SMEs need to be worried if they don't have a digital marketing strategy to reach customers

Small- and medium-sized businesses are missing the opportunity to reach customers in a cost effective way if they don't have a digital marketing strategy.

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) may need to get worried about how to prioritise digital marketing if they are not already making it a key component of their strategy.

SMEs still tend to mostly think of digital marketing as something alien to their overall marketing strategy, with just 34% of those surveyed listing it as a top concern, according to the Yellow NZ Business Confidence Survey, just released.

Yellow® CEO Michael Boersen says: “What this tells us is SMEs are viewing digital marketing as a separate area, as opposed to a core part of their marketing. They might be missing a trick if they’re not prioritising digital, as an online presence can be a cost-effective and efficient way to be top of mind with customers.”

The survey, conducted by Colmar Brunton, covers a panel of 1399 self- employed businesses, business owners or key decision makers among SMEs.

Missing online 

The findings reinforces a previous Yellow survey done on SMEs, which revealed that many SMEs don’t have an online strategy. The previous survey, released in August 2014, showed that only 50% of the almost 3,000 SMEs polled had a website - and that figure hasn’t risen since late 2012.

A significant 20% of those surveyed aren’t using any online tool. Of those using online tools, email marketing was the most common (32%), followed by search engine optimisation (15%), video (7%), and mobile apps (5%).

Here are some tips from Boersen on how to start thinking digital, if you don't already do so.

“What we find is that it’s the basics that matter – so start with them first. You have to make it easy for your current customers to find you and find what they’re looking for.  A lot of businesses are happy to try digital marketing themselves. But if you’re finding you haven’t got the time or get stuck on the tricky elements call an expert, just like you would with a tax return."

Key takeaways

  • Website – What do you want people to do when they get there? Call? Register? Book an appointment? Ensure there’s a clear call to action. Where possible, incentivise people to make sure you convert as much of the traffic to your site into leads.
  • Is it mobile optimised? – This is absolutely crucial. Consumers are searching more and more on smart phones, so a flawless experience on the smaller screen is vital. Often this is a much more simple version with a focus on your call to action.
  • Can your site be found? – This is important for your existing base and potential new customers. Ensure your site is SEO optimised (this is so your website comes up higher in the free Google rankings) and consider if SEM (or Google AdWords) is the right choice for your business.
  • Engage online – Treat customer reviews like a customer walking in the door or calling on the phone. Engage with these sites for customer service and to boosts your website’s visibility. Sites like Yellow®, TripAdvisor and Menus all offer this functionality.
  • Get social – Find out if social is right for you. Trial a channel for a few months and find out what resonates with your customers. Is it special offers? Advice and inspiration? Thought leadership for professional services?”

Other new skills

Business owners are also keen to learn new skills to keep ahead of changes. The Yellow® survey found 67% wanted to attend ad hoc events or seminars but almost a third cited time as the biggest barrier to attending. Almost one in five of those surveyed found cost as a barrier to learning new skills.

Most SMEs have got it right when they cite keeping their customers happy as a top priority.

Overall SME expectations were positive for the coming year, especially among retail and wholesale businesses. More than half of SMEs across the country expect profit to grow in 2015 and 6% anticipate a decrease in profit.

Challenges of keeping status quo

Boersen says the research looked broadly at expectations and concerns, and the results showed that things like rising costs, attracting new customers, and new revenue streams remain an ongoing concern.

“We think that business owners are aware of how bombarded consumers are with messages from an ever-increasing number of channels. They know that it can be a full-time job to maintain the status quo. Competition these days isn’t just a new shop a few streets over, it’s your competitor set online too,” Boersen says.

To address this, Yellow® is launching the second of its highly successful event series – The Biz – a roadshow that attracted more than 2,500 people in 2013. This year, The Biz will visit 10 cities and towns throughout New Zealand during February and March 2015, in a compact three-hour format.

Topics being covered include marketing, with a real focus on digital, IT and recruiting good staff. Companies helping with the education include Google and Microsoft.

The roadshow will also reach areas not commonly covered, such as Whangarei and Palmerston.

Business owners who would like to attend the free events series should visit www.bizevents.co.nz for regional dates, times and speakers.