Are You a Sociable Small Business?
At the start of 2012, there were just under 5 million businesses in the UK. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs 0-249 employees) made up a staggering 99.9% of this number. That’s a lot right?
That makes the ‘little people’ a hugely important section of the UK economy, but sadly, many of them are not making full use of digital tools. The SMEs who are confidently operating online and by that I mean, they have a strong brand identity and visibility across the world wide web, are more likely to have grown in the past two years and will no doubt be optimistic about future growth.
“With over a third of SMEs reporting they need support in developing basic online skills, it is vital they get access to the right help to unlock the online benefits but there is a general lack of awareness of where to find cost effective, quality support.” Says the Lloyds Bank Group. They go on to say; “The most frequently mentioned advantages of SMEs that do have digital efforts in place, included time savings, broadening customer reach, increased marketing effectiveness and cost savings, in addition 51% of SMEs have reported an increase in sales as a result of their Internet use. Unsurprisingly then, businesses who have already taken steps to build their online capabilities are keen to develop further. It’s also surprising that over a third of UK SMEs still do not have a website and one in five (20%) are ‘deliberately disconnected’ from the Internet. This could lead to a considerable number of SMEs putting their future growth at risk. OPTIMISA RESEARCH LIMITED for Lloyds Bank
These facts have been justified by my own work with clients over the past 5 years and also consulting with small businesses in-house on how they can get the best out of their online efforts. Most SMEs are aware they require online marketing but can’t put a value on it. Whether that is down to a non-understanding of what is involved or how to approach, or purely a financial obstacle remains constant. Justifiably small businesses want a measure on their ROI, which is still difficult to offer in some cases. Granted, the more data we collect, the more we can measure, but just because it is there, doesn’t mean we have to analyze it every day (that’s another article all together!) But I believe, where they go wrong is not budgeting for online support in the first place.
Online Marketing doesn’t have to be rocket science. Once you have been guided once, its doubtful you’ll need to hear it the same thing again. But you can mature in your efforts quickly and therefore consistent consultation, in that instance is vital. Time is also a big factor. Managing your online efforts is hugely time consuming but necessary. So budgeting for this, again, will come into play.
For arguments sake, let’s imagine you are savvy, social SME. We can’t all have the budgets of Coca Cola to throw some great campaigns out there to win back business. OK, agreed. Ideas are harder to roll out for SMEs with small marketing budgets but always remember, creativity is a business weapon so the more you have, the more you win and if you haven’t got that yourself, you can buy it and that Is most definitely money well spent! I recently said to a client of mine, a hair salon – to make a member of staff redundant for 6 months to afford me. They did, she now has her job back and they got their return.
Here is my top list of online advantages that SMEs have compared to corporates:
- You can be yourself and stay true to brand. There’s no hiding behind a long list of corporate brand guidelines.
- You can have lots of personality. The more you have, the more you will seem like a cool brand to hang out with to your fans.
- You can be spontaneous. If you feel like throwing out a quick marketing campaign that appeals to a current trend, you can! Your fans won’t wonder why you are suddenly off track.
- Being smaller allows you to forge close relationships with customers quickly allowing solid networking opportunities and higher turnover in repeat business. You can be more targeted in your approach with marketing efforts so look after that database, get to know what your audiences needs and deliver with bells on.
- You are able to offer an elite customer service and higher opportunities to meet your client requirements.
- You can organize offline events to meet your clients in person mixing digital and traditional marketing tactics within your strategy.
- Your customers get to ‘grow’ with you enhancing loyalty. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes in front of them! Cock-ups are endearing!
- It’s proven that audiences respond more to ‘guerilla style marketing’. Which means low budget advertising works. For example: “Dumb Ways to Die’. An Australian public service ad campaign became an internet hit for its black-humored list of reckless ways to die. And although a well thought out campaign (my personal favourite of 2013) it involved their target audience and reached out to new, hitting two very different target markets (kids and adults) it was honest, raw and huge!
- The big gun companies have been adopting the more ‘authentic’ ‘home grown’ marketing tactics and they have been successful. Coca Cola constantly push out campaigns pulling at peoples heart strings and that mainly look like they have been filmed with a very low budget. They give back to the people and create a stronger relationship with their audience by various unconventional marketing efforts and get results. Check out their 2013 Happiness Campaign.
- You can make use of all the online tools available at the drop of a hat, without going through red tape and that means you can try stuff out quicker and easier. The more ideas you try the more you will see what works and what doesn’t. Plus you are tapping into that creative brain and making it bigger! Innocent Drinks have been known to take posts down on Facebook that fail to receive many likes. I agree, why leave them up if they are not doing anything?
- There are thousands of apps and tools to support creative ideas online, especially if you haven’t got big budgets to play with, i.e. TubeStart, a crowd funding platform that caters specifically to YouTubers, allowing them to raise funds on an ongoing basis, as opposed to running a campaign for a specific project like a movie or a play. Get Googling and find something that suits you or if you are an entrepreneur, produce something yourself!
Lastly, take a look at these brilliant examples of creative thinking, low budgets and brilliant guerrilla marketing campaigns we can learn from:
Shopping in Lidl – Not associated with the Lidl Marketing team but if I were them – I’d use this, respond to it and jump on it’s bandwagon!
Great idea – global sensation – cheap
(You Tube Sensation PSY inspired many HUGE brands with his song)
Speaks for itself – but it is, after all – just a good idea!
Travel company Airbnb put a thought provoking viral together after asking the world to upload their vine videos.
Andrea Britton is a Freelance Online Brand Marketer. She regularly services Startups and SME’s in Europe, has written a book One Giant Leap into Social Media Marketing and lectures on the subject.