During the pandemic and since then, hundreds of thousands of small businesses embraced new technologies and made ‘the digital pivot’ out of necessity. Research from BT Business and Small Business Britain in May 2022 examined SME viewpoints on digital marketing in the ‘new normal’ as the cost-of-living crisis starts to bite.
The challenge now is embedding those new tools and services in their everyday business operations for the long term. This is particularly challenging for SMES since the research shows there is a confidence gap, with SMEs identifying the need for more training, mentoring and examples of what successful digital marketing looks like.
Part of the challenge for SMEs, suggests founder of Small Business Britain, Michelle Ovens CBE, is that the digital and tech solutions for digital marketing have not been designed for scaleups. “In many cases, digital solutions are built for the large end of small business (at best) and for large enterprises in the main,” she says. “Many digital solutions are truly phenomenal but understanding how to unlock that functionality and potential are way beyond the digital skills of most businesses and leaders. Big business technology is largely, well, just too big for small business.”
How to close the digital marketing knowledge gap
For scaleups in particular, understanding important digital marketing concepts should be a priority over developing expertise on specific marketing channels, says Abigail Sayers, who heads a team of digital advertising consultants who manage online campaigns for small businesses using BT’s Digital Marketing Hub.
Rather than detailed tips and hacks for Facebook, Instagram or Google, it’s obvious that what scaleups really crave is an understanding of key concepts that can inform how they create digital marketing campaigns, she says
“We’re working with highly accomplished professionals who are talented and creative,” explains Sayers, “but SMEs aren’t necessarily marketers and don’t have a marketing department to hand to create effective digital campaigns.”
These are some of the marketing insights that the Digital Marketing Hub team are frequently sharing:
Harness the power of your business data: Understanding what’s working and not working is crucial to managing budgets and determining ROI. Sayers says a great many SMEs don’t monitor their marketing at all and this can lead to scepticism. “Measure everything,” she says, so that you can benchmark future performance.
Use the marketing funnel: Investment in input greatly influences outcomes. For instance, a conversion campaign is unlikely to succeed without brand awareness. “It’s hard to convert someone who hasn’t engaged with your brand before, and this is why conversion rates can be low on campaigns where there hasn’t been any investment in awareness or consideration,” Sayers says.
Understand your audience: “Challenge your assumptions about who your customers are,” advises Sayers. Often small companies limit themselves to a very small pool of potential customers by making assumptions about who will want their product or service. It’s often the case that the addressable market is much bigger.
Don’t bust the budget on a website: Many small or young companies are tempted to spend big on a glittering website when that money could be better directed towards advertising costs. You can easily create a campaign-specific landing page or use other tools available to the same effect.
Creative counts: Taking time to hone visuals and polish messages really has an impact on the performance of a campaign. And don’t forget to ‘test and learn’ to understand what’s effective.
Knowledge in action
Help with creating assets and identifying the right sales funnel was crucial for Dr Ava Eagle, CEO and founder of The Mango Girl, a handmade skincare brand founded in 2019. She says that she has “always had a passion for creating things” but online marketing was less familiar territory.
She says: “The support from the BT Digital Marketing Hub has been great. The team helped me to create a series of display ads and Facebook Ads, which has helped me identify the right audiences and optimise activity to ensure I’m getting the best return from my budget.”
To find out more about BT’s Digital Marketing Hub you can sign up here. You can also speak with BT’s dedicated team of digital marketing experts to help get your digital advertising up and running in no time.
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