Only half of all UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a marketing budget, according to a 2007 survey by Loudhouse. So how do you get your company's name known in a world awash with big-hitting, multimillion-pound advertising campaigns? Budget or no budget, it's time for an overhaul in thinking. Three marketing experts tell Director their plans for 2008
Forget the campaign—try continuous communications instead
Caroline Worboys, chief executive of Broadsystem, a marketing communications company that counts O2, BP and the Chelsea Building Society among its clients says: "The traditional idea of a marketing campaign produced a set number of times a year, in a pre-agreed format and through an agreed channel, is no longer relevant. The audience has moved on."
Marketing should be an ongoing sequence of personalised messages, through a convenient channel, suggests Worboys, rather than one-off mailings. This requires more emphasis on inbound marketing. You can find out about customers from their history, the preferences they volunteer (such as asking for email instead of postal contact) and "in-flight" interaction—what they say when they phone the company or when they click options on the website.
Make your presence felt online
A well known website can enable a small business to compete on an equal footing—but only if customers can find the site. Every year, the UK's SMEs waste an estimated £3bn on websites that are virtually invisible to search engines, according to Microsoft's recent report, Search Marketing for Small Businesses. It found that, although 2.79 million small businesses have an online presence, a hefty 62 per cent are not investing in search marketing campaigns to help people find them online. It also said that 89 per cent of SMEs think that setting up a campaign is more complicated than online banking, when in reality, a campaign can be managed from your desk on a day to day basis.
Matt Kitcherside, general manager of Gyro International, a communications specialist, says that some firms adopt a "spray and pray" approach to search marketing, only to be disappointed with the results.
It's not just a question of making your site search-engine friendly, he says. You also need to ensure that search engines can deliver your message effectively to a range of carefully targeted surfers.
Services offered by Google (AdWords), MSN (AdCenter) and Yahoo (Search Marketing) have made it easier for a smaller company to define who sees its ad and clicks through to its site. "Once your traffic's going up, your cost-per-click soon comes down," says Kitcherside.
Richard Vincent, director at Smartfusion, a marketing agency that has worked with Intel, Nokia and Canon, says smart companies get their products into the hands of customers and allow them to make up their own minds. That could involve staging an elaborate corporate event or just putting some people onto the high street to offer free demonstrations. Smartfusion has worked on projects with budgets ranging from £10,000 through to £3m.
"What matters is that the customer's first engagement with your product is entertaining, surprising or educational," says Vincent. "It can really shift the needle in terms of their propensity to buy."