Marketing & Media News South Africa

SMEs need marketing skills, brand building to succeed

Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) fail to action even the simplest marketing initiatives effectively, often to the detriment of the business' success.
David Morobe
David Morobe

David Morobe, regional GM at Business/Partners, says that many SMEs do not pay as much attention to marketing functions as other elements within a business, as the perception is that their business is too small and does not have the financial backing or marketing budget that bigger businesses can afford.

He points to the 2016 National Small Business Survey, recently released by the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), which revealed that of the 17,950 local small businesses surveyed, many listed not marketing themselves effectively as their biggest mistake to date, and 43% listed sales and marketing as the area in which the most assistance is required.

“Not allocating resources – regardless of the amount – to marketing a business’ brand can negatively impact a business, regardless of how much work is going into other areas of the business,” says Morobe. “Having a poor or unknown brand identity in the modern day market will not only potentially lead to losses amongst current customers, but also deter potential customers from approaching the business.”

The Global New Product Innovation Survey by Nielsen’s showed that 59% of respondents prefer to buy new products from brands they are familiar with. “Customers want to connect to a brand and for them to do so, they need to understand what the business stands for, its core principles and what value the business offers.”

Brand building critical in 2017

With 92% of the NSBC’s survey respondents planning to increase their sales and customer base actively over the next 12 months, Morobe says that business owners should pay more attention to building their business’ brand in 2017. “There is a strong link between a successful business and an established brand identity. A recognisable brand is a business’ most valuable asset, as it communicates what the business does, how it does it, and at the same time establishes trust and credibility.

“Establishing a strong brand does not necessarily require a large marketing budget, but rather a clear plan, with clear brand-building objectives. A brand is a way of defining your business identity to yourself, your team and external audiences. It is essentially the sum total of the experiences that your customers and potential customers have with your business - which range from how the business answers the phone, to managing customer queries and the language used. Small businesses are in a unique position to create valuable customer experiences because they are often more agile and unconstrained by corporate rules and processes. You are most unlikely to be addressed by an automated call centre answering machine at a small business.”

As businesses begin to wind down for the year and prepare for the year ahead, Morobe urges business owners to review how they are currently engaging with their stakeholders and set clear guidelines for their business going forward.

Three tips to brand building

Morobe shares three simple tips and free activities to assist business owners in building their brand:

    1. Identify what the business stands for: The best way to do this is to think of the business as a person or character and ask how this identity will promote the business and engage with customers, while also differentiating the business in the marketplace. Business owners should establish what is unique and sets them apart, as well as what their brand promise to customers is.

    2. Be consistent: Reinforce the brand messages and promises into every aspect of the business: A business needs to be consistent in all communication to internal (staff) and external (customer) audiences, such as its signage and packaging, advertising collateral, and customer and sales communication. Similarly, businesses must also ensure that customers receive a constant and reliable customer services experience. This means that regardless of whom they engage with within the organisation, the level and delivery of customer service will remain aligned to the brand identity.

    3. Regular staff engagement: As staff play a very important role in how the brand identity is delivered, business owners should be encouraged to have regular workshops with their staff to ensure the business’ brand messaging remains consistent.

“While building a business’ brand won’t happen overnight, establishing an action plan and committing to it will assist in establishing long-term relationships with customers, and in turn, businesses can expect an increase in sales as customers advocate for products and services with word-of-mouth referrals – the most powerful form of marketing for any business, especially an SME,” Morobe concludes.

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