Although closely related, there are clear and recognised differences between Selling and Marketing. What is considered less often is the Marketing Spectrum. At one end is sales promotion, where the marketing goal is generating leads. Typically this is a short-term process. At the other end of the spectrum is brand marketing – a longer-term process – where the goal is building awareness, perception and understanding of the value your company delivers. Achieving this goal helps to ensure that when people in your market think of the products/services you supply, they think of you as a good place to buy. In larger (i.e. non-SME) companies, much of their marketing effort focuses on:
- Press Relations
- Brand Awareness
- Market Engagement
- Market Perceptions
This marketing activity isn’t so much about generating leads as managing how the company is perceived by their customers and markets. i.e. building the Brand. They know that a strong brand adds real value to their business.
The value of a brand
According to US business publishing giant Forbes, the most valuable brands in 2016 were:
- Apple. Brand value: $154.1 billion.
- Google(Alphabet). Brand value: $82.5 billion.
- Microsoft. Brand value: $75.2 billion.
- Coca-Cola. Brand value: $58.5 billion.
Clearly, building a brand is a great way of adding real value to a business! The fundamental value in these businesses is their brand. Think about it, if any big brand launches a new product or service, they get noticed, and they try to be very careful that their new offering reinforces their brand – though if you remember Dasani Water launched by Coca Coca-Cola in 1999, even the big boys don’t always get it right first time! You can read the article here This said, despite the initial problems, the power of the Coca-Cola brand marketing machine didn’t let them down! In the year to May 2016, Dasani held a US market share of 9.9% worth some $1Billion in sales (Source) But is Brand Marketing relevant to the SME sector?
So what has this got to do with me?
Every business – even your’s – has a brand, and your brand has a real and sustainable value; yet for the majority of SME businesses, when owners and managers think of marketing, their primary focus is on sales promotion, generating leads. Leads can deliver short-term revenue but it is a growing brand that delivers sustained business value. When a business focuses on sales promotion, if a particular activity doesn’t deliver on expectations then the ‘marketing’ stops. There can then be a period of little or no market communication and engagement while the next lead generation plan is put together. Don’t get me wrong, lead generation is important for sales and revenue but sales promotion isn’t really building the business brand which is what grows the business value.
SME brand building
By building your own brand you grow real substance in your business – a platform which can deliver value, performance and impact to your sales promotion.
A well-structured marketing process should encompass brand building as well as lead generation
Amongst SMEs, brand building is too often ignored. I think a key reason for this is cost perception. Brand marketing can be seen as an expensive luxury because it doesn’t drive perceptible short-term sales which are the focus of many SME businesses. However, building your brand in the shorter term can have a real impact on your sales promotion in the medium and longer term.
The more people know and trust your business, the more notice they will take of your promotional efforts.
Although it is true that 20 years ago, brand marketing needed deep pockets, it is absolutely not the case today; yet there is still an issue – there is a quandary in SME marketing.
The lure of Sales Promotion
Because many SME businesses equate marketing with sales promotion there is a plethora of companies that have grown up offering marketing (sales promotion) services to meet this demand. These services can look appealing so the bias continues – even though, in practice, the services offered (and paid for!) don’t always quite meet the expectations of the SME => Time to go and look for another source of leads!
There is an untapped opportunity for SME businesses...
I guess the lead generation dilemma will continue but there is still an untapped opportunity for SME businesses to benefit from exploring the wider marketing spectrum and consider brand marketing. As I mentioned above, as well as building business value, effective brand marketing will also have a positive impact on sales promotion – it is win-win.
How do I bring brand marketing into my business?
Here are my top 5 tips for making brand marketing a core element of your business development strategy:
- Create a written plan defining:
- Your key business proposition
- Your target market
- Why your proposition delivers real value benefit to your customers
- Use the above to develop a practical communications strategy and action plan to get your message out to your market
- Regularly review and refine your plan
- Stick at it Brand building takes time. You should see it as a consistent function of your ongoing business, something that you keep doing all the time.
- Don’t spend too much! This may sound like an odd thing to say but if you over-commit your resources (could be time, or money, or both) you will struggle to stick at it and sustained activity is essential. As a guide, I suggest limiting your ongoing brand marketing budget to no more than 0.5% -1% of your business turnover.
There is absolutely nothing to stop you developing and running your own brand marketing. There are lots of free tools online to help you. If, however, you would appreciate some support to get you going or keep you going please get in touch.