At the moment we are focusing on the process of marketing, and looking at managing it for sustainable long term gain rather than short term wins. This is often at odds with the thinking re marketing within SMEs where the focus tends to be on the more short term priorities:
- Leads and short term business development
- Analytics and measurement
- Brand, and tone of voice in communications
Since the 80’s I have worked in marketing in both the corporate and SME world, through the birth and growth of the digital marketing age, and in my experience: Corporates and well funded startups (successful ones at least) focus on building the brand whilst SMEs tend to focus on generating leads and short term business development. In reality this is not too surprising as traditionally, building the brand has been an expensive process that is 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 would suggest that to see real success & growth companies need to look longer term and think more about building the brand. And this, I believe is where the real potential of digital marketing lies for SMEs.
Marketing tends to be sold on short term gains
Look at how digital marketing is sold and 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 “magic wands” that are sold by web marketers, and they are relatively easy to sell as they seem to offer highly measurable, short term benefits. However in my experience, they invariably disappoint! Now don’t get me wrong, they 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.
The value of a brand
Lets face it, all really successful companies have one thing in common. They have a strong brand, and marketing is focused on maintaining & 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, sales & profitability tend to follow. Within this context the elements described above become tools in the process of building a brand an a planned & measured way. But the ultimate goal is the development of the brand, not the optimisation of individual metrics.
That’s fine but is it relevannt to SMEs
“That’s great in the resource rich corporate world” I hear you say, “But how does that relate to me?” I would suggest that through digital marketing, every micro and SME business now has the potential to build a brand. But by focusing on the short rather than long term they are missing out on this opportunity. Let’a look at the process of building a brand. 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
It’s easy to say, but slightly more difficult to bring to reality! But unlike becoming an instant millionaire, developing a strong brand is well within the capacity of most business owners, Ultimately maybe even delivering the million! It does require a significant shift in mind set and the willingness and resources to commit to investing in marketing. However the digital marketing tools now available mean that investment need not be substantial. Furthermore the investmentis not always purely financial, and in my experience is well within the reach of most micro and SME businesses.
We can Help
BSA Marketing are specialists in supporting businesses through this process. Helping them to build their brand through the use of digital marketing. In this recent post, I look at how taking this approach is starting to pay dividends for one organisation we work with. A story that’s hopefully familiar to others with whom we work. Feel free to post you experiences as comments on this blog. If this has inspired you to rethink you marketing and want to explore the possibilities, for your business, we would love to talk to you.