"But, brand strategy can conjure up images of expensive management consultants and designers' fees. Almost half of small businesses are limiting their marketing due to budget constraints but developing a brand doesn't have to be a costly process.
"Think about what you're selling and why customers choose your product or service," he added. "Identify the promise you're making to your customers. Next, develop a set of values you can consistently communicate. Make sure your brand appears across the whole of your business and especially in all your marketing materials"