Writing for Business Advice, David Morgan, chairman of The Mission Marketing Group, explains how business owners can leverage the momentum of Small Business Saturday for success throughout the year.
A kind of Black Friday for Britain’s independents, Small Business Saturday entered its fourth year earlier this month. It’s always encouraging to see events and initiatives taking place that celebrate entrepreneurialism in the UK.
Running a business can be a lonely place, so feeling part of something like Small Business Saturday is a great way of boosting a sense of community among independent business owners.
The campaign highlights small business success and encourages consumers to “shop local” and support small businesses in their communities. Research suggested consumers spent 24 per cent more with small businesses on the dedicated shopping day in 2015 compared to the previous year, and 46 per cent of those surveyed said they “shopped small” specifically because it was Small Business Saturday.
From high-tech manufacturing firms to caterers, plumbers, retailers and graphic designers, small businesses are the lifeblood of communities, with the UK being home to some 5.5m small firms. Their impact on the economy is also huge, providing 60 per cent of private sector employment and accounting for 47 per cent of turnover.
More than just a product or service, small businesses offer customers an experience. Local companies can provide one-on-one service that is often impossible for large corporations to replicate. Indeed, here at the Mission Marketing Group, we are an umbrella organisation made up of 13 different marketing and communications agencies of varying sizes, but, crucially, our agencies maintain their individuality.
The entrepreneurial spirit and independence of each agency makes them what they are and, like smaller businesses, this enables us to build more personal relationships with our clients.
Small Business Saturday is now an annual event having the impact that its creators desired, but how can small business owners maintain consumers’ enthusiasm for their entrepreneurial spirit throughout the rest of the year, while competing with the bigger, household brands?
Below are my top tips for marketing techniques that will help small businesses on a budget stand out from the crowd all year round.
Define your brand
Small businesses have the luxury of avoiding the layers of bureaucracy that can be involved in branding for larger corporates – take advantage of this. Try and carve out your own distinct identity.
Branding is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audiences. Customers are so savvy today that they can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their way to sales.
Your brand character should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market. Be authentic and stay true to your values.
Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Referral networks are invaluable to a business. This includes business-to-business referrals. If you have ever found yourself saying, “we don’t do/sell that here, but X down the street does,” you should make certain that you are getting a referral in return.
At The Mission Marketing Group, collaboration helps us deliver more for our clients, and grow our businesses from within. At every step, everything we do is about working together to share our abilities and add value for our agencies and their clients.
Remember that your competition is not always your enemy. If you are too busy to take a job, throw it their way, most times, you will find the favour returned.
The power of the web
Most traditional methods of marketing have not changed in the last 50 years, whereas the birth of the internet and the rise of social media have developed and evolved rapidly.
It is nearly unthinkable that a company, even a local café, will not have at least a website with vital details such as location and opening hours. Not having a site means not having a “shop window” online which means you could be missing out on the majority of people who turn to Google first when they want to make a purchasing decision.
Add to this a social media presence and even a small business can extend its audience reach, increase brand exposure and help drive traffic to that all-important website. In the US, there were nearly 250,000 social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #ShopSmall, #SmallBizSat and #DineSmall, and more than 150,000 were posted on Small Business Saturday alone this year, showing the impact of the platform.
With limited budgets, small business need to squeeze as much as possible out of every penny and a solid social media strategy that taps into these type of events can certainly help to achieve marketing success.
Consider what is most important for your business to succeed. There is not a one-size fits all solution – it may be that you should invest in an SEO programme to get your website off the ground, or a direct mail campaign to raise awareness of your product or service.
All of this will depend on what messages you are trying to get across, and who you are trying to get them across to.
The best type of marketing program is a healthy mix of different forms of marketing spread out through the year, such as website development, public relations, print and broadcast advertising and design and printing for all print materials.
Getting involved in initiatives like Small Business Saturday is a great way to kick-start marketing efforts, but harnessing the enthusiasm people feel for your business on one day of the year is crucial for a long-term, sustainable business proposition.
Don’t miss our exclusive video interview with Chuka Umunna to find out how he brought Small Business Saturday to UK shores.
David Morgan is chairman of The Mission Marketing Group
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