What SMEs need to know to market effectively in 2014 – seminar summary

Image3-2Last week, TLC Business hosted our annual marketing seminar at Southampton Science Centre. This year we focused on ‘Marketing for SMEs in 2014’. The guests were treated to a working lunch, tackling a range of hot topics on marketing for SMEs. As promised, we have created a blog outlining some of the main themes we explored on the day, so you don’t miss out!
Digital vs. traditional marketing

15 years ago the term ‘digital marketing’ did not even exist showing just how fast technology is moving and how important it is for marketers to keep up. The debate of which type of marketing is more important has been around for just as long and every marketing professional will have their own opinion.

The statistics around digital marketing channels are compelling. B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t. So if you’re not already blogging, perhaps you should be thinking about it. Regarding social media, 52% of marketers said they have found a customer on Facebook and 43% on LinkedIn.  In terms of influence, surveys have found 63% of readers are more likely to be influenced by blogs over magazines. These are just 3 examples from a plethora of impressive statistics as to the effectiveness of ‘digital marketing’.

However, despite all the focus on digital marketing, in 2013 digital budgets are forecast to account for just 20% of overall marketing spends and TV, press and outdoor advertising was up 3.4% in the third quarter of 2013.

So what did we conclude? Two main points:

1. If you’re not at least planning on how to use ‘digital marketing’ in your business you should be, because your competitors are likely to already be reaping the rewards.

2. We would argue that the term ‘digital marketing’ has become extinct in any case. So intrinsic are digital channels in one’s overall marketing mix that to imply it is somehow distinct from ‘marketing’ in general is outdated. Digital is so important that it cannot be left out!

The rules of SEO

Over the last few years Google have released a number of different algorithms that enable you or I to find what we are searching for on Google. Famously coy about what companies need to do to enhance their search engine rankings, Google has worked hard with its algorithm updates to eradicate the contrived methods of SEO practitioners to artificially inflate a website’s search engine rankings.

First came Panda. Panda dealt with dubious content pages and demoted websites that attempted to dupe Google about the relevance of pages. Next came Penguin. Penguin came down hard on iffy link building, resulting in a number of big names plummeting down the rankings . And now to Hummingbird. Released towards the end of the summer this year, Hummingbird (birds famed for being precise and quick) moved the goal posts (albeit slightly) once again. Hummingbird has responded to the change in the way that Google’s users now search. It seems we are asking questions more rather than searching for terms that might link to information they want to find. Put simply, Hummingbird ‘thinks’ and ‘acts’ more like a human and recognises the intent (semantic meaning) behind the search phrase.

The best way we have heard the subtle shift in intent from Google described is the following; currently we have ‘search’ engines – Google wants to become an ‘Answer ‘engine.

It is helpful to keep this in mind when creating your content. Consider creating tutorials, ‘how-to’ guides, explanations and general content that provides solutions to challenges in your industry or that your target audience might be experiencing.

How to make your marketing work more effectively

The first rule for making your marketing work more effectively is to know your market. Do you know what competitors are out there and what they are doing.

What about your target audience? Have you established they actually want and value what your business provides? Have you reviewed the demographics; where are they located, what segments exist, what type of marketing is most influential to them. For instance, a 20 year old might find social media marketing a lot more influential than a 70 year old.

The future is never clear and forecasts, even from experts, might never come true. Despite this, it is still important to look to the future when thinking about your marketing. What changes are taking place in the marketplace? How are consumer purchasing habits changing? What technology is becoming available to utilise in your business or your marketing? A lot of the time the information you are looking for is already out there, it is just a question of finding it!

Moving with the times

The pace of change in the marketing sector can feel daunting at times, leaving some to cling to old familiar channels and ignore potentially effective ones in the process. Making an effort to ensure you move with the times is very important. It might not always be appropriate for your sector or audience but the very nature of establishing that is a useful process in itself to better understand your audience.

The annual B2B Buyersphere Report was reviewed and illustrated the different types of social media that are being used by B2B buyers currently. Somewhat surprisingly, Google + came out on top, indicating that perhaps Google’s social media offering is beginning to gain traction.

The presentation looked at the rise of ‘Moment Marketing’, where marketers respond to real life events, in real time. Nestle, Nandos and Paddy Power demonstrated great examples of mastering this. Most importantly, SMEs, through leveraging their social media networks, can compete on an equal footing with corporate giants in the ‘Moment Marketing’ arena.

Mobile marketing was a hot topic; with staggering statistics about the adoption of smartphone – by the end of 2013 there will be more smartphones on the planet than people.

The significance of this for marketers is that more and more interactions between companies and their target audience are taking place on mobiles.

The knock on effect of this is that it is imperative that businesses design their website and content (such as emails) to be mobile friendly.

Equally significant is the rise of ‘People Power’. Mirroring the rise of social media, the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter now give the average Joe in the street a platform to reach a global audience. Marketers need to accept and embrace this rather than fear it. Businesses might not be able to exert the same control that they are used to in more traditional marketing channels but they are able to reach a far wider audience and engage in ways previously unheard of. Social media represents a massive opportunity for businesses and can no longer be ignored.

Top tips all SMEs should know

The event was rounded off with a few key tips that all marketers or those running a business should take away with them. These encompassed:

1. Knowing your audience and the market research tools you can use to do this

2. If you read two books, we recommend ‘The Psychology of Persuasion’ and ‘The E Myth Revisited’

3. Embrace email – the stats all show it works

4. Make sure your content is up to scratch

5. Get yourself on social media – whether you’re there or not we guarantee your competitors and customers will or soon will be

6. Go mobile


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