During an economic recession small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often adopt a survivalist mentality by focussing on cost cutting strategies that ensure short-term success but, ignore long-term prosperity. According to Gugu Mjadu, Executive Manager of Business Partners Limited, marketing tends to be one of the first spending areas to be cut when times are tough. “Marketing is not only one of the most vital functions of a business, but, counter-intuitively, the slower the economy, the more your investment in your marketing efforts needs to be.”
Mjadu however indicates that such an investment does not have to be in cash. “SME owners can cut their marketing budget provided they increase their marketing effort in other ways, such as increasing their team’s focus on marketing, or spending more time on it themselves.”
She offers the following insightful marketing tips to SME owners looking to succeed in 2013:
- Cut the waste, but be careful not to over-prune: This principle undoubtedly applies to marketing efforts, in which 80% of a business’s success can be derived from 20% of its marketing efforts. There is therefore plenty of opportunity to cut activities that yield poor results. SME owners should subject marketing efforts to the same rigid cost-cutting and efficiency that every part of the business has to undergo in these tough times, but when doing so, they need to remember that the results of marketing efforts are often pending. It can take years of constant attention and experimentation before a business owner can be sure which marketing plans actually work.
- Mine your existing customers:It is a well-established fact that winning over a new client generally costs six or seven times more than winning repeat business from an existing customer. Although some components of a marketing plan should always be aimed at gaining new customers, a strategy to sell more to existing customers will almost always yield more results.Simple systems such as sending a note to a customer thanking him or her for a purchase, together with a special offer for an additional buy (plus a deadline to create a sense of urgency) can work wonders. Incentives could also be created for existing customers to send business in your way. Offering them a discount or a bonus for every new client they introduce is only one way of doing it. Some businesses take a much more subtle, indirect approach – they make the customer experience so amazing that they will tell their friends and family about it.
- Don’t compete on price: Most owner-managed businesses are too small to compete based on offering the lowest price. That is the preserve of multi-national corporations that can leverage economies of scale to produce products at a price lower than SMEs and are able to source the raw materials. Rather concentrate on quality, the warmth of personal service and flexibility to meet individual clients’ specific needs than on low price.
- Repeat your message: It is very difficult to measure, but some studies show that it takes about seven contacts to convince a customer to buy. This obviously differs from industry to industry, but whatever the average, the principle is that it will nearly always take more than one pitch to convince customers, often via multiple communication channels or ‘touch-points”. For example, don’t do one pamphlet drop, and then drop the idea because the results were poor. Rather plan a series of them and evaluate it after the entire campaign. The same applies to any other marketing efforts. Remember however that there is a fine line between reminding a potential customer often enough that you are there, and making a nuisance of yourself.
- Get a web presence: If you are not online yet, you are making a huge mistake. Even if you are happy with your customer numbers at present, sooner or later your lack of internet presence will catch up with you as the world becomes increasingly wired.