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The dos and don'ts of digital marketing for SMEs

By Rahul Vengalil

It is believed that companies shut down not because their product is bad, but because they did not have the ability to market and sell it. This holds true not just for large enterprises, but also for SMEs, where the initial investment can run up to a few crores.

With digital explosion happening in India over the past few years, marketing via digital could be considered a safe bet for the segment. In fact, it is estimated that by 2020, there would be 700 million internet users, primarily on mobile devices. However, as a marketer, I have hardly seen good digital initiatives by such enterprises. Most are happy riding the wave of marketplaces like Amazon and Swiggy and their respective initiatives.

Like large MNCs, SMEs are also divided into B2B and B2C segments. B2C has its task cut out far easier since it is more about reaching as many people as possible. On the B2B side, however, business owners have to be more careful about their approach to digital investments.

B2B marketing

Most of the businesses start by making a website which covers the basic requirements. It typically talks about the services or product, the legacy it carries, followed by contact information. What most businesses tend to overlook is that they are addressing two set of consumers in the B2B segments: the influencers and the decision makers.

The research is done by the influencers, whereas the assets are created for the decision makers, leading to a broken customer experience. The business, thus, does not get due returns from the website information.

Moreover, it is important that businesses understand the time it takes from the first point of interaction to the conversion. A typical sales cycle - which is, contacting the sales team to the purchase - takes anywhere between 3 to 6 months. And research is done even before the contact happens. In other words, it takes over a year for digital assets to create any impact in the sales funnel and that is something that businesses need to understand and accommodate that in their digital journey.

Businesses also tend to invest in SEM and affiliate marketing to increase leads, in the hope of increasing sales. That does not happen without a right foundation. These will result in operational inefficiency, as the sales team will spend more time chasing the leads to no end. A year or two into this rigmarole, the potential of digital will be lost on the business and they would go back to traditional sales channels, ignoring the importance of building a brand.

It is important that SMEs, especially in the B2B business, understand what is needed and how they have fared so far in the digital journey.

There are a few checks that can be taken internally or with an external party, which broadly entails:-

  • Strategy Document: It is important that all businesses have a clear strategic roadmap that is defined before investing in digital technology and mediums. This document should broadly define the objectives, KPIs, budgets and priority platforms.
  • Timeline: As mentioned before, the results for SME does not happen instantaneously. All key stakeholders should be clear on the timeline that they are working towards and this need to be documented and accepted by all parties.
  • Holistic Picture: The business needs to ensure that they are looking at all aspects of digital together and not in silos. This is a key mistake that is done across, and it is important that a relationship metrics is created between paid owned and earned media.
  • Customer Experience: The most important aspect of digital marketing is that aims to understand consumers better. It is important that businesses create a detailed document about the consumers, their habits, aspirations and motivations. This will help the business in understanding the customer journey better, identifying key touch points, creating memorable experience, leading to optimal investments. In the absence of such a document, businesses will also be chasing its tail.
  • Content strategy & creation: There is a huge demand for content and SMEs should show the intent and willingness to create content that will improve customer engagement. This has to be a regular affair, and not campaign-specific. After all, your customers are always looking for content and do not wait for your campaign. The frequency, platforms, promotion activities, formats and such, needs to be documented in the strategy document.

The writer is CEO of digital marketing firm What Clicks.

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