Marketing and the SME: Back to Basics

By Ory Olindo (@OryOlindo)

Marketing is a business exercise that is not engaged in seriously by the small and medium enterprise in Kenya and neighboring countries. Entrepreneurs tend to have a mindset that marketing is done only by large companies who can raise a budget for it. It is a mindset that needs to change because regardless of the size of a company, marketing is necessary to alert the public of the existence of your company and the products it has to offer. As awesome as your product may be, as convinced as you may be that it is something that has a demand and satisfies a need, customers will not line up outside your door to buy it if they do not know about it. To get people to know that your awesome product is available to meet their need, some money will have to be spent to get the word out to them.

A large number of small and medium entrepreneurs have not progressed beyond the marketing strategy of relying on friends, relatives and referrals to grow their business. This word of mouth method may work for some time depending on the nature of your business. Eventually, you will have to inject a substantial amount of effort and money into marketing if the aim is to grow and bring in sizeable amount of revenue.

Marketing Basics

Let’s go back to the basics and start with understanding what marketing is. Outside of the textbook definitions, marketing in a nutshell, is telling people about how great your business is and how they will benefit from giving you their money in exchange for your product.

The most effective marketer of the business is the owner who understands why the business is in operation. The owner is the vision bearer; the heart and soul of the business. Without their idea, head and heart, the business would not exist. The owner has to ask themselves a few questions:

  1. How articulate am I in defining why my business exists and what exactly is it that my business aims to achieve? If you cannot articulate what you do, it will be difficult for your sales team to do a good job of selling your product. If you can sell them your product and they buy into it, it will be easier for them to sell it on your behalf. You will have then created a team that carries your vision, rather than a team of sales people simply looking to make a commission from the set targets.
  2. How many people around me know about what I do? Do my neighbors know? Do my relatives know? Could there be a potential customer right around the corner, but I have never spoken to them?

Market Research

A poor marketing decision can be expressed by jumping onto the latest marketing fad without understanding who your clients are and where they are found. Before spending any money on marketing, a clear definition of your client base will guide you on which marketing tools you require and will determine your budget. There is no point setting up a Facebook page when your key clients prefer face to face interactions.

On the other hand, if your clients are found on social media but you have an aversion to it, you have to find a solution. Either hire someone to handle this critical space of your target market social media or develop a love for it so that you can interact with your clients. Much as the internet is becoming a part of everyday business interactions, you need to understand the best way to use it to build your business.

As an entrepreneur, here are two critical questions on market research:

  1. Have I made an assumption about my client base, or do I need to take some time to observe and understand their habits in relation to my business?
  2. The internet is a wonderful tool for any business as an information source, what are some of the ways I can tap into it to strengthen my knowledge about this business?

Marketing Tools

The list of marketing tools available to the small and medium entrepreneur has grown over time to include Social media, website, podcasts, snap chat, fliers, business cards, brochures, interactive presentations. Once again, some of the old methods are still viable for use depending on the type of business you are in, and who or where your customers are.

Once you determine that which marketing tools you want to use to engage your clients, do it well. Don’t just create a logo and print business cards for the sake of it. Select an image or design that is both representative of what you do and is timeless. Do not be afraid to dig into your pocket and get an expert to do it for you. Remember first impressions are what get you in the door. Some questions the owner of the business can ask themselves:

  1. Which marketing tools can I apply to my business that will be effective and easy for me to manage?
  2. Have I chosen a logo and branding that is representative of the business that I am engaged in, or did I pick up

something that can work for now and will need to be changed later?

Marketing Strategy

One must create a marketing strategy that fits the company. Do not pick a great looking marketing strategy off the internet and copy paste it as your company’s strategy. Many people have created websites because it was part of someone’s strategy. Because the owner did not take time to understand how the website can be used for their business, the website is a replica of their company profile, and it not been updated regularly.

A couple of questions to ask:

  1. Do I understand the need of having a marketing strategy for my company or am I winging it?
  2. Do I have the knowledge to create an effective marketing strategy for my company or do I need the help of an expert?

As an entrepreneur, you need to make time to be involved in the creation of your company’s marketing strategy.

At present, the internet is taking over, and has provided many avenues of marketing that do not require you to leave your desk or spend too much money.

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, email marketing, banner adverts on websites are all avenues of marketing that can make a difference to any business. But even with over a billion users on Facebook alone, it is pointless to market your product on the internet if you have not identified who your target market is, and where they are found. It is pointless to invest in any marketing tool or strategy if you have not considered how effective it is to growing your business. The place to start is market research.

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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs, Co-founder, Chairman Apple Inc.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.” – Richard Branson, founder Virgin Group

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