Integrated Marketing Communication Strategy for SMEs – Part II
Integrated Marketing Communication for SMEs
SMEs constitute a sizable proportion of the global economy. They account for more than 90% of businesses worldwide, and employ nearly 50% of the global working class. It is difficult to define SME because each country has its own definition, but in developed economies the SME Tag is credited to firms with approx. 100 to 250 employees.
Communication management in a SME, more often than not is the brainchild of the enterprise owner and they are usually business and profit oriented rather than being concerned about the impact their communication has on the market. As a result, unstructured, informal, and flexible, communication becomes their norm, reflecting an unplanned communication approach.
To understand effective communication, we must trace its origins to the beginning of civilization and commerce. Some 300 decades ago shoemakers and scribes announced their services on clay tablets. Ancient Greeks used town criers to advertise the arrival of ships that brought back cargo of wine and spices from distant lands. Today, businesses beckon potential customers with attractive signages, leaflets, product and corporate brochures, OOH Media, radio and TV communications, mobile applications like SMS Marketing, emailers, web advertisements, banners and pop-ups, and many such communication tools.
Budgeting your Integrated Communication Plan
For most enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), devising a communication plan can be a costly affair. On the one hand, customers are getting inundated with ever more information about new and allegedly superior goods and services, while, on the other hand, cash-starved SMEs need to be more and more creative to be cost-effective in advertising their products and services. To be effective, the communication must first get noticed, and then be remembered long enough to persuasively communicate the unique selling proposition (USP) of a product or service, so as to make potential customers into actual ones.
However, most SMEs are not structured, cohesive and integrated in their approach towards communication. When it comes to a communication exercise, most of them follow an ad hoc method. Communiqués, be they a DM, a B2B Brochure, Yellow Pages Advert, eMailer, Web Banner or an Audio-Visual, etc. are not synchronous with each other. What this means is the message, by the time it filters to the Target Group, is diluted, lacking the impact an integrated communication approach would provide. So when an SME forsakes a certain portion of his budget to Ad-spend, he is mostly disappointed. This doesn’t mean that SMEs and Advertising are opposite ends, what it shows is that the SME in question doesn’t have a integrated advertising plan.
The Variables Influencing SME Communication
Integrated Marketing Communication is a way to get your message to your desired audience. But in order to do that, you must first have a plan. This plan has many facets, including your marketing goal, advertising strategies, both creative and media, implementation, evaluation, and budget.
Suffice it to say, that an ideal SME advertising plan has to take a comprehensive look at all the affecting variables. The first four questions you want to ask yourself are:
Who are you trying to reach? What do you want to say to them? How, when and where are you going to reach them? Why have you chosen the steps you have selected?
The Only Way to Get Ahead…
Now that you’ve decided your goals, objectives, target audience, strategy, message, and tactics, you can finally give shape to effective outcomes following an integrated communication approach.
Integrated communications makes total sense. If you were going to attempt to influence a potential buyer to purchase and use your product, wouldn’t you use every persuasive communication tool at your disposal to influence the purchasing decision, with a synchronous message, similar in nature, so it registers more effectively, whatever the media in question?
You must use brand design, packaging, POP, graphic cards, posters, online direct response methods, social media and web broadcasts, print media, special events, PR and news conferences, give-aways, the Internet and all available contemporary channels, with a message which reinforces itself, irrespective of the media changes. It is the only way for SMEs to get ahead and keep going.