When you first decide to take the plunge and set up your own SME the number of separate issues which you need to focus on can seem all but overwhelming. Indeed, the very word ‘focus’ might strike you as being something of a misnomer , since it implies concentrating on a single aspect whereas, in reality, you’ll need to concentrate on a vast range of aspects, covering every part of the business. In the early days you’ll be the CEO, Sales Director, Managing Director and Accountant, and that’s all on top of doing whatever it is you do – whether that’s cooking delicious meals, creating bespoke furniture or delivering a specific service.
Your Marketing Strategy:
One aspect of driving an SME which often gets neglected is the marketing drive. In the rush to reach the market and connect with customers and prospective customers it can be easy to forget that you have to make the effort to create that market in the first place. The best business in the world is going to fail if not enough people get to hear about it, and that’s why it’s vital to devote some time to setting out your marketing strategy, ideally before the business even launches. Sitting down and drawing up a strategy will allow you to think about who you are, what you do and who you see your customer base as (questions which will, incidentally, help to inform the successful working of every part of your business, not just the marketing), and it will mean that you have a plan to work from moving forward, and a framework to fall back on when you need to tweak and adapt your marketing in order to respond to its impact in real time.
Any modern marketing drive can be broken into two distinct strands; offline and online. Online marketing is becoming an increasingly important driver of business and will be dealt with in a companion article, but traditional, offline marketing techniques still have a huge role to play, particularly in establishing your brand and seeding networks and connections which will grow with you.
A few of the techniques which your SME can utilise:
- Leafleting – a simple but effective means of getting your brand and identity established, particularly within your local area. Your approach can vary between mass mail-outs and leafleting targeted at businesses or individuals you feel will be responsive (which is where diligent market research begins to pay off). As well as remote leafleting you could try handing out leaflets at local and community events, allowing your prospective customer base to put a face to the business. Include some kind of special offer on the leaflets and you’ll be offering customers the perfect excuse to give something new a try.
- Partner Marketing – directly contact other SMEs which you feel you might be able to work with. Whilst direct competitors will naturally be wary of a new SME on the block, those who work in affiliated but nonetheless different areas may relish the chance to develop partnerships, pool resources, share costs and take advantage of economies of scale.
- Content – create content applicable to your area of business which is going to get people talking about you or, if your budget allows, have it created for you. Adopt the kind of ideas, angle or approach which will pique curiosity and then present this content via industry events, niche and trade magazines and the kind of networking and commerce groups to be found in most locations.
- Journalists – contact freelance journalists in your area in order to cultivate a relationship. A journalist working to a deadline (whether writing on or offline) will be grateful for an expert voice easily accessed via a phone call, and in return you get your name and your business mentioned.
- Sponsorship – offer to sponsor events held by local charities, either by a cash injection or, more probably, the provision of goods or services to be auctioned off or awarded as prizes.
- Classified Ads – taking out classified ads is simple but still effective and can be fairly easily afforded.
One important point to note across all of these techniques, and any other marketing channels you utilise, is to ensure that the brand message you send out is consistent and unified. Whilst the different formats require different approaches, the image of yourself and your business which you’re sending out has to remain the same if it’s genuinely going to strike home and lodge in people’s minds.
You can read more posts within our business growth series here.