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Digital marketing - Holy Grail or sword of Damocles?

flat lay of laptops

The ability for a small business to broadcast their product online and translate that into sales is game changing.  

In a nutshell

  1. SMEs find it difficult to prioritise digital marketing. Other things are more important in the immediate-term, and they lack the confidence and skills to capitalise on social media. 
  2. SME owners are desperately seeking advice and support when it comes to digital marketing. 
  3. Suppliers can add value by volunteering technical support and sharing information. 

However, our Listening Project research showed that our SMEs all felt a degree of FOMO - both fear that they were not optimising the use of social media and digital marketing, but also a degree of scepticism.

SME businesses view every cost – financial and time – in terms of its linear relationship with sales. The question is always: will putting a couple of hours into our online content produce a sale?

Of course they value their reputation and people’s opinions of their business, but they believe this comes from customer word word-of of-mouth – the old fashioned kind. They are less ‘brand’ focused than larger business and more sales, or at least sales leads, focused.

Views are also based on one one-off experiences – one sale through social media and they are a convert, exacerbating further the FOMO effect.

Generally our SME owners have little experience of digital marketing. They left their corporate jobs before online channels became as important as they are today. So, they lack confidence and knowledge and base their views on their personal experiences online – and its not all positive. Negative personal experiences on Facebook Facebook, for example example, can make them wary of using it as a business channel. Likewise poor online e-commerce experiences cause them to shy away from adopting this in their own business.

It was interesting to hear this gutsy group of business owners express real nervousness about the use of digital marketing beyond the use of a company website. Some of their anxiety is simply based on lack of knowledge of what to do and how to do it. Other areas of concern were more technical – for example the tax requirements in relation to e-commerce.

In a nutshell, SME business owners are desperately seeking advice and support. ‘Seeking’ might be too strong a word when being time poor is always a barrier – especially for tasks that are easy to slot into the too hard basket. But the cries for help are clear and should be a clarion call for companies looking to partner SMEs.

A few things worth considering if you are a supplier trying to reach an SME market:

  1. Volunteer technical support for anything that involves online transactions and e-commerce – not just ‘how’ to do it, but the tax and financial implications too.
  2. Host training and sharing of information sessions. They think everyone is more on top of it than they are and it is reassuring to meet peers who are also struggling with these exciting new platforms.
  3. Share information on what works and for whom – especially as regards investment of time to achieve results.
  4. They know they should be working on strategy and they should resist the seductive power of social media to just ‘do anything’. They would welcome a hand with getting a strategy together and would then have the confidence to move forward.
  5. Share your social platforms with them to show the value of connecting.

The Listening Project: SMEs was TRA’s second immersive research project. It followed 13 Kiwi SME owners to gain insight into their lives and the beliefs that inform behaviour and decision making. The Listening Project: SMEs was carried out by Colleen Ryan, Jeremy McDonnell and Chantelle Watt.

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA
Colleen has a curious and strategic mindset fueled by 40 years of experience in business across Europe, North America and APAC countries. With a fascination and deep understanding of what it is to be human, specifically applying principles from cultural sociology, social psychology, behavioural science, and cultural analysis, she brings breakthrough insights to brand strategy, creative development and customer centricity.

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