Mid-size businesses are stereotypically considered to be stuck in a bit of a no-man’s land when it comes to marketing – too small to have the large marketing budgets that open up multi-channel campaigns and large scale paid media reach, but too big to still be able to rely on the sales and networking efforts of 2 or 3 people. Digital, when used well, can be a game-changer for this market.
With a professional looking digital footprint and evidence of activity, mid-size businesses start to look and act considerably bigger than they are. Judicious use of SEO, SEM, and other means by which people find business democratizes market access, giving smaller players the ability to appear next to their bigger competitors at reasonable cost. The ability to automate and easily customize communications with both existing customers and prospects means that it’s not the business with the biggest sales team that always wins.
So, why aren’t there more case studies of mid-size businesses blowing away the competition with their digital firepower? Well, the challenges faced by the underdog extend well beyond simple lack of marketing budget. Often, pretty much all the marketing activity undertaken is managed by one or two people within the business. They have to be jack-of-all-trades generalist marketers, who in any given day are dealing with branding, PR, creative, marketing strategy and annoying internal clients from sales and product teams, and so digital becomes a bit of an after thought. Digital tends to become channel-centric, I.e. let’s get a website up and running, maybe start up a Facebook page or Twitter account, and then focus on an email newsletter talking about ourselves every month or so. There tends to be a set-and-forget mentality around it, with little ongoing management or measurement in terms of its effectiveness, and sporadic bursts of activity on social and by email.
However, with the right strategy and planning in place, and a more systematic approach to digital, a similar amount of effort could deliver significantly improved outcomes. If digital activity is thought-through and planned in advance, with content created against the right business objectives, the return on time and investment can allow the mid-size business to appear far more nimble, responsive and in touch than the big corporate. This is because in a mid-size business, the people writing, implementing and monitoring the strategy are often much closer to the needs and products of the business, and their passion and enthusiasm comes through the activity.
So how does a mid-size business develop a well thought through digital strategy? After all, the requirements are very similar to a large scale business, but the ability to bring on board specialist consultants or external agencies is often restricted by budget. One option is to train up key staff members, sending them on digital strategy training or setting up mentor programs.
Digital represents both a headache and a huge opportunity for mid-size business. But with the right approach and a team that has the right framework and skills, it can be a massive differentiator that, over time, allows the mid-size business to grow into a major player in its category.
About the Author:
Written by Mike Zeederberg, Zuni Managing Director, Zuni.