46 ERIE 2020
The aim of this paper is to identify the educational needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
in the eld of online marketing. This paper extends a local Czech study via international research
(Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Italy). Primary data was gathered using an electronic questionnaire
(n = 376) focused on the enterprise side and semi-structured interviews (n = 18) with online
marketing agencies. Based on a comparison of questionnaire survey results and semi-structured
interviews the main problem areas in the eective use of the online marketing tools were identied
(complexity of the individual tools; lack of human resources, time and nance, bad previous
experience; lack of knowledge and competencies). The research results indicate the denition of
recommendations for micro and small enterprises - the main emphasis should be given to create
a course that will create specialists for communication with online marketing agencies with the
general knowledge of each online marketing tool.
Education, on-line marketing, micro enterprise, small and medium enterprise, outsourcing
SMEs play an important role in the national economics of all countries (Gancarczyk and
Gancarczyk, 2018). They support the country’s economy (Macpherson and Hold, 2007) and play
an important role in reducing the country’s unemployment (Woźniak et al., 2019). In the current
globalized society with the highly linked markets, these SMEs face major challenges (Paul and
Rosado-Serrano, 2019). SMEs have many strengths and weaknesses. Adequate nancial resources
like lack of liquid capital (Masroor and Asim, 2019), lack of personnel education connected to
environmental management (Lee, 2009), and low sta education (Nikolaou et al., 2016) are
commonly considered as main weaknesses.
The world is getting more and more globalized and people have started to change their buying
behaviour (Sobol et al., 2018). Internet usage and internet purchasing are increasing (Pernot,
2020) and the path of purchase is changing overall (Xu et al., 2014). Individual online marketing
channels increase complexity and start to be a challenge for companies (Anderl et al., 2016). Each
of the online marketing tools are already so highly complex, that it is not possible to manage them
eectively by one person (Pokorná and Pilař, 2014). Companies are often focused on the activities
in which they have very good knowledge, such as oine advertising and sales support, but they
still lack the sucient knowledge to reect the modern technological environment, such as online
WHERE TO INVEST IN ONLINE MARKETING EDUCATION IN MICRO AND
1Francesca Cabiddu, 1Ludovica Moi, 2Pia Jaaskelainen, 3*Ladislav Pilař,
4Jana Pitrová, 5Rosen Petkov
1 Department of Economic and Business Science, Università degli studi di Cagliari, Italy
2South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, Finland
3Department of Management, Faculty of Economics and Management, Czech University of Life
Sciences Prague, Czech Republic, firstname.lastname@example.org
4Department of Management, Faculty of Economics and Management, Czech University of Life
Sciences Prague, Czech Republic
5Technical university of Soﬁa, Bulgaria
ERIE 2020 47
marketing tools like Websites, Social Sites, E-mail marketing, PPC advertising etc. (Semerádová
and Vávrová, 2016; Claudiu-Dan, 2015; Pauwels et al., 2016).
The great advantage of using individual online marketing tools is the possibility of shortening
the supply chain and selling products directly to consumers, which is exactly the advantage that
can be obtained through selling online (Chakraborty et al., 2018; Sui and Rejeski, 2002). One
of the reasons why most companies do not sell their products or services directly to the nal
customers is the lack of nancial resources to carry out direct marketing (Kiang et al., 2000).
Online marketing, however, is a way to target the end consumer nancially highly eectively
(Lessmann et al., 2019).
Against this backdrop, this paper´s aim is to elucidate the problematic areas in the use of the
online marketing tools, to identify the main educational needs of small and medium enterprises
(SMEs) in the eld of online marketing.
Materials and Methods
For the data, an electronic questionnaire was administered to the employees and the CEOs of
rms with dierent sizes (i.e., <10 employees; <50 employees; <250 employees). A total of
376 responses were received from ve countries (Bulgaria, Czech, Finland, Hungary, Italy),
for details see table 1. The data was collected from December 2019 to February 2020. The
questionnaire aimed at investigating two crucial topics. Firstly, what online marketing activities
are created internally or externally. Secondly, in what areas do companies recognize the greatest
opportunities for improvement. The questionnaire contained 3 categorization questions, focusing
on sector, company size, location and 6 questions focused on the use of individual online
marketing tools in the company (see table 2) and 6 questions focused on the need to improvement
in individual online marketing tools (see table 3), both of these areas were possible to answer
through a 5-degree Likert scale. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to conrm the dierence based
on the size of the enterprise.
Concurrently, randomly selected marketing agencies were contacted with semi-structured
interviews. A total of 18 interviews were conducted. The aim of this interview was to identify
problems in working with SMEs companies in the implementation of online marketing activities.
Czech Bulgaria Finland Hungary Italy Sum
micro <10 70 14 34 25 44 187
small <50 46 10 28 4 18 106
medium <250 56 4 16 1 6 83
Online marketing agencies 9333321
Table 1: Structure of the questionnaire survey
Result and Discussion
In the questionnaire survey, micro enterprises (<10 employees) prevailed in all countries. The rst
analysis area by the enterprises was focused on segmentation online marketing activities which are
created internally, externally, partly internally or not being used at all. The results revealed that in
the micro enterprises segment they mostly deal internally with following online marketing tools -
websites, social media, email marketing and analytics. On the other hand, they don´t handle all the
tools as SEO and PPC (see table 2). Small enterprises handle internally most of the areas (Website,
SEO, Social Media, E-mail marketing and Analytics) except PPC, which is usually not addressed
at all. Most of the medium-sized enterprises outsource SEO and handle internally Websites, PPC,
Social Media, Email Marketing and Analytics. On the contrary for PPC there is a consensus where
33% of companies deal with activities internally and 33% do not deal at all.
Based on these results, it is possible to identify that the websites are handled by SMEs through
48 ERIE 2020
internal resources. The micro enterprises do not solve the SEO, the small and medium-sized
enterprises through outsourcing. The least used is PPC, both for micro and small enterprises. For
medium-sized enterprises, there is a match between the use of internal resources and non-use. For
Social Media, e-mail Marketing and Analytics, the situation for micro, small and medium-sized
businesses is relatively the same, with the most internal resources used for these activities.
< 10 employees Website SEO PPC Social
Media E-mail Analytics
We do internally 55.61% 33.16% 26.20% 75.94% 52.41% 55.61%
We use outsourcing 14.97% 18.18% 17.11% 3.74% 6.42% 14.97%
Partly internally and partial
outsourcing 14.97% 5.35% 6.42% 6.95% 3.21% 14.97%
Not being used 14.44% 43.32% 50.27% 13.37% 37.97% 14.44%
< 50 employees Website SEO PPC Social
Media E-mail Analytics
We do internally 68.87% 43.40% 25.47% 71.70% 65.09% 68.87%
We use outsourcing 16.04% 23.58% 15.09% 5.66% 7.55% 16.04%
Partly internally and partial
outsourcing 12.26% 8.49% 5.66% 7.55% 2.83% 12.26%
Not being used 2.83% 24.53% 53.77% 15.09% 24.53% 2.83%
< 250 employees Website SEO PPC Social
Media E-mail Analytics
We do internally 59.04% 31.33% 33.73% 65.06% 68.67% 59.04%
We use outsourcing 4.82% 33.73% 10.84% 2.41% 1.20% 4.82%
Partly internally and partial
outsourcing 36.14% 25.30% 22.89% 4.82% 26.51% 36.14%
Not being used 0.00% 9.64% 32.53% 27.71% 3.61% 0.00%
Table 2: Usage of online marketing tools
These results need to be put in the context of the second part of the questionnaire survey, which
was focused on identication of the needs for improvement (see Table 3). From this part of the
research results that micro-enterprises and medium-sized enterprises need major improvement
based on self-evaluation in all areas. Medium-sized enterprises need major improvements in
Website and SEO, on the other hand they need a little improvement in the area of PPC, social
marketing, email marketing and Analytics.
ERIE 2020 49
< 10 employees Web SEO PPC SM E-mail Analytics
We need major
improvements 29.95% 43.32% 36.90% 39.57% 35.83% 38.50%
We need improvements 29.41% 25.67% 22.46% 26.74% 26.20% 33.16%
We need alittle
improvement 23.53% 11.76% 13.37% 20.32% 16.04% 11.23%
We handle ﬁne 17.11% 19.25% 27.27% 13.37% 21.93% 17.11%
< 50 employees Web SEO PPC SM E-mail Analytics
We need major
improvements 59.43% 64.15% 63.21% 48.11% 54.72% 70.75%
We need improvements 18.87% 14.15% 10.38% 21.70% 16.98% 10.38%
We need alittle
improvement 11.32% 11.32% 10.38% 20.75% 14.15% 9.43%
We handle ﬁne 10.38% 10.38% 16.04% 9.43% 14.15% 9.43%
< 250 employees Web SEO PPC SM E-mail Analytics
We need major
improvements 54.22% 53.01% 25.30% 28.92% 38.55% 36.14%
We need improvements 32.53% 7.23% 27.71% 30.12% 14.46% 16.87%
We need alittle
improvement 10.84% 37.35% 42.17% 34.94% 43.37% 40.96%
We handle ﬁne 2.41% 2.41% 4.82% 6.02% 3.61% 6.02%
Table 3: Self-evaluation in the area of on-line marketing activities improvement
The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to conrm the dierence based on the size of the enterprise. As
can be seen in Table 4, there are statistical dierences in three areas. Websites and Analytics in
category of management (insource or outsource) and PPC in area of improvement.
In area of Website, is possible to identify statistical dierence between micro-enterprises and
small businesses, and the dierence between small businesses and medium-sized businesses (see
table 4). This is due to the fact that in small businesses, about 69% of websites are designed as
internal activities. This is the largest share of all categories. Another area is analytics, namely the
dierence between micro and medium-sized enterprises, which is mainly due to the fact that about
15% of micro-enterprises do not use analytics at all.
In the area of improvements, it is the PPC area where a distinction can be found between micro
and small enterprises and between small and medium-sized enterprises. This is due to the fact that
about 63% of small businesses need major improvements.
Avs. B Avs. C B vs. C
Website -3.851 0.033 0.983 0.899 3.776 0.038
Analytics -0.396 0.992 -4.152 0.018 -3.619 0.051
PPC -5.399 <.001 -0.784 0.945 3.773 0.038
*A – micro-enterprise; B – small enterprise; C – medium enterprise
Table 4: e diﬀerence based on the size of the business in the use of online marketing tools and
the need to improve them in the business
The third part of the questionnaire survey was focused on identifying the main problem for
eective use of online marketing in their company.
Based on this question, the following barriers could be identied across countries:
• Sta competence is missing
• Lack of human resources
50 ERIE 2020
• Lack of nancial resources
• Distrust of a quality service provider
• Bad past experience
• Poor management’s willingness to invest in new communication channels
• Distrust in the eectiveness of online marketing
• High initial investment
• Lack of creativity
From the enterprises perspective, the biggest identied problem results from the combination
of several factors. Among them, missing employee in-depth competencies, the lack of adequate
human resources in terms of the time capacity of the current employees, and the lack of
nancial resources to recruit new employees, or selecting employees who would only take care
of online marketing. There is also a lack of trust in online marketing agencies because of poor
past experience, supported by management’s idea of the need for high initial investment which
prevents from pushing online marketing activities eectively.
Additionally, we extended and deepened the analysis of the problem through semi-structured
interviews with experts from online marketing agencies. Notably, they were asked to explain what
they see as a biggest obstacle in cooperating and working with the SME businesses. According to
their perspective, crucial issues can be related to:
• Lack of human resources and time - The most common problems are associated with
human resources. In the micro and small companies is often managing the online marketing
activities of a person who does not have proper competencies. Also, since this person is not
assigned fully for online marketing activities, another important factor is the lack of time by
such a person to properly dedicate to these activities.
• High cost pressure - The client does not thoroughly understand the complexity of individual
options and tools of online marketing. In order to use individual tools of online marketing
eectively, it is necessary to dedicate a specialized professional gure in this eld to each
• Unrealistic demands - There is a great diculty in nding a match between budget and
client expectations. In many cases, the budget rarely meets the needs and wants that clients
would like to achieve.
• Lack of ability to articulate fundamental business - Companies’ issues often translate
into troubles in setting up a suitable business vision and strategy, given the inability to dene
target groups, people and related marketing strategies
• Lack of knowledge - In most cases, companies do not catch the relevance of using online
marketing tools from a business perspective. They do not understand their potential in terms
of advantages, disadvantages, possibilities of targeting and measuring.
• Bad experience - The client tries individual tools of on-line marketing without the necessary
knowledge. For example, Google often oers a $ 40 voucher to try PPC. The client does not
have the necessary knowledge, the campaign sets up badly and is subsequently disappointed.
• Wrong/insucient problem denition - The client often does not have an overview of the
need to dene the objectives of individual activities. Whether the goal is to win customers,
get followers, educate, or inform social network users.
• Unwillingness to test new things - Online marketing tools today oer a wealth of techniques
to target a customer and how to link individual tools to reach a user. The client often is not
aware about these options, thus is reluctant to trust them.
• Unwillingness to invest money in analyses - Analyses are an important step before starting
any marketing campaign. The client does not want to put money into conducting such analyses
and insists on his or her opinion, which may not obstacle to reach the predened goal.
ERIE 2020 51
• Selling services to companies, when you speak “dierent” language - The client does
not know the terms such as CPC, CTR, retargeting, etc. Then, the communication is led to
the wrong direction, without appreciating the real benets of segmentation and targeting of
By comparing the questionnaire survey on the part of entrepreneurs and the semi-structured
interviews on the part of experts from online marketing agencies, the main problems can be
identied as lack of human resources, time and nancing and from others bad previous experience.
These results are conrmed by studies by Cerratio and Piva (2012), which identify the lack of
human resource as one of the main problems in entering international markets, which is due to
online (Reuschke and Mason, 2020). Nowadays, the tools of online marketing are so sophisticated
and digital technology has been transforming globally (Sharma et al., 2020). They oer so many
options that are not possible to use eectively their full potential by using just the internal sources
of the micro and small enterprises, often represented by a single person, that is operating all these
areas in just part time of his working activity.
The problem of human resource has been identied from both sides. The low-cost attitude of
SME leads to dedication of the online marketing tools management to an employee who is in
charge also of other company activities and therefore has no time to be following the current
trend and options of each online marketing tools, which leads to the non-eective use of the
online tools. That also results in the bad experience with the tools and entrepreneurs are getting
distrustful. These facts are also supported by the result of the questionnaire survey, where both
micro and small entrepreneurs on the basis of self-evaluation need major improvement in all
online marketing tools, but at the same time do not have human resources and time.
One solution to the lack of human resources could be outsourcing, that is often used by the
Medium Enterprises especially. The study of Porto and Abreu (2018) showed, that decisions
to outsource pays o for the companies when there is an increase in advertising spending, but
low levels of investment bring the highest return on sales. The decision not to outsource to an
advertising agency with low advertising expenses seems to be the most satisfactory to generate
prot return for a small rm.
Given the lack of money and human resources, it is possible to recommend courses that applicants
will be able to complete online in accordance with their workload. Here, LMS Moodle is an ideal
solution, which is currently an important tool for teaching (Beranek and Remes, 2016).
Individual online marketing tools are an eective means of attracting and retaining customers
and increasing their competitiveness in today’s global market. The main problem of the online
marketing tools for micro and small enterprises lies in their complexity, which exceeds the
capacities of one employee. This employee is supposed to be able to manage all these tools
together with following the newest trends and managing also other activities of his scope of
work. In the other words, the main recommendation based on the research results is that micro
and small companies should be using the services of professional marketing agencies and provide
their employees which are responsible for managing the online marketing necessary training in
the eld of general orientation in online marketing tools, campaign goals and their measurements.
Conclusion of the research supports the results of the local CZ study of Pokorná and Pilař (2012),
which suggested a need of focusing on the micro enterprises employees´ education in their ability
to communicate with the online marketing agencies and leave the management of these tools on
the marketing agencies. This research conrms and extends these results to small entrepreneurs
(<50 employees) and evaluates these results through the international study.
52 ERIE 2020
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication
reects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use
which may be made of the information contained therein. Project reference number: 2019-1-CZ01-
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