By Matthew Kwan
Principal Consultant, Adams Company Limited
© Copyright. March 29, 2007
No matter companies big or small, marketing is always not cheap. Not only money you have to spend, but also resources to execute. Moreover, it is extremely hard to measure your success and return-on-investments (ROI). Therefore, it is very important for SMEs to have very clear ideas in mind what they need to do with marketing in order to remain competitive and yet maximizing their return with limited money and resources.
Here, I am summarizing the most important areas that SMEs should consider when they plan and do any marketing in an effective and target way:
Alliances – run marketing activities with your partners and maximize costs & resources
Benefits – always highlight your product/service’s benefits and values
Concentrate – focus 80% effort on the most strategic 20% of products/services
Dynamics – leverage your products/services strength to gain the maximum return
Environment – ready to adapt changes of business environment and ecosystem
It is so easy for anyone to think and act in silo. However, with SMEs money and resources are limited, we really need to look out and find partners that are complementary to our business and do co-marketing activities with them. Not only it is a cost-effective thing to do but also it creates synergy and excitement to our customers as they may get better and more complete solutions to fulfill their needs. With combined forces,
- We have much stronger bargaining power with the advertising agencies & channels
- We present a much more prominent presence and image to our customers
- We may broaden our reach to potential customers that are previously covered only by our partners
If you do not know where to start, just try to work with some professional organizations, chambers of commerce and some other associations that your potential customers may belong to.
Too often we market our products/services with functions and features without really telling our potential customers the benefits and values of our products/services. Customer buying behavior typically is based on how fulfilling is the product/service to their immediate needs. Any good product/service need to address the needs of the customers by their values and not the functions or features. Customers are generally willing to even pay more if they get the perceived values and benefits they want. One simple way to check your marketing message to see whether it is addressing the benefits and values is to ask if the customer would miss anything for not buying your products/services. Some examples of the answers should be:
- The customers are missing the opportunity to solve their problem or address their needs
- The customers are missing the chance to save money or to earn time
- The customers are missing the wave to catch up with the season or the trend
It is not easy at first when you try to write your marketing message and addressing your customers’ needs but it is absolutely essential if you want to differentiate your products/services with so many competitors out there!
Many of us have learned about the 80-20 rule but always do not know how to apply in real lives. I have seen many cases with SME’s they are trying so hard to get every possible income for the company but losing their focus to get maximum return from their core competency. Let me be a little bit more elaborate on this, we should really focus 80% of our effort/ money/ resources on top 20% of our products or services that are helping us to gain 80% return of our income. Obviously, it is just an indication but not an absolute rule, some may use 65% effort to gain 80% return…. etc. However, when we find ourselves using 50% effort in dealing with or promoting the bottom 20% of products/services, there must be something wrong with our time and resources management. It is a very loud alarm that we should be alert! So some basic questions to ask are:
- What are our top 20% strategic products/services that are generating 80% revenue? How much time, money, man power are we spending in promoting this 20%?
- What are the bottom 20% products/services we can put aside and not market now?
If we can master this 80-20 rule well in our business both sales and marketing, I am sure we can progress our business at a faster rate than we can imagine!
When we market our products and services, we should really try to leverage the strengths of all different products and services, so that our customers can relate them easily without thinking. It is very expansive to build individual brands for different products and it is an art to manage brands well. My recommendation to SMEs is to avoid as much as possible of introducing new brands unless absolutely required. However, the whole process should start when product/service managers and research & development managers decide which products/services to be launched to the market. Hence, when we launch new products and services, we should ask ourselves that:
- Whether the new products/services are complementing the existing products/services? Can we do bundled sales?
- Can we use an overall umbrella brand to cover both existing and new products/services?
- Do the new products/services differentiate themselves well enough that customers will not be confused?
I can guaranteed you that creating dynamics for your products/services is very exciting especially when you see they are really helping each other to sell and grow.
Business world changes every second, we have to be ready and adapt changes as soon as required. We cannot blindly repeat what we have been doing in the past. We should be willing to change according to the environmental changes. The ecosystem of the environment changes so fast, our customers, competitors, channels, complementors may not be there forever. We have to keep our eyes open and keep reviewing our marketing strategy by challenging ourselves to see if our marketing strategy really fitting to the real world! Here are some of the principles:
- We should stop using the same advertisement or we should make changes to the advertisement if there is no response from customers for a period of time
- We should use different marketing channels to test out the best responses and cost-effectiveness
- We should pay extra attention if there are seasonal effect to customer buying behavior…e.g. beginning and end of fiscal year, major holiday seasons…etc
The business environment is so volatile, no one can completely grasp the real situation but if we are diligent enough to notice, monitor and apply changes accordingly, we can make crisis to opportunities!
In summary, we must be ready to adapt changes in our business environment and willing to work with other alliances to create the maximum effect in marketing of highlighting the benefit/values of our most strategic products/services with most of our effort by leveraging the strengths of different products and services. It is a very exciting and interesting game we are in!