Marketing Small Businesses
Had a very productive session with a small business this week, when bringing the company together around a new brand proposition. It’s interesting to note that if all the changes that are affecting marketing & branding in the 21st Century is hard to grasp for some big multinationals, it’s pretty mindboggling for those SME’s who represent the engine of most economies.
As people, the leadership of these small companies are aware of the big marketing tools like Advertising and Social Media but know that to fully engage with them is costly, confusing and time consuming – in many ways they are scared off. But given that most are B2B organisations, the fundaments are actually relevant to them.
As a service focussed company, there are two important shifts that are usually needed to help bring a marketing approach that can help them grow.
First, a deeper understanding of their customers’ needs (current and future).
Second, to reframe their service offer, less as a series of products, but as a way of helping meet those customer needs.
Making these 2 shifts will allow the company to tell a new brand story from an outside in point of view. These new stories will make future growth more achievable. Most small businesses are constantly trying to sell. Often, they are all consumed in the process of selling and doing, they spend all their time in the business they’ve always done. There’s no time left to think about where their business could go…let alone how to get there. By chasing the sell, they can end up differentiating more and more on price and price alone. This means their offer is treated as a transaction rather than a service
Making these 2 shifts, will allow their service to be more valued – over and above the transactional price negotiation. While there will be a fair bit of change in getting to understand their customers and amending their dialogue and future conversations with these customers, the cost will be mostly an investment in time. Time with their own people. It will also involve time for deeper conversations with their clients.
Both these “time investments” will be rewarding. There will be no need to have big, new, costly campaigns in marketing communications. It will need focus around clarifying the brand story and a way of sharing the customer insights amongst the whole company, so that the new story is told consistently and coherently by everyone. But the service will become more valued as customers will feel more engaged. And they will value that engagement over and above the price they may receive from competitors who offer a similar service. That customer-centric approach, when delivered, will also cause these customers to become advocates of the company and generate a better word of mouth for them too.
And positive word of mouth is the most valuable of all marketing communication there is today.