Brand Experience

One-In-Three Small Businesses End Up in Marketing Dispute

22 March, 2024

The digital landscape has never been more critical for the success and growth of small businesses. As they navigate the complex world of online marketing, a staggering one-in-three find themselves embroiled in disputes with their digital marketing providers. Recent research highlights the precarious nature of these partnerships, with nearly 70% of small businesses severing ties with their digital marketing providers within the first year.

The imperative for harmony between businesses and their digital marketing collaborators has led to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, unveiling a best practice guide. This vital resource aims to align the expectations and needs of small businesses with the services offered by digital marketing experts.

Billson emphasized the transformative role digital platforms play in connecting small businesses with vast markets, both domestically and internationally. Given this pivotal role, the high rate of disputes is concerning and suggests a need for clearer communication and understanding on both sides.

The guide emerged from a collaborative study conducted by the University of the Sunshine Coast, delving into the unique challenges small businesses face when working with digital marketing service providers. The guide offers checklists that businesses can use to ensure a more effective partnership with their providers.

One key finding was that disputes often stemmed from a fundamental misalignment in expectations and understanding between the two parties. For small businesses, a digital marketing provider can be a crucial asset, aiding with online branding, search engine optimization, and crafting a comprehensive marketing strategy aimed at business growth.

The frequent breakdown of these relationships, with one-in-three culminating in dispute, signifies the urgent need for a more structured and mutually beneficial approach. The newly released guide offers pragmatic advice for small businesses on how to navigate these relationships successfully and forge a genuinely collaborative partnership.

Digital marketing providers also have a tailored guide to better comprehend the needs of their small business partners. The research pinpointed a lack of transparency from providers concerning risks, service details, timeframes, outcomes, and the imperative of collaboration.

One striking concern was the digital literacy gap among small business owners, which left them ill-equipped to ask pertinent questions or critically assess the services offered. Providers, in some instances, took advantage of this gap, pushing expensive and unnecessary services onto uninformed clients.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Karen Sutherland, underscored the importance of open, informed, and sincere communication. Before forging a partnership, small businesses must have a clear understanding of their digital marketing needs, including budget constraints and realistic expectations. Questions around the scope of services, website domain ownership, social media control, and the specifics of contract terms need crystal-clear answers.

A touch of due diligence from small businesses can significantly mitigate the potential for issues. Research is key to discern whether a provider is well-suited to a particular business’s needs and objectives. Small businesses should invest effort into understanding prospective providers’ client history, capabilities, and fit for their own unique requirements.

Creating a focused vision of the desired outcomes, coupled with meticulous vetting of prospective marketing partners, can make all the difference. The best practice guides released by the Ombudsman serve as invaluable tools in this process, accessible at the

For those small businesses eager to maximize their Gym Marketing effectiveness or enhance their strategies for Advertising For Gyms, these guidelines are crucial. Whether it’s about enhancing Gym Lead Generation or crafting Facebook Ads that resonate, aligning with a provider that understands these needs is paramount.

For additional support or in cases of dispute, the Ombudsman’s office stands ready to assist. Small businesses seeking guidance or facing issues can reach out for help at With these resources and a proactive approach, small businesses can confidently step into the digital marketing sphere, knowing that More Gym Members and expanded market reach is within their grasp.