Building the brand of the SMME

Khuthulani Khumalo

Khuthulani Khumalo

The small, medium and micro-sized business has as much need of public relations and marketing endeavours as the larger enterprise

Marketing and PR have long been considered the vague and unscientific cousins of hard work, networking and business relationships. This is changing. Content has continued its upward trend and a recent survey undertaken by MediaMath has found that 63% of panellists are increasing spending on marketing due to its success rates, with a further 53% stating that their investment is based on creating more relevant and customer-focused communications. If ever there was a time to strike, the iron is now hot.

The small, medium and micro-sized enterprise (SMME) doesn’t need to have vast budgets and huge agencies in order to achieve the most basic and powerful of public relations (PR) and marketing campaigns, but it does need to have some kind of media presence.

“There are some powerful and proven tools available to marketing and PR agencies that we can use to empirically tell that PR or marketing will work,” says Haydn Townsend, chairman and chief executive of Pangea Ultima. “This is critical in the SMME space when working on a very tight budget. Business expansion through marketing is a controllable lever in your business and the brand needs a well-thought-out corporate identity and brand story.”

Marketing and PR can provide SMMEs with tools that allow them to differentiate their business in a busy market. Statistics aside, a well-designed strategy can do far more for a business than none at all. 

“A marketing strategy should be included as part of the business plan, regardless of the size of the SMME,” says Tashline Jooste, chief executive of ICT enterprise development initiative, the Innovator Trust. “It should, at the very least, have an idea of who the company’s target audience is, how they can be communicated with, and which tools or channels should be used to communicate with them.”

The latter is a very important point. What channels should be used to communicate? According to research by NewsCred, 91% of people unsubscribe from company emails, 86% skip TV commercials and 44% never open their direct mail. Yet digital marketing spend has risen; 71% of companies plan to increase their 2016 budgets, and 70% of consumers say that they prefer to build a relationship with a company through articles rather than advertisements. 

“SMME owners need to spend time understanding their customers and potential customers, analysing how they consume media and what methods of communication work best for them,” says Khuthalani Khumalo, managing director, Khaliphani Communications. 

“This process of analysis may reveal that face-to-face engagement is far more effective than placing an advert in a magazine, or writing an article for editorial consideration in a newspaper.  This analysis process can be done with the assistance of a communications professional, who can guide your thinking. It’s about positioning your company in the right place, through the right media, for the right audience, to attract customers.”

Of course the SMME manager is going to ask the all-important question — but, why? Why spend money on a dedicated agency or campaign when social media is only a click away? 

“The SMME needs to ask if there will be a sufficient return on investment and if there are guarantees,” says Jess Mouneimne, director of Jam Media. “Is the company or person doing the marketing sufficiently knowledgeable, not only of marketing and PR, but also the industry the business operates in? The advantages lie in the answers from a jacked agency and include a funnel effect of visibility, where enough is said about a brand and its unique selling points that the marketing funnel is filled up and trickles into sales. The SMME does need to remember that it takes seven to 13 touchpoints before a sale is made and marketing is only one part of this process.”

Bridget von Holdt, executive director at Glasshouse Communication Management, agrees: “PR is not just about publicity, it is about building a reputation and developing communication tactics that will reach your target audience. It can take seven or more opportunities before you convert a potential into a customer and there is no easy recipe or quick fix, but consulting with an expert is more likely to ensure the success of your spend.”

The SMME is often faced with the chicken-and-egg scenario — investment helps to grow the business, but the money is always needed elsewhere. Ultimately, there is inordinate value to be found in a well-designed and structured PR and marketing strategy.

“There are numerous advantages to having the right strategy in place … but it must be the right strategy,” says Lizelle McDermott, managing director of McD Squared.

“If you know your target audience and are putting the right content onto the right platforms, you will see results.”