Fortunately for entrepreneurs, the future may hold better news for improved marketing efforts. Tudor says many small-business owners he works with exhibit more sophistication over time. He says many entrepreneurs are beginning to recognize their weaknesses and are coming to him for help with such tasks as market research and strategic planning.
That doesn't mean they'll gain an edge on more advanced competitors who are continually refining their marketing tools. "The trend now is away from marketing to the masses and toward marketing to niches," Urban says. "That's something that's lost on a lot of small-business owners."
Some experts still insist small-business marketing isn't noticeably improving. "If anything, it's the opposite," says Gioia. "There's a lot of ignorance, a lot of waiting for the phone to ring and orders to come in."
It's likely small businesses will continue to be limited by time, money and knowledge to marketing efforts improvised on the fly. Still, while it may not be textbook, for many, it's all they have.