By Ryan Higginson, Vice President Digital Channels Europe at Pitney Bowes
It’s a tough environment for owners of small and medium sized businesses right now. They have a very personal investment in making their business a success but that passion and drive can also mean they are covering a lot of different tasks and responsibilities to keep it ticking over. If you’re doing everything from customer service to business strategy it can be very hard to prioritise.
We recently conducted some research looking at over 500 UK small and medium businesses which found that many owners are taking the brunt of the workload, juggling an average of seven roles on a daily basis. When asked about their priorities, many are focused on low-level tasks, with 35% spending their time buying stationary, one in five helping repair the office and 16% picking up the cleaning. Meanwhile, business critical tasks such as marketing (32%) and business strategy (25%) can fall by the wayside.
Making space for marketing
Starting and running a small business clearly requires huge investment of time and money and this can leave SME owners spinning plates in order to drive it forward. However, there are key responsibilities, such as marketing, that shouldn’t be pushed aside as a result of this resource issue. Many owners do recognise this – over three quarters (77%) identified marketing as important for their business, but with limited resources the reality doesn’t always match the intention.
Now, there are easy-to-use, low cost tools available, designed to help small businesses effectively embrace newer digital marketing channels. For example, building a mobile optimised website can improve the experience for customers who are increasingly using a smartphone device.
Meeting digital demand
With regards to specific marketing activity, our research found that currently, print advertising comes out top (40%) but encouragingly online is not being neglected with email marketing (37%) and Facebook (26%) appearing in the top five most popular methods. Mobile is also moving up the agenda but SMEs still aren’t grabbing this opportunity – 49% say that mobile is part of their marketing activity but just 8% have optimised their website for this medium.
Every business owner has a lot of decisions to make. This year UK smartphone penetration is expected to account for over 50% of all mobile connections1. SMEs can’t afford to miss out on the mobile marketing opportunity. We’ve developed four tips below which should help you take a step back and consider ways to implement an efficient digital marketing strategy:
1. Get mobile
By 2014 it’s expected that mobile phones and tablets will be the most common place to access the internet. That might not be a surprise but is your website optimised for mobile?
2. Get cracking with QR codes
In Q2 2012 3.3 million Britons scanned QR codes2, showing that they are a great way of combining physical and digital marketing channels to increase customer numbers and boost online traffic. If you choose the right QR code generator you can also track where and when the scans were made and use this data to improve future targeting and fine-tune your marketing campaigns accordingly.
3. Use social media but use it well
Social media is all the rage right now and it can be incredibly effective, but use your tool strategically. If you’re selling business IT equipment, Facebook might not be the best place for you. Also, it’s important to understand the basics – there are plenty of free online guides – and make sure you use analytics; it’s the only way to tell if it is working.
4. Measure your campaigns to understand consumer behaviour
Marketers can use free tools such as Google Analytics to see exactly how many visitors are accessing their content from a mobile device, while geolocation technology and maps make it possible to find out where customers are viewing information or buying products and services.
Inevitably, every SME owner will prioritise the wrong thing from time to time but it’s vital to remember the goals and to stick to the business plan in the long run. This also means staying true to critical processes such as marketing; it will be of more value to your business then a sparkling clean office
Why not get ahead of your competition? There are tools available to help you. Take a look at our pbSmart Essentials suite for a few examples.