Promotional challenges for any business, Corporate or SME, are varied and many. But while Corporates can hire specialised talent, SME’s often don’t have the luxury. But that in itself needn’t be an obstacle. In many cases, what is required is a knowledgeable focus over a set number of hours per week, rather than a costly top talent.
As part of the Smarter Living for Business series, Electric Ireland surveyed 132 SMEs about their attitudes towards doing business in Ireland in 2016. Here we look at how outsourcing marketing services can help business owners under the headings – Social Media, Online Engagement and Industry Intelligence.
What is the best way of letting your customers know about your business? We are all familiar with the idea of social media marketing. Even the ‘non-Facebookers’ amongst us generally know about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The question for many SME owners is, can these social media platforms be of benefit to my business and if so, then how?
The survey found that business owners in Ireland are enthusiastic about social overall, with 66% of respondents (significantly higher than the European average) saying they use some form of it to promote their business – 53% have used Facebook, 23% used Twitter while only 13% used LinkedIn. Interestingly, just over a third (34%) said that they used no social marketing at all.
So, why the reluctance to use social media? Well, business owners can be wary of anything that feels like a waste of their time and resources. And for someone who already spends all day running their business, investing time and money into social media can be just another headache. This makes perfect sense of course, but are you missing an opportunity? Are your competitors taking advantage? And more importantly, are your customers left wondering?
Establishing a social media presence is a bit like learning to drive – hard work at the beginning but it soon becomes part of what you do. If you haven’t looked at outsourcing your marketing before, this could be a great way to try it. An experienced marketing partner can help you develop and execute a communications and social media plan for your business – clearly identifying who your targets are, what you want to say to them and how? Social media marketing can be a most effective and inexpensive way to continually promote your brand, your offering, to make your customers feel good and your prospects, to get interested in your business.
For a business with a loyal customer base, social media can turn loyal customers into advocates. Most of us have taken a recommendation on a business or brand from a friend in the past, but social media can open up this enthusiasm to a much wider audience. Research has shown that people trust other people’s recommendations more than direct marketing, so a business with an active and satisfied customer base will always be more attractive than one without. And it’s these recommendations which can turn a curious viewer into a new customer.
So, social media is great for telling your customers about you, but it’s also useful for your customers telling you about themselves. There’s no better guide to what you’ve been doing right or wrong than customer reviews. A company that engages with its audience can quickly find out what its customers like and don’t like, and tailor their future business decisions based on this information. The advances in social media advertising tools have also allowed businesses to be much more focused in their marketing efforts. With the ability to geo-target to their specific locality, these platforms also open up SMEs to a wider national and international audience allowing for a better return on investment than traditional advertising methods like television and newspapers.
Engaging with your customers and audience online takes time and can be managed well by your marketing partner. They can keep you on track of what’s been said about you and puts you in a position to answer questions, compliments or complaints, quickly and to your advantage. Comments and reviews online can make or break a sale – better that they are under your control.
So, how do SMEs keep in touch with news in their industry? Trade association newsletters are important, with 43% of survey respondents consulting them regularly, 39% read subscription newsletters, 29% get their news from Facebook and 17% from Twitter. Just under half of respondents stated that word of mouth was one of their primary sources for business updates. These results show there is a significant appetite amongst SME owners for industry related news, views and analysis. You can build a lead position for your brand by showing your expertise, solving problems, commenting on hot topics – in a way that appeals to your audience and makes them take notice. A good marketing partner will work with you to generate a suite of subjects that you have the expertise to talk about, and that your audience has the interest to read.
The Smarter Living for Business survey demonstrates that Irish companies are among the most progressive in the world when it comes to social media use. Enhancing your social media presence or building it from day 1 takes skill, effort and time but the rewards are significant. But don’t waste your precious time – engage with an expert who can help you with the thinking and ongoing work. A few hours a week will not cost you much but not embracing social media, certainly could.