SME practice towards integrated marketing communications

Veronica Gabrielli (Social, Cognitive and Quantitative Sciences Department, Communication Sciences and Economics Faculty, Reggio Emilia, Italy)
Bernardo Balboni (Business Studies Department, Economics Faculty, Modena, Italy)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Publication date: 11 May 2010



The purpose of this paper is to discover and empirically test the gap between the theory and practice of integrated marketing communications (IMC) in small‐ and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs).


The paper follows a quantitative approach, using the questionnaire technique. Questionnaire items emerged from a literature review and a qualitative step (in‐depth interviews). The questionnaire was submitted to a sample of 210 manufacturing firms. Factor and cluster analysis were performed in order to give a descriptive overview of different communication behavioral profiles within SMEs.


The sample shows evidence of a certain ability in marketing communication management on the part of SMEs. A group of virtuous firms able to employ a great variety of communication tools, to define in‐depth and consistent messages and to declare ambitious and long‐term goals appears. However, these firms do not adequately manage the internal organizational process aimed at marketing communication planning. As well as these virtuous firms, a large group of firms which show more gaps including in their range of activities, message, and goal definition, still exists. Structural characteristics are useful but not exhaustive in order to understand the existence of such a distance between SMEs active in communications and those with greater communication gaps. Besides, structural characteristics, internal dynamism proves to be one of the most important motivating factors in marketing communications.

Research limitations/implications

Although this paper is restricted to a small sample, it constitutes a significant starting point in attaching importance to marketing communications within SMEs.

Practical implications

From this paper, practitioners may understand where intervention guidelines are needed in order to improve a marketing communications plan for a small or medium enterprise.


Owing to the focus of previous research on large company practices, this paper represents an original trial to empirically apply the IMC approach only within SMEs.



Gabrielli, V. and Balboni, B. (2010), "SME practice towards integrated marketing communications", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 275-290.

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