Editor’s Question: What’s the best marketing strategy for SMEs?

Editor’s Question: What’s the best marketing strategy for SMEs?

Marketing is a crucial part of an SME’s business plan but they tend not to have a big budget to carry out their marketing strategy. So, how can they ensure that they reach the right people and boost their sales and growth?

Experts in this section suggest the most cost-effective ways to do this. The most important aspect is targeting the right people – those who are genuinely interested in your product. And they also explore which marketing channels are a good option for SMEs.

Kyle Wong, Chief Strategy Officer, Emplifi and Founder, Pixlee TurnTo, said: “For SMEs, customer loyalty is the most critical factor driving revenue. It sounds simple, but human connection is vital to ensuring long-term loyalty. Costly and segmented B2B and B2C marketing strategies are no longer effective. Instead, SME brands should focus on all customer touchpoints with a B2H strategy – that’s business to human. 

“Human connection is crucial to ensure long-term customer loyalty. One way to create this connection is through social media. Customers now take their questions and concerns straight to social channels, expecting near-immediate responses and gratification. The modern consumer is opting to communicate with brands via social media more than any other channel. More than half (52%) of consumers now expect to receive a response within one hour. 

“To meet these expectations, SMEs should consider a social listening and management solution that can automatically flag and route high-priority posts and messages to the most appropriate team member, accompanied by data-driven context so they can address the issue quickly and effectively.

“Ultimately, these B2H capabilities will be a competitive differentiator for SMEs in 2023 and key to building long-term, profitable customer relationships.

“Cost-effective marketing is a necessity for any SME. Social media and word of mouth marketing are two of the most cost-effective marketing channels for SMEs to find and attract new customers.”

Meggan Liebenberg, Co-owner, INK&Co:

We all know that there is the textbook version of this question answered – which outlines the standard focus areas and steps to take, including:

  • Defining target audiences
  • Develop strong brand strategies
  • Focus on content marketing
  • Leverage social media
  • Utilise email marketing
  • Measure and analyse results

Following these steps is all well and good – and a marketing professional worth any salt will be able to service this list effectively and within budget. However, there are elements to consider that don’t follow so called ‘textbook’ formats. And for a SME, in particular, if budget only allows certain marketing elements, examine these I’ve outlined below, as the priority.

First and foremost, no amount of marketing, target audience-defining or social media advertising will impact any type of business bottom line positively – if service ease and service excellence are neglected. Brand value is defined by experience. While marketing’s job is to reinforce a brand – it’s the service experience that it is actually reinforcing. Without good service experience – any marketing budget is wasted. What often defines a SME is its ability to react quicker and deliver better.

Another key element is internal communications. This is significantly more important to get right than even external communications. How can any brand be successful if its ambassadors (employees and stakeholders) are not its number one priority? Communication in business – as in life – promotes understanding, creates trust and builds value. And the real brand ambassadors to a business are its people.

Another critical viewpoint to successful marketing strategies for SMEs is to have a community mindset. Marketing should be highly valued but never a rip-off. Business viability is a two-way street. Too often we get called in to support a brand that is disillusioned with its marketing efforts due to heavy costs vs low experience (ironic that), but still requiring marketing efforts urgently. It’s an ethical duty as members of this SME economy to service each other with respect and fairness. Partner with community mindset people. It changes business landscapes.

Finally, and to really define your marketing strategy success is to, pick a hill and conquer it’understand what you want to be famous for. SME marketing should be focused. Don’t be all things, to all sectors. Decide what is most important to your vision and your success and conquer that hill, and only then move on to the next – and don’t be side-tracked by what your competitors are doing. To put this into context; I once had a SME client that met an annual sales budget target from just one strategically placed article in a key vertical, read by only 300. A small audience, but a significant impact to the business’ bottom line as it was the right audience, and the right ‘hill’.

Marketing, when done correctly and for the right reasons should be significantly impactful. The trick, however, is to choose the right focus areas and deliver – the rest will follow.

Umar Akhtar, CMO, Qudo:

A clear and focused marketing strategy that uses data for personalised marketing is vital for SMEs hoping to stand out from the crowd. With a volatile economy and marketing budgets being cut left, right and centre, it’s crucial that SMEs consider whether their marketing strategy is working effectively.  

Each business and sector will have individual marketing tactics that work best for it, whether that be paid social media, advertising or a mix of several. Regardless of what tactics are used, every business has the same goals: attracting new customers and building loyalty to retain current ones.  

Personalised marketing is key to making an impact. Customers expect it but many companies can fall flat in delivering it, either by failing to understand consumer needs or by not personalising content appropriately. This means that SMEs need to ensure campaigns speak to customers about the products, solutions and issues that are most important to them.  

To make marketing campaigns more meaningful, teams must use data. Data-driven marketing goes hand-in-hand with personalised marketing. If companies want to gain the trust of existing customers and attract more, they need to understand their customers’ likes and dislikes, and this requires data. By not using data to inform campaigns, marketers are practically throwing money down the drain.  

There are several ways that marketers can use data and several types of data to choose from, but zero-party data is the hero – it is a goldmine for marketers. It ensures consumers have fully consented to the use of their data and thanks to anonymisation, consumers tend to be much more honest. Zero-party data also means that marketing teams can ask the exact questions needed to get answers and inform their overall marketing strategy. 

Personalised marketing backed by zero-party data is therefore the best strategy not only for SMEs, but for businesses of all sizes. Companies must understand their customers’ needs and wants and use this to inform their campaigns. If a business decides to ‘go in blind’ with its marketing strategy, it is almost guaranteed that time, money and resources will be wasted on unsuccessful campaigns.  

My message to marketers is that they must harness the power of zero-party data, as it unlocks the hidden treasure chest of consumer behaviour. It is a powerful tool that can not only make customers feel listened to, but also transform campaigns and spur business growth. That’s exactly why we built our platform – because we believe in empowering marketers with the best data for their strategies, be it for personalisation, content creation or for targeting insights.

Devesh Mistry, Co-founder, Red Blue Blur Ideas:

To remain competitive in today’s marketplace environment, small- to medium-sized businesses must be strategic in their marketing efforts – particularly when going up against much larger organisations.

Successful SMEs must focus on timeless principles such as top-notch user experience (UX), easy usability design and implementation, and omnichannel methods to spread their message across platforms effectively. Employing these vital components will afford these companies entry into broader markets while providing sturdy building blocks for sustainable success over time. To achieve a flawless user experience, incorporating user testing into your UX and usability strategy is fundamental.

When promoting growth, it’s crucial to have a solid digital marketing strategy covering SEO, PPC advertising, social media marketing and email campaigns. Pinpointing areas that require enhancement or improvement can help streamline your website and mobile interfaces, generating better results such as improved conversions. Choosing the most appropriate channels based on campaign objectives and the target market is vital for success. LinkedIn and email campaigns might be more effective for B2B campaigns targeted at decision-makers from other firms, while social media such as Instagram and Facebook can work better for straightforward interaction with customers in B2C campaigns.

Small- and medium-sized businesses looking to reach their target audience seamlessly understand the importance of integrating an omnichannel approach into their marketing strategy. With several devices and touchpoints available, companies must meet consumers’ expectations online and offline. The omnichannel approach allows SMEs to create consistent messaging across all channels, deepening their brand identity considerably.

Gone are the days when traditional advertising alone guaranteed business success. Small- and medium-sized enterprises must now adopt more effective marketing tactics to thrive in today’s competitive landscape. Integrating insights gleaned from various data points allows SMBs to generate campaigns that inspire a growing level of interest. By implementing omnichannel strategies and focusing on user experience optimisation, usability design and digital marketing, small businesses stand a chance to compete with large corporations while simultaneously bolstering their revenue streams.

Small business owners face an array of challenges in the modern economy: fierce competition from larger firms, rapidly evolving consumer preferences, ever-shifting technological paradigms, shifting economic trends… the list goes on. The key to success is staying nimble enough to respond effectively to these challenges – something SMEs are uniquely equipped to do thanks to their size advantage over larger corporations. Investing in an omnichannel marketing strategy will significantly benefit any small or medium-sized entrepreneur looking to improve customer satisfaction.

By focusing on creating superior value propositions supported by targeted marketing campaigns that are based on customer insights derived from thorough data analysis, small businesses will continue to thrive despite economic crises and disruptions.

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