Digital marketing - Holy Grail or sword of Damocles?

From the Listening Project: Why helping SMEs with online and social media selling could be a smart move

FOMO (definition): ‘Fear of missing out’, or anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.

The ability for a small business to send their product message around the world and translate that into online sales is without doubt a recent and, still astonishing, phenomenon. However, our Listening Project research showed all our SMEs all felt a degree of FOMO - both fear that they were not optimizing optimising the use of social media and digital marketing, but also a degree of scepticism.

SME businesses view every cost – financial and time – in terms of its linear relationship with sales. The question is always: Will putting a couple of hours into our online content produce a sale?

Of course they value their reputation and people’s opinions of their business, but they believe this comes from customer word word-of of-mouth – the old fashioned kind. They are less ‘brand’ focused than larger business and more sales, or at least sales leads, focused.

Views are also based on one one-off experiences – one sale through social media and they are a convert, exacerbating further the FOMO effect.



Generally our SME owners have little experience of digital marketing. They left their corporate jobs before online channels became as important as they are today. So, they lack confidence and knowledge and base their views on their personal experiences online – and its not all positive. Negative personal experiences on Facebook Facebook, for example example, can make them wary of using it as a business channel. Likewise poor online e-commerce experiences cause them to shy away from adopting this in their own business.

It was interesting to hear this gutsy group of business owners express real nervousness about the use of digital marketing beyond the use of a company website. Some of their anxiety is simply based on lack of knowledge of what to do and how to do it. Other areas of concern were more technical – for example the tax requirements in relation to e-commerce.

In a nutshell, SME business owners are desperately seeking advice and support. ‘Seeking’ might be too strong a word when being time poor is always a barrier – especially for tasks that are easy to slot into the too hard basket. But the cries for help are clear and should be a clarion call for companies looking to partner SMEs.

A few things worth considering if you are a supplier trying to reach an SME market:

  • Volunteer technical support for anything that involves online transactions and e-commerce – not just ‘how’ to do it, but the tax and financial implications too.
  • Host training and sharing of information sessions. They think everyone is more on top of it than they are and it is reassuring to meet peers who are also struggling with these exciting new platforms.
  • Share information on what works and for whom – especially as regards investment of time to achieve results.
  • They know they should be working on strategy and they should resist the seductive power of social media to just ‘do anything’. They would welcome a hand with getting a strategy together and would then have the confidence to move forward.
  • Share your social platforms with them to show the value of connecting.