Government pledge to raise awareness of support schemes could help sustain SME marketing efforts
As reported by Matthew Chapman in July’s Marketing Magazine, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) is to invest more in marketing activities that promote its initiatives, including Start-Up Loans and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme which could, if properly followed through on, help boost organic SME growth. Furthermore, financial support secured as a result of applying for financial support will help those SMEs whose applications are accepted to allocate budgets to marketing themselves.
After all, in a crowded marketplace where it can be difficult to be heard above the ‘din’, it is essential that SMEs utilise opportunities to properly promote themselves. However, these kinds of communications activities can be challenging for SME owners from a financial perspective, as well as in terms of experience levels and available time to conduct them.
Businesses that are granted funding and operational support from Government should therefore consider allocating a marketing budget, no matter how nominal. However, to ensure any budget is properly utilised, it is vital that the marketing industry recognises the needs of this sector by developing communications services that are not only cost-effective but fully flexible and individually tailored to each business.
And indeed, it is this industry support, as well as the commitment from SME owners themselves, that could be a major driver for this largely untapped sector. There can be a tendency for marketing services providers to have a disproportionate focus on larger businesses as a result of pursuing larger fees.
However, by developing tailored services for SMEs, agencies have the opportunity to grow with their client base and potentially, be part of shaping the next Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg. After all, those agencies worth their salt will be able to adapt and develop a service that meets the needs of SMEs in terms of both cost and content.
The potential marketing tools that could help grow SMEs within a specific location or industry sector are clearly numerous. However, it is essential that marketing specialists work with business owners to select a shortlist that suits their industry sector and target audiences. Crucially though, a viable and engaging online presence is an essential component of driving traffic and sales as a result of initial interest sparked by offline efforts.
SME successes need a concrete starting point and it is hoped that this latest government pledge will help create some solid prospects that, as a result of initial support, will be in a far stronger position from which to promote themselves.
There is therefore a massive opportunity for the marketing industry to re-assess their stance on SME marketing and how this can support their own wider growth strategy – a concerted focus on this sector would not only create a vital bedrock of support for the potential blue chips of tomorrow, but also generate insights and learnings that could be used to help enrich and inform other accounts.
Rebecca Scully is managing director at PR agency Smarts England