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Why SMEs need a marketing and PR strategy to shout about their success

By Laurna Woods

SMEs are the backbone of the economy but most of them put marketing and PR strategy at the bottom of their to-do list when they should be shouting about their success.

I was speaking on this subject at an SME Conference earlier this week, where I heard some great tales of foresight, innovation and sheer determination from the business leaders gathered in Glasgow for Scottish Business Insider’s event.

The statistics about the contribution SMEs make to our country are truly astonishing. There are 5.5 million private sector businesses in the UK. And the Federation of Small Businesses say SMEs account for at least 99.5 per cent of companies across every main industrial sector.

Those small and medium-sized enterprises provide 60 per cent of private-sector employment – that’s 15.7 million jobs.

SMEs are everywhere, doing everything and doing it brilliantly. A vibrant economy is reliant on their success. So why don’t we hear more about them?

The common excuses I hear include: “I can’t afford it”, “It’s not a priority, delivering is my priority”, “I simply don’t know where to start”, or “I just don’t have the time”.

Let me slay those dragons, and show you how cost-effective PR and marketing makes a difference to a business’s prospects …


I can’t afford a PR and marketing campaign

There is an assumption that meaningful PR and marketing campaigns can only be delivered with mega budgets. But didn’t every big company or brand start out small?

In terms of being cost effective, PR and marketing is a gift for small to medium-sized businesses, because it’s a simple way to target customers if done with thought and care.

From personal experience (and having many big corporates as clients) I see day-in, day-out how much easier it is for an SME to put in place an impactful and super-targeted strategy that engages directly with customers.

SMEs are the nippy sports car to the corporate juggernaut. They are more nimble, responsive and less likely to have layer upon layer of bureaucracy or approvals to hold you back. They can move faster, react better, jump on trends and have opinions in a way many of the big boys can’t 


Delivering is my priority, not a marketing campaign

So you’ve got a fantastic product and you’re keeping your customers satisfied. The word of mouth is great, but is it really enough to take your business to the next level?

Quite simply, self-selling products and services don’t exist. It’s a myth that good products and services market themselves. Brands need to let potential customers know that they exist and why they should consider buying.

The digital revolution has done us all a massive favour … customers are much easier to reach and engage with and businesses can more easily see who their clients are and how they behave.

We have analytics for everything and data is dynamite. It’s easier to see what competitors are up to. Messaging can be controlled more effectively.

But that’s only if you take it seriously, own it and take control. You might say: “We’ve got a website.” But are you promoting it, is it ranking high on Google, does it sell your services or merely promote them? A website won’t deliver growth, it’s what you do with and around it that does that.

You need to get potential customers over the line. You get back what you put in, whether you’re running with an in-house PR and marketing team or an external agency or advisors.


I don’t know where to start a PR and marketing campaign

The first critical step is knowing what you want your marketing and PR strategy to achieve for you and to ensure that it aligns with your overall business objectives. Find your focus.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself to help determine your objectives include:

Do I want to increase sales above all else? Do I want to attract and retain the best employees first and foremost? Do I want to find and forge new partnerships? Do I want to secure more funding?  Do I want to promote new services or USPs? What does success look like for us?

The answers to these questions will help you to focus your energy and budget.

There’s nothing wrong with shopping around to see what agencies or freelancers have to offer even if you’re planning to handle most things in-house – you’ll only serve to educate yourself, you might even pick up a free audit to sense-check how you’re currently doing things.

The most effective strategies are integrated; they centre on content and storytelling, so once you have your team assembled – in-house, agency or hybrid – you need a messaging and storytelling workshop to determine what you want to say to who, when and how.   

As SMEs you have an ace up your sleeves in this respect. You’re likely to be more trusted than the corporates and have a far greater ability to build a strong relationship with those you want to influence.

That’s why getting your storytelling right is critical. That requires more questions:

Where did you come from? Why do you do what you do? Why are you different and why should I engage with you?


I don’t have the time for marketing and public relations

Time, as we know, is money. But can you afford not to invest time in the most cost-effective method of promoting your business?

Whether you are working with an agency or handling your marketing and PR strategy in-house, you have to commit time to building your message and getting it out.

But the nature of modern media – with traditional print and broadcast titles sitting alongside the online disrupters, social media and influencers – means that you can craft content that performs across multiple channels, increasing potential customer’s engagement in your brand.

Building trust is critical and achieving enough visibility and critical mass through traditional, online and social media can help you punch well above your weight. It can make you seem bigger than you are but still small enough to care.  

Find the time to promote your business. And if you can’t, find someone to do it for you. Cost-effective PR and marketing deliver the results a business needs to thrive.

To find out how we push the boundaries of PR, marketing, digital and web design to get the best for our clients, call us now on 0800 612 9890.