Top Marketing Strategies for SMEs

1. Plan and coordinate what you do –The different strands of marketing need to work in harmony and you’ll only manage that if you plan carefully and keep it simple. What you say on social media will impact on your PR; your PR should support your SEO and social media can make a huge difference to your SEO. A creative idea has to be judged by whether it delivers your business plan and fits your brand values.

2. Know your customers – You need to have a clear idea about what they read, what websites they visit and even the words and phrases they use to describe things. When do they buy your product or service? What influences them to do so? All this will tell you where to focus your efforts, whether a creative idea will work and how to make sure you’re found online.

3. Know your numbers – How much profit do you make on each sale? If you don’t know that you won’t know how much it’s worth spending on marketing or on things like PPC (pay per click).

4. Review your website – Your website is your shop window and where most digital marketing will direct new customers. Get that wrong and the rest is a waste of time. Some websites are the equivalent of having a locked shop door with the blinds down. Set up analytics (ask your web designer if you’re not sure how to do this) and study them carefully. The analytics will tell you a lot about how your customers use your website and why users leave without buying (or contacting you if you’re a service supplier). People are busy, the easier you make it for your customers the more likely they are to buy your product or service. Where is your phone number and other contact details (they should be at the top of your home page)? Is your site optimised for mobiles? Most searches are done on smart phones, but around half of websites are still difficult to use in that format (it is not expensive to put right).

5. Focus – Do one or two things really well, rather than try to ensure you’re on every platform. Different types of social media work better for different types of business. Facebook works well if you’re a customer facing business but offers little if you’re B2B. The reverse is true of LinkedIn. Once you’ve made your choice, keep up to date. Social media is changing very quickly. No-one is an expert for long without continually researching what’s new.

6. Give people a reason to engage with you – “Please follow me” is the most common tactic for getting followers on social media, but will only work with very good friends. Your customers and potential customers will only follow you if there is something in it for them. That can be advice, exclusive offers/competitions, useful information or the chance to feel important. Good social media strategies will include a mix of these.

7. Learn from your most successful competitors – Work out how and why their digital strategy is successful, follow them on social media, have a really good look at their website and then offer something that they don’t. How long is their check out process? Is it shorter or simpler than yours? Do they upsell? Is it annoying or helpful? Have they done anything that was really creative? What impact did it have and why? If they’re a service, how do they illustrate that they’re effective to potential new clients? Written case studies with customer quotes are the most obvious method but many companies now take a more creative approach. As a creative business Smart Cookie had to produce something with real wow factor that showed our work.

8. Mind your manners – Talking to people on social media is not that different from talking face to face. You wouldn’t march up to a random stranger at a party and start the conversation by trying to sell your product or service, so don’t do it on social media. Conversations should be two-way exchanges. Talk about yourself all the time and you’ll find yourself very lonely. If someone does post a message to you (and it’s not spam) then reply as soon as you can, particularly if it’s a customer. Don’t be afraid of people publicly criticising you. If you’re seen to show customer care, and publicly put right any complaints, your reputation will be enhanced, not damaged. The reverse is true if you delete, ignore or belittle complainers. Don’t talk down to your customers, there is a whole page on Facebook dedicated to ‘Condescending Brands’, make sure you don’t feature there.

9. Be creative – 5 to 10% of any budget should be used to challenge the normal safe market activities, otherwise how will you ever learn if anything else could work more effectively? Some of the best digital marketing ideas are clever but very simple and have come from very small companies. Like all marketing, the key is to test the idea by thinking like your customers do, put yourself in their shoes. Why, as a potential customer, would I pay attention to this when there are so many brands fighting for my attention?

10. Don’t be afraid of using expert help – Employing a good agency is like employing a good accountant; it can save you far more money than it costs, particularly if you decide to enter the world of PPC. Accept expert advice, and make use of the free help available online (on this site), on social media and at events such the Digital Marketing Show in November.