A guide to marketing strategy for SMEs

Founder hub - marketing strategy SME

You’ve achieved success on a small scale and now you’re ready to grow your brand. But how do you get people to sit up and pay attention to you? Our guide to marketing strategy for SMEs will help you create a plan that will optimise ROI while maximising both resources and budgets.

Why do you need a marketing strategy?

Marketing is an essential tool for helping new customers find your brand. But unless you implement it with clarity, focus and precision, your costs can quickly spiral out of control, leaving you without much in return.

Your marketing strategy helps you get to where you want to go – like a route-planning sat nav for your business. Here’s how to create a marketing strategy for your SME. 

How to create an SME marketing strategy

Step 1: Figure out your audience

Contrary to what you might think, your marketing isn’t about you. 

Sure, you’ve got a brand to promote, a new product to sell, and a customer experience that you want to share with the world. But you mustn’t approach your marketing from a ‘business-first’ perspective. Instead, your marketing materials need to be created with your customer’s needs in mind.

To do this, you need a clear idea of exactly who your customers are. 

Creating and leveraging buyer personas can help you to better understand how to approach your prospects. What are their needs? Their frustrations and pain points? What are they likely to want from your offering? Are they simply looking to save money or are they seeking reassurance and / or prestige? 

Using buyer personas will help you to identify the positive sentiments for your campaign. It’ll also hint at the kind of language, and imagery, and platforms you want to use.

Take your time on this crucial first step. Otherwise it’s a bit like approaching a dartboard while wearing a blindfold – messy, and potentially very expensive.

Step 2: Figure out your goals

The basic mission of any marketing campaign is to grow your brand and your business. Nonetheless, within this super objective there should be more specific discrete objectives. Not only will these influence the content of your marketing activities, but also the effectiveness. 

With that in mind, what do you want your marketing campaign to achieve? Common marketing goals include:

  • Increasing brand awareness / drawing more traffic to your website
  • Generating quality leads
  • Acquiring new customers 
  • Reacquiring lapsed customers
  • Improving conversion and click-through rates (CTRs)
  • Driving sales and boosting revenues
  • Introducing a new product to the market

Whatever you decide, you need to establish how you’ll quantify and measure its success. You’ll need to decide on which metrics you will need to track and what your threshold for success will be. 

Step 3: Define your brand proposition

Your brand proposition is what separates your marketing campaign from everyone else’s. It’s what will establish you as the right business the eyes of prospective customers. Your brand proposition is key to maintaining customer loyalty and standing out against the competition. So it’s important to approach every campaign with a clear definition of what you want your brand proposition to be.

Your brand proposition should:

  • Explain how you understand customers’ needs
  • Explain why they should choose you over your competitors
  • Outline specific benefits (e.g. superior service, better support, more advanced technology)
  • Reassure customers that you can solve their problems or improve their working or home lives

It’s okay if your brand proposition changes over time. It’s also perfectly acceptable to change your brand proposition slightly when approaching different buyer personas. However, your brand proposition should always be a guiding force when composing and distributing your marketing activities. 

How to implement your marketing strategy

There are two ways in which to communicate your message to an audience. You can either pay for targeted ads, or try to reach them organically.

A well-composed marketing strategy should be fought on two fronts. Without paid ads, it can take a long time to grow your brand through organic means. On the other hand, unless they’re followed up with organic strategies, paid ads can quickly become a money pit. 

Organic marketing activities

Organic strategies typically involve providing useful content to prospective customers. This not only provides them with something for nothing, it also helps you to position your brand as reliable, authoritative and helpful. 

Content marketing usually comes in the form of:

  • Blog and video posts
  • Online seminars or courses
  • White papers and guides
  • Ebooks
  • Emails and newsletters

Useful content can also be reverse-engineered into lead magnets. You can do this by offering prospects a free piece of premium content (such as an ebook) in exchange for collecting their email address and other useful information. You can get agencies and / or freelance copywriters to create the piece for you – just make sure you have a definitive brand tone of voice so everything feels consistent.

When it comes to growing brand awareness, there’s no form of organic marketing more persuasive than word of mouth. Incentivising referrals (such as leaving a positive online review or convincing a friend or family member to use your brand) can also be a great way to reach new customers. Offering targeted discounts and special offers may impact slightly on your margins in the immediate future, but it will allow you to grow your customer base in the long term.

Paid marketing activities

Any successful strategy will most likely feature some form of paid advertising. Paid ads can lend momentum to your campaign, and get your brand in front of people you wouldn’t otherwise reach. 

Paid ads can be found on search engines, social platforms, and can even follow prospects around through the websites they visit via retargeting. Take the time to research where your customers spend their time online, and you’ll see a bigger ROI. 

Influencer and affiliate marketing is another type of paid channel that bridges the gap into organic territory. Influencers are trusted individuals who can introduce your brand to loyal online followings. They can either be paid upfront, provided with free samples of your product, or given their own promotional code that earns them a commission on purchases made by their followers. 

Following up your paid marketing activities with organic strategies creates a strong double attack. and if you’ve done the homework on your buyer personas, the easier it’ll be to create marketing messaging that’s attuned to their needs, goals, and challenges. 

How to measure the success of your marketing campaigns 

Before going live with your marketing activities, it’s important to establish a timeframe and set a schedule for monitoring results.  

Keep in mind what success looks like for your business. For instance, if your goal is designed to grow your brand awareness, you’ll want to keep an eye on website traffic. If it’s to gain new customers, you’ll want to track referrals or conversion rates. Sentiment analysis tools can be used to measure your brand’s health on social platforms, and surveys can be used to gather more granular information from your website’s users.   

It may be worth A/B testing different versions of your messaging to see if one version gains more traction than another. Even little things like the wording of a ‘call to action’ can have a substantial impact on conversion rates. If your budget allows, it may even be worth carrying out some conversion rate optimisation on your website. 

Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board if you’re not experiencing the results you expect. Marketing strategy is fluid and ever-evolving, and even the most subtle changes have the potential to yield impressive results. 

Get advice on your SME marketing strategy from the people who’ve been there. Join the Founders Hub community to connect with fellow founders and business peers.