Capturing the key points from a recent interview our MD, Alison Taylor, did with Star Radio’s Business Hub, here are Conscious Communications answers to some of the questions we are frequently asked by SMEs in the region.
How do I approach my marketing strategy when I have a tight budget:
We will always recommend taking an holistic approach to your marketing and communications strategy, that looks to deliver your messages efficiently via whichever channel is most effective in engaging with your specific audiences. There will never be just one solution, you should look at all potential elements of the marketing mix and make informed decisions about where your money is best spent.
Set out with a clear set of objectives for what you want your marketing to achieve – these will always boil down to two broad objectives:
- Profile raising and influence
- Sales/support – this may relate to sales of a product or, in the case of charities or social enterprises, refers to the support they gain for their activities
Taking these two objectives in turn our advice is:
1. Profile and influence
- Don’t scattergun your marketing – aim for quality not quantity. This is especially important for SMEs where marketing budgets are tight
- Analyse your market – the types of companies/organisations you want to work with, where they’re based, who they’re currently buying products/services from
- Look at what the competition is doing – aim to identify your niche and understand why potential customers will want to buy from you and not from your competitors. You need to really understand what you’re offering – think in features and benefits
- Don’t focus on talking about what your company does: talk about what it can do for your potential customers – how will what you offer benefit them
- Don’t reinvent the wheel – that’s not to mean don’t be creative; but don’t waste resources and time – monitor and evaluate and learn from what you achieve
- Don’t pin your whole marketing effort on social media. It can play a role in what you do and can be a useful tool, but it is not a solution in itself and much time and resource can be wasted on social media channels/platforms that aren’t relevant for your customers
Once you understand your audiences and what they’re looking for, examine all the marketing channel options available to you; weigh up what they offer and the potential return: advertising, sponsorship, media relations, events and exhibitions, networking.
Much of your marketing may be ‘under the radar’ rather than overt – it may be that your business is best built on reputation and word of mouth, like ours is. In which case much of your investment may be in the time it takes to be out and about meeting the right people at events, conferences, seminars. Factor this into your budget and monitor and evaluate the results
A few tips for what not to do:
- Don’t invest without measurement in place
- Don’t ignore existing customers – they can be your best source of new business
- Don’t ignore your mistakes – learn from them
2. Sales and support
Relationships are absolutely key to closing any sort of deal, even in this digital age – people buy from people. From a marketing perspective, there are three keys to successfully securing a sale:
- relationships built on trust – this can be evidenced by word of mouth; endorsement from existing clients/customers. This is true for business to business, and business to consumer markets
- evidence that the product or service can and has previously been delivered, and/or that the product has previously been successfully purchased/used – examples, case studies, reviews
- proof that there will be the required return on investment. Your customers will want to assess a cost vs reward ratio – if I spend x on this product, I will receive x-worth of benefit, whether this is tangible, intangible or even subliminal!
All of the above can be evidenced in your marketing. It’s not just about getting noticed, it’s about proving you’re the best one for the job, or that your products will meet and exceed your customers’ needs.
It’s worth bearing in mind also that you don’t have to go it alone; so much today is about partnerships and collaboration. Look for likeminded organisations to work with and form mutually beneficial partnerships to market; you may be able to pool resources and budgets to make advertising more affordable for example; or you may be able to develop a joint event which people are more likely to attend because it’s hosted by more than one company.