The View From… is a series of blogs where we speak to experts in different professions and gather their learnings and lessons from the work they do with small business clients. Ben Michaelis is the managing director of ThinkEngine, a digital marketing agency based in London and Dubai.
Investment in digital marketing is now an obvious solution for small businesses. It delivers a more sustainable marketing route for small businesses to gain greater visibility at much lower costs, in fact, mostly for free.
We are now in a social world where consumers/clients expect social marketing regardless of your business sector or type (B2B or B2C). If you don’t buy into the digital media culture, will you fall behind your competitor who is embracing it?
Here are some things SMEs should be doing when it comes to marketing themselves.
Back to basics – know your value proposition.
Understanding your market is essential and probably the number one oversight that I see by marketing clients. The product and/or services you deliver need to be good enough that customers will ‘jump through hoops’ to buy it. My advice is to go ‘back to basics’ and look at your business plan and model.
Define what opportunity you have within your selected marketplace and decide how you plan to segment it. You must have something which separates you from the rest of the market, i.e. a unique selling point (USP), your value proposition sits at the heart of your brand and must make a customer or client want to buy from you over another company – competitive edge is key.
With my clients I often refer to the analogy of building a house:
If the foundations are not secure, how do you expect the house to remain standing?
That is a good business principle full stop in my view. Knowing the basics will stand you in good stead on your journey.
If you are not sure on how to map out your value proposition take a look at ‘the business model canvas’ (BMC). It allows you to map out your whole business on a single piece of paper. In my view, it is one of the best things you can do if you are just starting out, or even for an established business. If you do have a go at the BMC, always start with the value proposition box first, it sits at the heart of your whole business.
Understanding who your ideal customer/client actually is
With the rise of digital and social media, the opportunity to market your business is vast. Knowing which online mediums contain your preferred ‘target market’ is vital to success – in my experience, those companies who know their ‘ideal customer’ generate the best financial returns. Each digital platform will contain different target audiences, and each company may use a different one which works best for them. The more online exposure you can generate from organic or free advertising, the better.
Advertising in the right places
In small businesses knowing where to invest your marketing budget is the million-dollar question. With a whole host of options open to you, testing which marketing activity provides the biggest return for your business is vital – in my experience people do not do enough testing, over a long enough period of time. Failure to plan this stage will result in wasted budgets and the opportunity cost of advertising somewhere else that generates a better Return on Investment (ROI).
Create a strategy and plan
Planning on how you will achieve objectives is essential for long-term success. A great place to start when creating a strategy and plan is to ask the following questions:
- What is the current business situation?
- Who is your target audience or market?
- What are your objectives? Do your goals align with this, and, over what period?
- What marketing or digital tactics will you use to reach these targets?
- What are the cost implications?
- How much will it cost to execute this strategy/plan?
- How will you action this plan?
- What activities are you planning to achieve a good return on investment?
- Will you need a business continuity plan?
By addressing these questions, you can understand what actually needs to be completed to achieve your desired results, and any such costs associated.
The implications of not developing a robust digital marketing strategy and plan can be profound. Small businesses end up overspending on their marketing activities, missing opportunities to grow revenue and have no real measure of what ‘success’ actually looks like.
The ‘scatter gun’ approach is old and simply not sufficient for modern day marketing and ends up costing SMEs millions when really this is an avoidable cost.
Strategic marketing is the here and now. Understanding how your business is developing its awareness and exposure through marketing approaches (both on and offline) and which delivers the desired ROI is key.
Assessing your business’s marketing activities is a key factor to achieve your objectives. How is your business getting themselves in the face of the target audience? Perhaps it’s building strong strategic partnerships, social media campaigns and events – whatever the activity, understanding its effectiveness is a necessity.