With all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday hype at this time of year, focus tends to be on the big UK firms who can offer huge discounts on a wide range of stock. The shopping events certainly aren’t restricted to the big names in retail, but the smaller businesses out there don’t enjoy the same limelight.

This is where Small Business Saturday comes into play – a non-commercial initiative that aims to highlight the importance of small businesses to consumers and the UK economy. So, with this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some SME stats and cover a few pointers on how to compete with the big guns.


A look at the UK’s small business stats

First, let’s start of with a simple bit of defining the term small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). An SME typically refers to any company with less than 250 employees – including sole traders and single-person businesses.

In terms of the economic clout SMEs have in the UK, 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2015 were small businesses. Add medium-sized firms into the mix and you’re looking at a total of 99.9% of private sector businesses in the UK. There’s more too:

  • Small businesses employ 15.6 million people in the UK
  • That’s 60% of all our private sector workforce
  • SMEs turned over £1.8 trillion in 2014
  • That’s adds up to 47% of UK turnover from private business


This year a record 5.4 million SMEs were counted in Britain with London leading the SME population. The capital and its south-eastern and western neighbours make up nearly half the nation’s entire SME demographic, while London alone has almost twice the SMEs as the whole of Scotland.

So what do these stats mean? Well, essentially SMEs are the backbone of the UK’s economy and events like Small Business Saturday aim to make sure they get the attention they deserve.


The challenge for smaller businesses

It’s no secret in the world of small business that survival has become very difficult over the last decade or so. All you have to do is ask the butchers, bakers and other high street essentials that have been ousted by supermarkets and other giants. It’s not simply a question of big vs small though – just take a look at our recent post on Black Friday. Even the big retailers are struggling to get customers walking through the door when they can shop online.

So what’s the answer? The team over at Small Business Saturday certainly advocates taking the digital approach, but they also emphasise the importance of playing to your strengths. Bigger businesses may come with larger budgets, but SMEs can be more flexible when new opportunities arise – something you’ll need to master as a small business owner.

This highlights the importance of keeping up with the latest industry trends, especially in the fast-moving digital sector. Are you still using SEO tactics from five years ago in the hope of generating business? Let’s hope not. But, just in case you’re in need of an update, here are some quick-fire updates to point you in the right direction:


  • Organic search is important, but SMEs face an uphill task in getting onto page one.
  • Paid search is the only way to get fast traffic these days, so explore low-budget PPC strategies to make things happen quicker.
  • Combine your PPC with local SEO techniques if they apply to your business (Google Maps, directories, etc.)
  • Stop worrying about viral content on social media and focus on customer service.
  • Take a good look at paid social to see if you can make it work for your business.
  • Ditch the repetitive blog format and really ask yourself what kind of content is going to solve your readers’ problems.
  • Don’t be generic with your content, marketing messages, campaigns or anything else. You can’t convert every user, so focus on the people likely to buy into your services and convert as may of them as you can.
  • Create a sales funnel with your content – all the way from social media, through to your blog page, and on to product or service pages. Don’t play hard-sell, but pave the path and do what you can to gently nudge people in the right direction.
  • Take web design and user experience beyond seriously.
  • Forget the online/offline divide – it’s time to start merging your digital and traditional marketing methods.


So, hopefully that puts the role of SMEs in the UK into some sort of context – and there are some amazing stats in there. If you’re still struggling to make your claim on the digital space as a small business and you can’t see the light, then feel free to get in touch with us (simply fill out the form below or give us a call).

Smaller businesses can make it in the online space, but you do need to be resourceful. Don’t let that scare you though – after all, you’re in this game to start with because you’re the kind of person who thrives on getting results.