Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs), also known as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), are a phenomenon that have been registering a high growth rate across countries. While developing countries have seen a massive surge in SMBs in recent years.
As budget cuts are made across industry, all sizes of businesses are looking at digital marketing to provide more cost-effective, easily implementable and measurable outcomes. For SMBs in particular, going digital is often the best option, if not necessarily the last.
There are various factors that influence the success of SMBs, the most critical among them being technology. Not only does it affect workflow and automation, but it also helps generate awareness. In today’s complex, fast-paced and extremely dynamic digital environment, SMBs have increasingly realised they cannot stay aloof and taste success. Instead, they must gradually build an online presence that is consistent in tone, reflective of their values and synced with their larger goals.
So as everyone wants to send more email, get more subscribers, increase their open and click rates, enhance engagement, and gain more revenue. How do SMBs manage to stay ahead in the race, and ensure they’re not gobbled up by the bigger fish?
The need for digital: ‘us’ before ‘them’
According to a recent report from Borrell Associates, total spending on local advertising will increase 16% in 2016, while spending on online local advertising will increase 37% in 2016. 50% of all local ad dollars will be spent on digital in 2016.
Need we say more?
Clearly, SMBs cannot afford to stay behind in the game. Trend-assessment and forecasting in the digital space has become key to success. Trends such as worldwide increase in mobile handsets and accessibility of content, can help make crucial decisions for SMBs and tap into customers faster than ever before.
The focus has to be on quality improvement for a sustained and engaging digital presence, than expansion across multiple platforms and perform poorly on them. Well-executed content and campaigns, coupled with the right tactics and techniques, can greatly contribute to ensure success for SMBs in the digital landscape.
People love Google. So should SMBs. It’s important for SMBs that their search rankings only go higher with sound SEO strategies because people are simply going to ‘Google’ them. Influencers too can play a huge role in getting an SMB’s word-of-mouth campaign going. You want those who matter the most to speak the very best about you and your brand. As for email marketing, SMBs just have to be a cut above the rest. It’s the best way to reach out to prospective leads and optimise for fruitful conversions.
Where do you stand: needs assessment and competition analysis
From the work of Steinmetz and Greiner the concept of growth stages of a business include existence, survival and success. It can safely be said, that digital marketing needs to be interwoven into each stage, so as to reap benefits in the next.
A needs assessment can put planning for a digital strategy for an SMB into greater perspective
Questions worth answering here include analysis of current marketing efforts, kind of marketing channels currently used, identification of target audience and their demographic analysis, type of content that an SMBs requires to best convey its messages, goal-setting for the digital marketing plan and current budget allocation in place.
While a needs assessment will tell where you’re lacking, competition analysis will guide you on best practices. A competitor can teach a lot of successful strategies. Insights and knowledge gained from a competitor can greatly help outperform your competitors.
Present – but where?
Depending on the outcomes from needs and competition analysis, various channels and platforms must be identified as a means to reach out to varied audiences. Different platforms serve different purposes. Mapping requirements to the tools can help select and advantageously use the right tool. Social media industry forums and online communities, together or individually can be tapped into.
For example, consider an online events company. Depending on what it’s goals are, it will choose to be on Facebook or LinkedIn. If the idea is to drive sales, a facebook company page will serve better than a LinkedIn company page. Similarly, a twitter profile will serve better to give shout-outs to its customers, thank them and drive engagement than a Pinterest page, which can be used but for an alternate purpose. A Youtube profile will be key to broadcast its events and an SEO strategy with AdWord planning might yield more sales in comparison to email marketing. Hence, given its nature of business and goals, an SMB must decide on its playing field.
Getting it right: the grand strategy
The best way forward for an SMB is to identify goals. Different SMBs can have different goals. These may be attached to quarterly or annual plans and help drive targets accordingly. For SMBs the focus should be on setting realistic, measurable goals than overtly ambitious ones.
These goals are diverse and can include driving sales, building brand awareness, lead generation, retention of customers, reaching out new target audiences, among others.
A team of SEO experts, digital marketers, SEM experts, online sales and subject matter experts must come together to create or implement any such strategy. No one function can afford to work in isolation, especially in a set up as fast-paced as that of SMBs.
After implementing the strategy, an SMB’s online presence requires a minimum six months to show results. Its advisable to not abandon the strategy mid-way, since what works and what doesn’t, will be difficult to evaluate. Analytics, inbuilt and easily available from most tools, can help SMBs create a comprehensive report and evolve a successful digital marketing strategy.
A simple approach would involve once cycle of creation, implementation, analysis, review and rework. It is important to understand that a successful digital marketing strategy involves continuous evaluation and evolution.
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