22 Jan 2019, 10:06 — 6 min read
Summary: Most successful big businesses rely on marketing, branding and a strong online presence to drive their business growth. Shiv Joshi, Head of Corporate Communications, Retailers Association of India shares why small & medium enterprises (SMEs) must shed their reluctance to embrace these best practices in order to scale and grow.
There were once two kirana (neighbourhood retail store) shops that sold almost identical items. Let’s call them Shop A and Shop B. At any given time, Shop A was always full of customers while Shop B received a much lesser footfall or even delivery orders over the phone. Soon Shop A doubled its shop size and added many more items. It installed POS (point of sale) systems and accepted digital payments and orders. In a few years, Shop A had opened similar stores in other localities. It started growing at an unbelievable rate.
Although all other things being the same when they both started, the key difference between the two was the approach. Right from the day it opened, Shop A followed as many best practices of big businesses as it could in terms of branding, marketing and communication. For instance, it had its own original logo, it had well designed pamphlets with offers that customer could take away; the home delivery number was prominently displayed; the owner had a visiting card and even Facebook presence.
Unfortunately, several SMEs think they don’t need things like these owing to their small size and that these are fit only for large organisations. They believe that these are a waste of money, effort and time. And that they will think of branding and marketing when they become big enough. It’s like putting the cart before the horse. It is best practices that help grow a business and not the other way around.
Call them best practices or imperatives, there are certain things that are a prerequisite to growing in today’s world. Listing the 3 most important:
Branding is creating a unique identity for one’s business. And for that size definitely doesn’t matter. Hire a small agency, create a good logo, think of a good tag line. Use it everywhere, print stationary with your branding. Make it prominent in your office. Set up a professional free email account which people can use to reach you. Display that prominently too. If possible, let the branding be visible even on your employees by way of ID cards or lanyards or uniforms and packaging. Silly as it sounds, the journey to becoming a great brand starts from branding. Keep soft copies of the branding and related material with you.
2. Online presence
Earlier, food, clothing and shelter were considered the basic necessities of life. Today, they are food, clothing, shelter, smartphone and social media presence. According to Brandwatch statistics, nearly half (3.397 billion) of the world’s population (7.7 billion) actively uses social media. Unfortunately, when it comes to business, SMEs naturally equate online presence with having a website and don’t find it worth the investment to have one. They completely miss out on social media. Having social media presence can do wonders for your business because of its remarkable reach. It is ideal for even those who don’t want to take their business beyond their locality. Ideal would be to be present on platforms like GlobalLinker that equip you with everything required for growing your business such as e-commerce store with payment gateway, hiring tool, biz offers and a solid networking platform. But at least start with a Facebook page with complete and accurate information about your business. People check their Facebook page several times a day. Won’t it be easier to find them if your business is there? Use as many digital tools as you can, create WhatsApp groups, leverage Instagram.
Create offers, special reasons for people to do business with you. Even B2B businesses can create different propositions for their customers. If you have a budget, make pamphlets and get them distributed. Tie up with other business, causes and associations to market your business/products through banner displays. Use digital tools like WhatsApp to bring together your loyal and regular customers on a common platform. Then share offers, deals or discounts with them. Make them feel special. Attend relevant social gatherings /seminars with the sole intent of networking. If you get an opportunity to speak at public forums, try and build relevance to your business. Make it a point to keep in touch with all your business associates be it vendors or customers. It will give your business a top of the mind recall.
None of what has been suggested above is anything new. More knowledgeable people have said it better. Yet, as a journalist meeting several business people, I notice that SMEs are reluctant to put even the basics in place as they feel they’re all for big businesses. What I hope to emphasise to them is: Adopting best practices is not about size, but about professionalism.
When SMEs realise this, their businesses will begin to evolve and grow.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker, Retailers Association of India or any other organisation.
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