Marketing for SMEs in the Digital Era

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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent the vast majority of businesses around the globe, and are major contributors in terms of innovation, job creation, and socioeconomic progress. As technology continues to influence business practices, and more products and services are being sold online, digital tools are rapidly increasing in value among SMEs.

The idea of digitalizing SMEs is broad in scope. Digital tools can serve different parts of a company – from keeping track of expenses and inventory, to supporting manufacturing processes and facilitating things like collaborative work and customer relationship management. One of the more obvious ways digital technology can bring increased value to SMEs is in the area of marketing. A good looking website containing quality content, a strong social media presence, and focused digital advertising are widely regarded as SME musts, but fewer businesses are engaging in digital marketing than one would initially think. And even among those who have already discovered the digital side of marketing, not all are engaging in effective marketing initiatives.

Locating SMEs in the Digital Landscape

Think about it; the internet and social media have become the first points of contact between most businesses and their potential customers. And considering the speed and accessibility technology affords us in terms of connecting with potential customers, making a strong first impression is key. Still, given that most small business owners are already juggling different roles and responsibilities, and are often strained for time and resources, something like digital marketing can easily fall down the list of priorities.

Leadpages and Infusionsoft published a 2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report containing loads of rather surprising facts about the ways in which SMEs approach digital marketing. So whether you’ve already had a go at digital marketing, or are just dipping your toe into the sea of social media, listen up. Here are some of the report’s more interesting findings, which were collected via an online questionnaire SME owners accessed with a mobile device:

  • Almost half (43%) of respondents handle marketing on their own,

  • 20% had no digital marketing plans for the 2016 fiscal year,

  • Half of the respondents were unsure whether or not they are marketing effectively, and 14% knew for certain that they aren’t,

  • 58% of SME owners are using social media for marketing, though less than half are creating content to help them generate leads and sales,

  • 51% of respondents had plans to spend money improving their websites and building their social media presence.

These stats don’t necessarily reflect the fact that digital marketing can give SMEs a competitive edge, and there seems to be a gap between the presumed value that digital marketing can bring to a company and the practical application of undertaking these types of marketing initiatives. In order to make sense of it all, and to help close this gap, let’s take a step back and start from the beginning.

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Understanding the Value of Digital Marketing

Anyone that spends even a little time online has been targeted by a digital marketing campaign. But what makes them so important? Simply put, it’s about generating leads and turning those leads into customers. One of the most important features of digital marketing in this sense is how cost effective it is compared to more traditional marketing methods. Moreover, digital marketing is also highly-targeted and highly-measurable.

That means it’s not just about cutting costs, but also about getting the most out of what you put into a given marketing campaign. Digital marketing is supported by analytics tools that provide businesses with immediate insight into how users interact with their content and website. So not only can businesses communicate with and engage customers across the world in real time, they can also collect data about their target audiences and use it to further shape and direct their marketing strategies, as well as their services and products.

It seems pretty simple, right? Connectivity and generating data to make the most out of being so well-connected. Yet, not all digital marketing initiatives produce the same results. What many failed or inadequate digital marketing plans lack are things like quality content, an optimized website, and making the most of social media platforms.

Making the Most of Digital Marketing

Generating content through a company’s website or social media profiles helps increase traffic and ultimately, brand awareness. Content makes an SME’s internet presence more dynamic, so it not only attracts potential customers, but also gives those individuals a good reason to return to the website or follow a business on social media, even if they aren’t necessarily a customer just yet. That said, the key to content is quality. Quality content contains relevant keywords that are essential to giving SMEs the online presence and favorable search engine rankings they need to stay competitive. It should also bring unique value to customers, either by providing useful information that can help them make informed decisions, or by sharing insight into a company’s expertise in order to build customer confidence.

A website that is hard to navigate or not optimized for mobile devices is a sure sign of an SME making their online presence harder than it has to be. Across the globe, mobile devices dominate total minutes spent online. It’s more than consumers searching for and researching products online via mobile devices; they are also making purchases on mobile devices. If content is hard to navigate and find on a website, it doesn’t matter if it’s quality or not – people won’t find it. Again, websites often represent a first point of contact between a potential customer and a business, so it’s important to make a strong first impression.

Like quality content and a responsive website, social media is an essential ingredient of a strong digital marketing strategy. With 2.8 billion social media users worldwide and hundreds of millions of unique monthly users on the top social media platforms, there’s simply no reason to skip on establishing and maintaining a social media presence. Doing so allows SMEs to interact directly with customers, make the most of relevant trending topics, and helps spread quality content while contributing to website traffic.

And make no mistake, social media marketing is just as important for generating leads and turning those leads into clients for B2B SMEs as it is for their B2C counterparts. In fact, research has found that not only can B2B marketers benefit from social media, but it could be their most effective marketing channel of all. Again, the sheer number of users, together with the fact that many professionals take to social media to get a better impression of a business’ personality, make social media platforms a great place for generating leads. Choosing the right platforms and implementing a strategy that works well for your business and sector can go a long way in turning a curious observer into a full-fledged customer.

Like anything, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. In that case, maybe the 20% of SME owners with no plans for digital marketing in 2016 weren’t that far behind the 14% who knew for sure that, they weren’t marketing effectively. In both cases, getting outside help can prove beneficial to an SME’s digital marketing strategy. A lot of SMEs don’t necessarily have the resources to have a full-time employee focused solely on digital marketing, or delegate the management of these kinds of marketing initiatives to the wrong people, which ends up costing more than is necessary while falling short of the business’ main goals.

This is why enlisting the help of a professional agency might be a more affordable, and more effective option in the long run. Digital marketing specialists can not only help create quality and engaging content, they can provide insight on how to best share content, and make the most of the data a marketing initiative generates in order to further map-out a given SME’s strategy.

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As a business dedicated to helping SMEs develop and execute marketing initiatives, Brite is well aware of the importance of generating data to better understand customers and the broader market environment. As such, Brite is currently conducting a survey to assess the extent to which SMEs are going digital. Like any form of digital marketing, it’s about better understanding client needs and collecting data to make informed decisions. Brite is offering a 5% discount on all of its services for those interested in taking the survey.  

Bradley Castelli


Bradley Castelli

Content Manager at Brite