Recently a VC-funded client called to let us know that they had achieved operating profit. The team's joy was infectious and their pride palpable. As brand strategy consultants, we were happy to see our client move to new heights and be part of their success story.
But this is not a stray or one-off success story. Across the country, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are booming and the same is reflecting at the stock markets. The BSE's SME IPO Index -comprising shares that debuted on the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) platform -has risen 52% since June last year, while the IPO index has gained 42% during the period.
Having witnessed a fair amount of SME success stories, would like to share a few marketing strategies based on our learnings. These pointers are likely to help business leaders in similar situations:
Define the Customer
The first step towards growing a smaller business is to identify the target customer. A proper pen picture of the people who are likely to buy the brand's offerings allows the firm to conduct efficient and cost effective target marketing.
• eg. A Travel services firm wanted to grow faster than the market within limited budgets. A comprehensive ABC analysis of his user base was needed to divide them into ‘one time’, ‘frequent’ and other meaningful clusters. Clusters based on ticket size, repeats and other business related parameters were created. Once these clusters were identified, proprietary social media analytics were ran to arrive at very defined pen picture of the core and non-core customer.
• It was advised that client revamp their marketing and product strategy as per core customer requirements. After that, customer acquisition and retention increased sharply.
Review Customer Requirements
In this dynamic market - fuelled by digital transformation and changing competition - it is best to keep abreast with customer requirements. The need to stay relevant is essential - especially for SMEs who may not have a large marketing or sales budget.
• A B2C services firm was unable to understand why their closure rate was not improving despite an increase in leads due to ad spends. Over 200 customer calls were heard and monitored and it was realized that there were a few specific areas where the client's offering was suffering with respect to competition product offerings and speed of offering 'customized' packages
• Expert guidance and feedback helped the firm re-worked their product portfolio, built further on their strengths and streamline delivery process thus increasing conversion rates significantly.
Align the Product Offering
SMEs grow because they harness speed and agility. Successful firm take appropriate decisions on brand offering based on market feedback - adapting as they grow. This is a key strength of the SME sector - compared to larger, well established players.
• For SMEs who are poised at an inflexion points, it’s important to evaluate the competitive context and brand offering from an outsider’s perspective. This exercise helps company’s remove internal biases and pragmatically identify areas of differentiation (‘sweet spots’ not being serviced adequately) and hygiene offerings (areas of extreme competition with limited opportunity for profits).
• By focusing on differentiators - within the dynamic competitive context - an SME can align the product offering appropriately.
Identify best means of communication
All firms need Brand Awareness. SMEs usually have differentiated products but smaller promotional budgets. Hence its recommend that they identify their customers and then work on the most effective way to reaching out to them.
• When budgets are limited, keeping it focused on the primary objective has a higher chance of success. Tools like a Digital Marketing calendar are extremely helpful.
Build a Lean team with Committed Experts
All SMEs face financial uncertainty. During these difficult times, it’s recommended that SMEs invest in internal teams who are critical to brand promise delivery and outsource all other areas. These external consultants can help SMEs scale up quickly and within a fraction of the cost of a full time resource.
• Hiring experienced consultants will free up the leadership teams bandwidth and enable them to focus on moving from where they are to where they want to go.
Feedback and measuring performance against metrics
SMEs often have high pressure environments. Its recommended that teams stay open minded, be ready to participate in conversations, ask for ideas and thank those who supported them. A professional approach goes a long way in retaining talent critical for a firm's success.
Marketing strategy is an essential part of building a powerful brand. A focused approach towards creating and communicating a customer-centric, differentiated brand plays a key role in SME success.
Rini Dutta, Prinicipal, Centric Brand Advisors