I was watching Dragon’s Den yesterday. Two of the pitches got me to thinking about what it is to be in business and how you build your brand to promote what you do. The two pitches were very different. One won the Dragons’ approval, the other didn’t: Pitch 1 The pitcher had an events business, he had a good idea, and was generating turnover. To grow his business, he was successfully using Pay-per-click to generate leads that were converting into business. On the face of it, he was having success. However, when the Dragons dug into his business they identified that the “Sales promotion” he was undertaking was generating turnover but it was not building a profitable and sustainable business. The conclusion they came to was that whilst his business might be delivering an income for him, the lack of long terms planning or development of a brand meant it was not an investable business. Everything was simply too short-term. Pitch 2 A classic tech start-up. Their pitch was focussed on building the brand and awareness of what their product would do, rather than directly generating leads to sell their product. In essence, they were looking to build a business that had long-term value. The expectation that value would ultimately come from the sale of their products was almost a given. If the market trusted their company and products and had confidence they would deliver value, the market would buy. The priority was building long-term value rather than short-term sales. Not surprisingly, it was pitch 2 that won the favour of the Dragons and lead to investment offers. Interestingly, I am sure that pitch 2 also generated sales. In fact, I know it did because I went online and bought one! Hopefully, my story goes to illustrate a point…. Since the 1980’s I have worked in marketing in both the corporate and SME world, through the birth and growth of the digital marketing age. In my experience:
Corporates (successful ones at least) focus on building long-term value whilst SMEs tend to focus on generating leads and short-term business development.
This isn’t too surprising as traditionally, building long-term value has been an expensive process beyond the resources of smaller companies, whilst through taking the short-term approach most SMEs are able to build a moderately successful and profitable business (up to a point!). However, I suggest that to see real success and growth, companies need to look longer term and think more about building value rather than short-term sales. This is where the real potential of digital marketing lies for SMEs. Look at how digital marketing is sold; it’s all about the short term:
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Google/Social Media Advertising
- Website Conversion Optimisation
- Optimisation of the sales funnel
These are all pitched as “magic wands”. They are relatively easy to sell as they seem to offer highly measurable, short-term benefits. However, in my experience, they too often disappoint! Now don’t get me wrong, these tools are all potentially vital elements of successful marketing programmes, but my suggestion is that by focusing on them as the ultimate goal you are focusing on the wrong thing. Let’s face it, successful companies have one thing in common; they have a strong brand and their marketing is focused on maintaining value through developing that brand. By telling their story in a way that is relevant and attractive to their target market, people buy from them and (assuming their business model is sound and they actually deliver) sales, profitability and growth tend to follow. Within this context, the elements described above become tools in the process of building a brand in a planned and measured way. But the ultimate goal is the development of the brand, not the optimisation of individual metrics. “That’s great in the resource rich corporate world” I hear you say, “But how does it relate to me?” Through digital marketing, every micro and SME business now has the potential to build their own brand and to reap the associated successes that used to be only accessible to large, rich corporations. However, if a business focuses on the short, rather than long-term value, they are missing out on this opportunity. Let’s look at the process of building long-term value. I would argue it is a simple 4 step process:
- Understand what your business is about, and the value that you offer
- Understand your market and how they will perceive this value
- Use this to build your brand Story
- Engage with your market to tell your story using the tools offered by the digital age
Ok, this might be like saying becoming a millionaire is easy 2 step process:
- Invent something that earns you £10 per unit, and that no one else has thought of
- Persuade 100,000 people to buy one each
In reality, it’s easy to say, but slightly more difficult to bring to reality! But unlike becoming an instant millionaire, developing a long-term value through a strong brand is well within the capacity of most business owners, and ultimately may deliver the million! However, it does require a significant shift in mindset and the willingness and resources to commit to investing (and yes it is an investment) in marketing. However, the digital marketing tools now available mean that investment need not be substantial, is not always purely financial, and in my experience is well within the reach of most micro and SME businesses. As a business, BSA Marketing specialises in supporting businesses through this process and help them to build their brand through the use of digital marketing. Furthermore, we have access to financial support for SME businesses who would like to explore the process of brand building as a route to profitable growth.
I would like to finish on a real world illustration: About 6 weeks ago. a client asked for my input on the question of targeting “Google featured snippets”, where Google will highlight result from a website – A classic digital marketing “Magic Wand”. My response was rather than focus on the short-term goal of “Winning” a featured snippet, focus on the longer term objective of delivering valuable content that answers the questions people are asking, and in a format that makes it easy for Google to deliver. I am happy to say our Client followed my advice and on Friday I received an email saying that, as a result, Google was now using some of their content as a “Featured snippet” delivering valuable visits to their website. Despite not re-routing resources to “chase” the short term goal of appearing as a featured snippet, choosing instead to maintain focus on delivering great, valuable content for their market, they achieved their short-term goal as well. Win:Win! If this has inspired you to rethink you marketing and you’d like to explore the possibilities for your business, we would love to talk to you.