Marketing for SMEs (small to medium enterprises) presents unique challenges and advantages. An SME might not have the momentum, size and power of a larger organization, but they are more agile, maneuverable, reactive and able to make decisions quickly.
The marketing challenges for a SME are no secret. Many small businesses don’t have the pre-existing marketing skills necessary for effective branding or the capacity to house an internal marketing team. Budgets are a lot smaller and determining how to allocate those resources can be difficult. A single failed campaign may be unnoticeable in the budget of a larger company, but can eat up an entire marketing budget for a SME. The end result is that many SMEs become very risk-averse, which is problematic because sometimes in marketing big risks breed success.
However, marketing for your SME doesn’t need to be an uphill battle if you capitalize on the advantages that your size affords your brand.
The advantages of marketing for SMEs
- Manage client experiences
SMEs are closer to their consumer, which means that your small or medium business is better able to manage client experiences directly than, say, the CEO of Walmart or McDonalds who has thousands of locations and millions of customers around the world.
- Keep consumer satisfaction at the center of all you do
Product and customer service issues can be rectified faster, and at a higher level in a SME – making the client feel more valued. Each client interaction informs the customer experience and shapes your brand perception. “Small businesses can give an exceptional ‘wow’ experience to each and every customer,” says Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. “They build meaningful relationships and cultivate a unique personality as a small business – important steps for retaining loyal customers as they continue to grow.”
- Capitalize on the flexibility of your brand
Brand flexibility is another major advantage for many SMEs, whose brand identity is still forming. Although you need a strong sense of self awareness and some growing pains are expected, SMEs are better able to alter course in response to issues affecting their brand than larger companies.
Steps to implement SME marketing
In order to properly take advantage of these three marketing opportunities, an SME needs to implement a solid marketing approach by following these steps:
With limited resources comes a greater need to lay out a plan of attack. Your marketing strategy should include:
• Market research – Take advantage of the consumer information that is now publically available online to build a fuller understanding of your clients. Also, ask yourself if your business has the infrastructure to handle a large increase in exposure and potential clients. Too many clients too quickly in an underdeveloped business can lead to customer dissatisfaction and ultimately harm your business.
• Set objectives – Using your market research create ambitious but realistic marketing targets. Take into account the nature of your business. What do you want to gain from your marketing? Do you want to generate sales directly, create leads, or build awareness? Don’t get pressured into spending more money than you need to and don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Make sure you follow your own plan to meet your own objectives.
- Be flexible
You’ve worked hard to develop a plan, but you need to check in with your objectives and make refinements as needed. As an SME your advantage is your flexibility. Even the best laid plans sometimes don’t work out. Don’t be afraid to be flexible – but remember there is a fine line between abandoning your plan and refining it. Be cautious, but decisive.
- Consult experts
If you have a limited marketing budget, and no in-house expertise then one of the best investments you can make is to consult an expert. Do as much research and planning as you can beforehand to ensure that the consultant can work efficiently to help you develop a plan (or work within yours). Local marketing professionals will also have a strong understanding of the local market and have important local connections that many SMEs lack.
- Go digital
The Internet has revolutionised marketing for SME – take advantage of it with your:
• Website – Websites are now a requirement. Some businesses may initially try to get away without one, but unless you are in a very informal and specialized industry you need a website. Shockingly, 49% of small businesses don’t have websites.
• Social Media and Blog – Social media provides your customers greater access to your company. Customer interaction is one of the SMEs biggest advantages, leverage it with social media. Also consider launching a blog as an informal way to showcase your expertise.
- Don’t rule out traditional marketing
Don’t ignore the power of traditional marketing. You may have to spend a bit more, and should consider consulting an expert, but direct mail, print, radio and television ads are all adapting to the modern world and could be the best channel to reach your clients – which is why market research is so important!
Enjoy it. Richard Branson said “a business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better.” Marketing is about sharing your business with the world and helping others along the way. With solid objectives, the right plan, competent marketing expertise and hard work you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy watching your SME grow.