Is marketing strategy for SME’s?

SME Marketing Strategy

Have entrepreneurs and small businesses rejected classic marketing strategy?

As an impoverished marketer trying to earn an honest crust in these difficult times, I have observed that while bigger organisations appear still committed to strategic marketing, smaller businesses seem eager to bypass the practice and rush straight to tactics.

There may be many reasons for this, but perhaps we should consider the following:

Marketing has been ‘de-skilled’. How often do we hear, “Oh, I’ve got this young guy/girl who looks after my marketing”. This usually means digital and/or social marketing, and in the minds of many small businesses, that is all marketing is. On-line tools offer all you need for all your marketing needs. Perhaps there is a whiff of snake-oil, but so far as tactical marketing actions go there is some truth.

Hurrying to tactics is understandable. Businesses need fast results. Anything that appears to offer quick returns is obviously appealing. So long as small returns keep coming, there appears little need to think long term.

Why do large and successful businesses build on strategic platforms?

Small businesses might be tempted to say, ‘Because they can!’ They have the luxury of scale and resource. They can allocate personnel, time and cash.

But it goes deeper than that. Bigger organisations know they can’t afford to always be tactical and reactive. When you’re committing significant investment in your operations, it’s vital to have a strategic view. You need to know where you’re going, and how to quantify success, or failure.

Has strategic marketing failed the small business?

Small entrepreneurs tend to take their cues from their peers. In the early stages they see businesses succeeding and growing without formal strategic plans. Strategic planning takes a certain investment in time, yet plans are usually out of date before they are finished. Today, business moves very fast when you are at the sharp end, and for small enterprises there is only ‘sharp end’.

The advantages of moving fast and tactically seem self evident.

Is the marketing profession to blame?

Enterprise level businesses tend to have CMOs and marketing departments staffed with classically trained marketers. Consultants they employ also share their background – they speak the same language.  Because SME’s rarely have the funds necessary to create classic strategic plans, they can’t afford trained consultants, who naturally gravitate to the larger enterprises.

In the eyes of the SME, marketing professionals have not come up with the big, awesome, demonstrable benefit to strategic marketing.

What’s the future?

SME’s need strategic marketing – but not as we know it. Agile approaches don’t seem to work as the teams are too small. Perhaps it’s time for marketers to go back to first principles – identify and satisfy the needs and wants of the SME.

If you want to collaborate in creating a strategic marketing model for small businesses, please get in touch.

Ian West
dangerous ideas

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