Marketing plays a vital part in keeping your business alive and viable in the minds of consumers.
Where will your business be in five years? Ten years? Hopefully, your organization is lucky enough to be one of the 80% of companies that manage to survive their first year. Unfortunately, the trends do not improve as time passes. The rate of failure for all companies increases to 50% by year five, and nearly 70% by year 10.
It is not about a lack of passion. Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) exist because of owners being bold enough to push forward with a big idea, driven by a desire to see it through to fruition. Unfortunately, it takes more than will and hard work to stand out in today’s digital economy.
The fatal blow for many SMBs comes down to not generating enough income to keep going even another day. The key to survival for any company looking to go up against larger conglomerates is establishing itself as a key player in that market. Failing to do so means customers never look at your company as an optimal solution to their problem.
Forty-two percent of small-business owners who ended up closing stated they could not find an avenue to market their products or services. Another 19% admitted that competitors beat them out when it came to establishing their brand in the minds of their target audience.
Things don’t get much better for mid-sized businesses. Data from the Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) and Compustat, compiled by Wharton Research Data Services, shows a marked decline in mid-sized businesses in existence. The numbers shrank from 3,270 to 1,884 between 1996 and 2017. While most mid-sized firms today are older and larger, they still struggle when it comes to producing consistent profits.
Inadequate marketing efforts can prevent businesses from achieving their desired level of success. They end up shutting down instead of celebrating another business anniversary. Let’s look at some critical marketing barriers preventing companies from breaking through in a competitive environment.
1. Lack of marketing budget—Large corporations of course have access to a more expansive marketing budget than your typical SMB. That means they can afford experts who can do the type of in-depth research needed to refine marketing campaigns targeting prospective customers. Smaller enterprises can see marketing as an unnecessary expense and may not want to pay a salary to someone devoted exclusively to marketing.
2. Lack of focus—PPC. SEO. Video tutorials. Social media. With so many digital marketing options available, it can be hard for a company to make a choice. They end up bouncing from one to the other, even if it is not the right fit for their business model. Or they may drop one without allowing enough time for the benefits to show themselves.
3. Failure to distinguish themselves—SMBs should make it a practice to study their competitors and gain an understanding of the tactics being put to use. However, what ends up happening is that SMBs settle for mimicking what others are doing instead of coming up with unique marketing concepts unique for their business. What reason would a customer have to choose your SMB over a competitor if you’re too similar?
4. Inconsistent branding—Many SMBs lack an understanding of how crucial consistent branding can be to their success. Inconsistency in marketing across different channels confuses visitors about what your company represents. Commit to the values important to your company, and make sure that’s evident in all your marketing channels.
5. Time constraints—Every pair of hands matters when a company relies on a smaller workforce to remain competitive. A lot of small business owners take too much upon themselves and often cannot find the time to fit marketing into their schedule. They end up leaving any attempts at digital marketing in a state of neglect.
Mid-sized companies should also be careful about allocating too many responsibilities to one person. Make different team members responsible for specific tasks. Provide them with the necessary tools for effective collaboration and communication, which should ensure you present a cohesive marketing vision.
Trying to break through the barriers outlined above often proves overwhelming for small and mid-sized business owners. It can be helpful to reach out for support from an experienced marketing firm. The advice can be constructive even if a company ends up not hiring them full-time.
For those SMBs looking to keep most of their marketing efforts in house, here are some strategies they can initiate to improve the current state of the company’s digital marketing:
No business can accomplish good marketing through sporadic one-off efforts. Getting results means being willing to commit time to nurture various campaigns and customer outreach efforts. You can’t build up a loyal customer base if they don’t know you exist. Increasing visibility through marketing efforts should always remain a high priority for any SMB.
Look at your current digital presence. What thoughts come into your head as you review your logos, the content on your webpage, etc.? Does your company present itself as a leader in that industry? Customers need to see that you have the answers to their questions.
Your website and social media should be able to tell how your business can resolve their issues, how it contributes to the world, and the responsibilities your company feels toward its customers. The company should stand out clearly from other market competitors and show visitors why your business should be their top choice.
Marketing involves trial and error, especially with so many options to showcase your company. For example, contractors and other home improvement companies can benefit from creating a series of how-to videos on platforms like YouTube. Viewers gain a sense of how your company functions and form a relationship with the craftspeople.
You might find out that your strength is in your Facebook ads or images posted on Instagram. Build an experiments calendar and limit your budget until you see results. Direct your financial resources at your most influential outlets. Let go of any that do not provide you with the expected KPIs after a reasonable trial period.
Investing in a robust marketing technology (martech) stack can give smaller companies the edge needed to stay viable in the marketplace against larger competitors. Tools that automate email, social media, and blog updates can save workers countless hours over trying to keep up with a marketing calendar manually. They also help businesses deliver consistent messaging across all engagement channels.
The right martech stack assists you in effectively leveraging the first three strategies. It is also a good idea to experiment with different solutions from businesses that provide free trial periods before making a firm commitment.
There will always be challenges to face when running an SMB. You may never stumble across the “perfect” marketing strategy, but you can give your company a better chance of surviving.
Sitefinity has a number of ecosystem partners and integrations that can tie in your website as your digital hub to other martech solutions.
Jen McAdams was Vice President of Global Demand Generation and Field Marketing.
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