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Small firm marketing: synthesising and supporting received wisdom

Aodheen O'Donnell (School of Communication, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 25 October 2011




It is acknowledged that while there is a paucity of marketing research focusing on small firms relative to larger firms, a significant contribution to this field has been made in recent years. However, while such research has proved useful, it remains quite disparate, and gleaning a current understanding of how small firms market their goods and services, is difficult. This paper aims to produce an empirically validated framework of small firm marketing activities.


A qualitative cross‐sectoral study of small firm marketing was undertaken. Semi‐structured, in‐depth interviews were conducted with 30 small firm owner‐managers. A literature derived, conceptual framework provided the basis for the interview guide.


The study confirmed that the nine key themes highlighted by a critical review of the literature represented the marketing practices in small firms. It offered some refinement to specific characteristics and activities within the themes and so offered an empirically supported model of small firm marketing.

Research limitations/implications

It is hoped that future research can use the framework as a means of demonstrating how various factors contribute to small firm marketing activities and indeed, offer further refinement and embellishment of the overall framework. This framework represents a baseline against which the effects of newly emerging phenomena can be assessed.


While much research has been undertaken in the field of small firm marketing, few attempts have been made to address the question: what are the key marketing activities in which small firms engage? This paper addresses this question and offers a flexible, cross‐sectoral representation of marketing practices in small firms.



O'Donnell, A. (2011), "Small firm marketing: synthesising and supporting received wisdom", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 781-805.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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