This research is the result of a need within the entrepreneurial community, amongst both existing businesses as well as aspiring entrepreneurs, to pay attention to the marketing skills, abilities and activities required to navigate in the rapidly changing business environment in which they operate. It’s no longer enough that an entrepreneur only possesses the entrepreneurial will and drive to start an enterprise. In order to succeed and thrive, they require a skill set that needs to be employed from the beginning. The ability of the entrepreneur to successfully market their business, particularly in the early phases of development, is a crucial skill that can ensure the survival of the enterprise.
The research comprised of sixteen in-depth interviews with existing entrepreneurs in South Africa, as well as four with experts in the fields of SMEs and Marketing. All of the interviews were conducted face-to-face, with the exception of one of the SME and Marketing experts, whose interview was conducted telephonically. The interviews followed a semi-structured discussion guide that allowed for variations in the discussion as required.
A number of the entrepreneurs interviewed had not conducted any marketing planning in the start-up phase of their ventures, yet succeeded. The entrepreneurs did, however, practice ad-hoc marketing activities in the early stages of their business, as well as networking with customers, suppliers and their industry. It was also found that the respondents’ knowledge of how to market their businesses increased over time, and as their businesses matured, they allocated more significant resources towards marketing their businesses. The research project concludes that: whilst beneficial, upfront marketing planning is not essential for start-ups; networking and ad-hoc marketing is important for start-ups to practice; putting a significant allocation of resources towards marketing is valuable.