4.1. Creating Clusters of SMEs
The K-means cluster analysis was used to determine three clusters of SMEs operating in Slovakia according to the method of processing and using customer data, using the CRM and attitudes towards its effectiveness. Table 3
presents the results of testing using the Analysis of variance (ANOVA), which is a part of the cluster analysis options in SPSS to check results. However, the significance of the differences is, theoretically seen, not meaningful, and therefore, it is not possible to test the hypotheses. It is especially due to the fact that cases are grouped so that the vectors differ as much as possible. The significance of differences is supported artificially this way. The value F also indicates the attribute most significant when selecting cases into clusters. The higher the value was, the more significant the attribute was. Table 3
shows that using databases for marketing communication and the established CRM as well as looking at its effectiveness are the attributes considered the most important in selection.
Consequently, using the descriptive statistics, it was possible to characterize three clusters:
1. Domestic Masters (33.1%)
The majority of cluster was formed (92.2%) by micro- (73.1%) and small (19.2%) enterprises, 82% of them made up by domestic property. In cluster 1, 36% of all studied micro enterprises, 34.2% of all small-sized enterprises, and 18.6 of all medium-sized enterprises were represented. The role of 74.6% of Slovak management was decisive in the marketing programs. These SMEs created customer databases (97% create and 3% cannot assess), and subsequently, they used them in marketing communication (100% of all respondents). On the other hand, they did not use this database for other marketing purposes (only 12.6% use it for other marketing purposes). Marketing programs were of a regional character (43.4%), and at the same time, compared to the other two clusters, their programs were mostly national (up to 41.0%). Their marketing programs also included sponsorship (up to 60.5%). The CRM system was not used by these companies (their use is stated by 0%, and 27.8% cannot assess it), and therefore, they did not have a clear opinion on their efficiency (they consider it neither effective nor ineffective); the respondents stated that they could not judge it. Marketing communication of these SMEs were in compliance with their own code of ethics (52.4%) and on the other hand, 84.1% of them did not follow the code of ethics applied in the industry or area of activity. Cluster members (75.1%) did not apply the principles of socially responsible marketing in marketing communication; however, compared to cluster 3, there was a statistically significant difference (Tables 9 and 10) because it was a group that generally applied this principle (24.9%). The principles of integrated marketing communication (82.9%) and holistic marketing (98.8%) were not used by these SMEs.
2. Larger Experienced Players (31.6%)
This cluster was formed by micro- (52.4%), small (22.6%) and medium-sized enterprises (25.1%) with the largest foreign investment of majority owners of all cluster (28.5%). The share of the Slovak management was the lowest in these companies in terms of decisive role in marketing activities (63.3%) compared to other clusters. In cluster 2, 24.7% of all studied micro-enterprises, 36.7% of all small-sized enterprises, and 57.1% of all medium-sized enterprises were represented. Members of this cluster created customer databases (95.9% create, 1.3% cannot assess, and 2.8% do not create them), and by more than a half of them, it was used in marketing communication (88.1% use it and 11.9% do not). Only 22.6% of the SMEs in this cluster used their databases for other marketing purposes. This was the cluster focused most on marketing activities with an international scope (28.5% for this cluster; cluster 1 = 15.6%, cluster 3 = 11%). Sponsorship (up to 60.2%) was included in the marketing programs of these cluster members. The members of this cluster used CRM (96.6% say they are using it, and 2.8% cannot assess it) actively, and 54.5% considered it effective, 42.9% partially effective. Marketing communication of these companies were governed by their own code of ethics (up to 73.4%), and 73.7% did not even take into account the code of ethics applied by industry or area of activity. Only a minority of SMEs (36.4%) followed the principles of integrated marketing communications, but they were the largest group of clusters ever (in cluster 1, it is 17.1%, and in cluster 3, it is 14.9%). Cluster members followed neither the principles of socially responsible marketing (81.5%) nor the holistic approach in marketing communication (90.3%).
3. Marketing Passivists (35.3%)
The members of this cluster were mainly small enterprises (90.4–74.7% of micro- and 15.7% of small enterprises) with 92.7% of the domestic majority owner, and thus, the overwhelming majority of the decisions regarding marketing activities were local. In cluster 3, 39.3% of all studied micro- enterprises, 28.3% of all small-sized enterprises, and 24.3% of all medium-sized enterprises were represented (that is 5.6% more than in cluster 1). This cluster was not strongly focused on creating customer databases (only 37.1% of SMEs create them, 17.4% cannot assess them, and 45.5% do not create them), and they, by no means, used them in marketing communication (100% do not use them). A small part of this cluster used the customer database for other marketing purposes (6.5%). Marketing activities of this cluster had the most regional character compared to other clusters (58.7%), and compared to clusters 1 and 2, they did not focus on sponsorship (64.3%). From the point of view of using CRM systems, they were not active users (only 12.4% use these systems, 57.3% do not explicitly use them, and 30.3% cannot assess it). The CRM system was considered effective by 0%, partially effective by 6.2%, and ineffective by 2.2%. The marketing communication of the vast majority of these SMEs did not follow their own code of ethics (72.5%), and 59.8% did not apply codes of ethics followed in their industry or area of activity. However, unlike other clusters, it is the cluster with the largest representation of SMEs, following the code of ethics applied within the industry or area of activity (40.2%). Marketing communications did not follow the principles of socially responsible marketing (84.8% of SMEs), integrated marketing communication (85.1%), and holistic marketing (98.9%).
The clusters present the three typical groups of SMEs were defined depending upon creating the databases, their way of using and applying the CRM, as well as attitude and its effectiveness. The first cluster of domestic masters was formed by 92.2% of micro- and small businesses, and domestic participation was in the cluster with the greatest percentage, 82%. Their marketing activities were nationwide compared to others. A typical feature of these cluster members was that they create customer databases and they use them in their marketing communication activities. On the contrary, these databases were not used for further marketing purposes, and in addition, the use of CRM was not mentioned. Compared to the other two clusters, these businesses followed their own code of ethics. Compared to marketing passivists (cluster 3), the principles of socially responsible marketing were applied in this cluster in a wider range. The Lager experienced players (cluster 2) have the largest percentage of medium-sized enterprises compared to clusters 1 and 3 (by 17.3% and 15.5%) as well as the largest percentage of enterprises with foreign equity. The character of marketing activities in this cluster was transnational to a greater extent in comparison to other clusters. Compared to clusters 1 and 3, the role of the Slovak management was the least decisive in terms of marketing activities in this cluster. A typical feature of the companies in this cluster was not only the focus on creating databases and their use in marketing communication but also the use of CRM; 97.4% of these enterprises evaluated CRM as partially to fully effective. Compared to clusters 1 and 3, the members of this cluster were most engaged in integrated and holistic marketing (although it is a minority). The cluster of marketing passivists (cluster 3) is formed mainly by micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises with domestic property. When deciding the marketing activities, the role of the majority of Slovak management was decisive and their marketing activities were mainly regional. These companies did not focus on creating databases, and therefore, the marketing communication was not used for other marketing purposes. CRM was not used, and therefore, its effectiveness was not evaluated as well. Unlike clusters 1 and 2, sponsorship was not included in their marketing programs. An interesting feature of this group of enterprises was that 40.2% kept within the code of ethics in the industry in which they operate.
4.2. Identification of Significant Differences between Clusters
Using the Tukey’s HSD test (at a significance level of 0.05), significant statistical differences between SMEs in particular clusters were analyzed in terms of enterprise size, territorial scope of marketing programs, inclusion of sponsorship in marketing programs, majority SME owners and decision-making predominance in marketing activities, incorporation of own or sector code of ethics, socially responsible marketing, integrated marketing communication, and holistic marketing in marketing communication programs. A significant difference in the representation of medium-sized enterprises in cluster 2 compared to clusters 1 and 3 when the share of medium-sized enterprises in Cluster 2 was higher than in other two clusters was determined using the test (Table 4
). In clusters 1 and 3, no significant difference was determined between enterprises in terms of their size. There was also a significant difference in terms of the territorial scope of marketing programs (Table 5
) between all clusters. Specific facts about the territorial scope of marketing programs are presented in detail in particular clusters. In terms of the inclusion of sponsorship in marketing programs (Table 6
), there is a significant difference between cluster 3 and clusters 1 and 2. The marketing programs of enterprises grouped in cluster 3 were of a much more regional character.
In terms of majority ownership of SMEs, a significant difference was identified between all clusters (Table 7
). Cluster 2 had a stronger foreign representation (28.5%) compared to cluster 1 (18%) and cluster 3 (3%). However, when marketing programs is discussed (Table 8
), cluster 2 was significantly different from the others. While in clusters 1 and 3 it is mainly the Slovak management that made decisions, in this cluster, the role of foreign decision making was decisive with the higher percentage (30%). Following the mentioned findings, the fact that in terms of the majority owner and decisive role in marketing programs the null hypothesis was rejected in favor of an alternative hypothesis can be seen.
The results of the ANOVA and Tukey’s HSD tests used to investigate the significant difference between SMEs in clusters in terms of applying selected principles in marketing communication—applying their own and industry codes of ethics, socially responsible marketing, integrated marketing communication and holistic marketing—are presented in Table 9
and Table 10
Following the ANOVA test (Table 9
), the Hypothesis H0
that these principles are equally applied in the SMEs of particular clusters was rejected in favor of an alternative hypothesis. The ANOVA results were confirmed by the Tukey HSD test (presented in Table 10
), and differences between clusters were specified. The results show that cluster 1 was significantly different in terms of applying its own code of ethics compared to clusters 2 and 3. SMEs in cluster 1 followed their own code of ethics in marketing communication: 24.9% (this is 6.4% more than in cluster 2 and 9.5% more than in cluster 3). The significant difference between all clusters was identified in the application of the code of ethics in the industry or area of activity in marketing communication. In cluster 3, it was up to 40.2% of SMEs applying the code of ethics. In cluster 1, the code of ethics was not applied by 84.1% of enterprises and, in cluster 2, by 73.7%. At a significance level of 0.05%, the Tukey’s HSD test showed a significant difference in applying the principles of socially responsible marketing in marketing communication programs between clusters 1 and 3. These principles were applied only to a very small extent in all clusters, but it was taken into account by the enterprises grouped in cluster 1 by more than 9.7% (24.9% of enterprises in cluster 1 apply them). In terms of applying the principles of integrated marketing communication and holistic marketing, cluster 2 was evaluated as significantly different from clusters 1 and 3. In both cases, enterprises grouped in this cluster apply them to a higher extent than clusters 1 and 3 (integrated marketing communication is applied by 36.4% and holistic marketing by 9.7% in cluster 2).
4.3. Verification of Working Hypotheses and Discussion
Using the K-means cluster analysis, three clusters were formed depending upon creating customer databases, upon using the formed databases and the introduced CRM, and upon evaluating its effectiveness and involving agency in the implementation of marketing communication programs. Subsequently, these clusters were analyzed in more detail, and their differences were examined in several aspects. Based on the results of this investigation, the proposed hypotheses can be verified:
The validity of hypotheses H1–H3 was accepted by the results of the ANOVA test, where the test showed statistically significant differences between the formed clusters in terms of the enterprise size, their majority owners, and their predominance in decision making and sponsorship. Subsequently, specific significant differences between clusters were determined using the Tukey’s HSD test (Table 4
, Table 5
, Table 6
, Table 7
and Table 8
). In terms of the enterprise size and distribution of decision-making competencies, there were significant differences between cluster 2 and the other two clusters (at a significance level of 5%). However, despite the assumption that customer database and CRM are used less often by smaller enterprises, there was no significant difference between clusters 1 and 3 in terms of the enterprise size. However, their approach to creating and using the databases and CRM is different. The significant difference between all clusters was in the case of territorial scope of marketing activities and the majority owner. It means that hypotheses were verified and formed clusters are significantly different in terms of the enterprise size, territorial scope of marketing activities, majority owner of an enterprise, and decision-making competencies in marketing.
Following the results of the ANOVA test, the proposed hypotheses H4–H8 (Table 9
) were verified. Statistically significant differences between the formed clusters in terms of incorporating the principles of the own or sector code of ethics, socially responsible marketing, integrated marketing communication, and holistic marketing into marketing communication programs were rejected. The results of the ANOVA test were confirmed by the Tukey’s HSD test (Table 10
), and specific correlation in terms of significant differences between the clusters were determined. There was significant difference between cluster 3 and clusters 1 and 2 in terms of sponsorship. Sponsorship was implemented by cluster 3 less often in comparison to other clusters. Hypothesis H4 was verified in favor of the alternative one. Applying the code of ethics in the industry that the enterprise operates or in the area of activity was significantly different between all clusters. Cluster 1 was significantly different from clusters 2 and 3 in applying its own code of ethics (Hypothesis H5 was rejected). Clusters 1 and 3 were significantly different in applying socially responsible marketing (Hypothesis H6 was verified), and cluster 2 was significantly different from clusters 1 and 3 in applying holistic and integrated marketing principles (Hypotheses H7 and H8 were verified).
Following the research results, enterprises grouped in cluster 1 fail to realize the potential of customer databases not only useful in marketing communication but also able to be applied in a wide range of marketing activities in the context of the marketing mix. In addition, the enterprises in this cluster should be encouraged to apply integrated marketing communication representing a combination of traditional marketing activities (e.g., point-of-sale advertising) and new aspects such as involvement of social media. One-third of enterprises grouped in cluster 2 applied integrated marketing communication supporting its rising importance and effectiveness. Marketing passivists grouped in cluster 3 can find themselves in a difficult situation in the near future as many of them have neither customer databases nor CRM systems so they can be easily put under pressure by international companies entering the Slovak market with more sophisticated marketing programs. Enterprises in all clusters more or less were applied neither socially responsible nor holistic marketing. However, modern cultures need interactive communication through modern media and enterprises can raise their customers’ awareness in the social sphere including environmental issues. A holistic marketing approach using integrated marketing communication is a powerful tool that, when applied responsibly, can even lead to creating a better world. It is clear that SMEs do not have the potential of large companies. However, gradual investments can also improve their competitiveness on the local market.
The importance of CRM implementation is supported by several presented research results showing positive relationship between the use of CRM and customer loyalty (or profit). Positive correlation between e-CRM, perceived quality of relationships, and subsequent customer loyalty was confirmed in the Hong Kong banking industry [73
]. In the area of cosmetic services in Beirut, there was also confirmed the positive impact of the examined elements of CRM (customer experience, employee behavior, and value proposition) on customer loyalty [74
]. The research carried out in Bali presented similar results, where the implementation of CRM played a positive role in the relationship between the perceived quality of service and customer’s loyalty [75
]. Samaniotis et al. [76
] published outputs confirming the positive relationship of successful CRM implementation in luxury Greek hotels, resulting in profit making. These studies suggested that successful CRM implementation can be a prerequisite for a positive impact on business performance and customer’s loyalty also in the SME environment. Several authors agree with this assumption based on their partial findings [70
]. Minh Ngo et al. [75
] confirmed the assumption that value delivered to customers will be a decisive factor in the long-term survival and prosperity of SMEs. Genuine confirmation of this relationship with SMEs provides a potential subject for further research. Also, there is a lack of research presenting the real use of CRM by SMEs in various regions in Europe or in the world (which would allow comparison). In the Czech Republic, there are research results showing the use of CRM in small and medium-sized enterprises. According to Pohludka [1
], 81% of SMEs (a sample of 319 enterprises) create customer databases. However, it does not mean they are also used for CRM. Conversely, 45% of SMEs use CRM, 3% of SMEs are in the implementation phase, 21% of SMEs consider the implementation, and 31% of SMEs do not consider implementing CRM (especially micro-enterprises). The research from the Moravian-Silesian region also presents interesting results [67
]. Knowledge of the concept of CRM in SMEs was enhanced by 39% in the last 5 years. At the level of customer contacts (between 2005 and 2015), there is a slight increase in SMEs recording each customer contact (7.2%), customer responses through a specialized department (2.6%), and evaluating contacts (6%). The findings that the number of SMEs (with no desired effect of using the CRM) was very low is consistent with the results presented in the paper. Only a small number of SMEs considered CRM ineffective. Also, both surveys from the Czech Republic and our findings partially confirmed that the use of CRM grows in terms of the size of the business was almost the same [1
]. Following the results mentioned in our paper, in the case of clusters 1 and 2 (mainly consisting of micro- and small enterprises with no significant difference in terms of the enterprise size), there are various approaches to creating and using customer database between studied groups. It is in compliance with the reasons mentioned by Guha et al. [13
], who presented that the key issues are the lack of resources, the management, personal data protection and control, and their quality evaluation and use.