Developing strong products and services is only part of the challenge for small andmedium-sized businesses (SMBs). Unless they are able to reach out to consumersand develop brand awareness, how can they ever be expected to generate aprofit? SMBs generally only have limited advertising budgets - they are notable to spend hundreds of thousands on integrated, cross channel marketingcampaigns. Instead, they need to make the best use of the resources availableto them - which are almost inevitably low-cost.But the advent of the internet has made a big difference to SMBs in terms ofadvertising. It has opened a number of new doors to hard-up small enterpriseswhere marketing is concerned. Online, companies can promote their brands to awide and varied customer base, and target advertising at those who are mostlikely to be interested. SMBs can also monitor the success of web-basedcampaigns using analytics, providing insight on the wisdom of particularapproaches and informing their future strategy.With access to the web, SMBs can advertise their activities to a wide audiencewith relatively little capital investment. It can cost only a nominal amount tocreate a trading website and to develop a basic search engine optimisation(SEO) strategy. Similarly, it costs little more than time and dedication tokeep website content fresh and up to date, and engage with the public viasocial media. In 2012, SMBs have a variety of marketing tools at theirdisposal, which enable them to reach consumers in every corner of the globe.And such companies should be trying their hardest to take advantage.
The importance of getting advertising rightSMBs may have a platform for getting their message out to consumers, but theyneed to think carefully about what it is they are communicating. Businessleaders need to ensure all company marketing materials adopt a suitable styleand tone, and present the company in the best possible light. Given that theyare looking to trade beyond their local community - i.e. their natural consumerbase - marketing materials may be all an internet user has to form a judgementwith. Until they have dealt directly with the company, this advertising contentwill go a long way to forming their impression of the business - good or bad."You need to think carefully about what you want to achieve and themessage you want the reader, viewer or listener to take away," says theadvisory service Business Link. It notes that advertising is only effective ifa company reaches its target audience with a message that makes them want tobuy or at least find out more. So SMBs need to ensure they are striking a chordwith consumers - persuading them of a need for particular goods or services.Getting value from advertisingAccording to Business Link, SMBs need to ensure they design and position theirwebsites carefully for maximum effect. "Take time over it, it's important- it can be your electronic shop window, an information provider, a salesperson and an order form all in one," the service urges. It said the companyshould consider the internet user - as the potential customer - at every stageof the process. "Make it easy for them to find their way around yourwebsite, and to order from or contact you," Business Link added.SMB marketers are also advised to keep their website up to date and relevant,and check that all pages, images and links open correctly. This helps create agood impression with website visitors, but also ensures the site is able toachieve its SEO potential. Business Link adds that websites should be gearedtowards increasing sales, and this means they should be interesting and - ifpossible - interactive. Such content may help to increase user dwell time andallow companies to expand their sales pitch."Advertising often works most effectively when used in conjunction withother marketing and promotional techniques, such as press releases, specialevents and direct selling," Business Link notes. "Combining thesefactors might take more time, but will create the best circumstances for youradvertising to really work." The body urges SMBs leaders to work out amaximum marketing budget, and then identify options which give the bestpossible return. Owing to its accountability, transparency and wide reach,online advertising is likely to feature prominently in any marketing plan.Making best use of advertising toolsFew SMBs are lucky enough to have dedicated advertising experts on the books,who have the expertise and experience to create successful campaigns fromscratch. In the majority of cases, businesses are reliant on trial and error,an inspired marketing idea, or some degree of external assistance. The goodnews for small businesses is that plenty of help and support is available forthose looking to promote their brands online. For instance, MicrosoftAdvertising adCenter offers a robust collection of tools and informationdesigned to help companies place ads on the web.The platform helps SMBs create and edit online ad campaigns, raise conversionrates, research SEO keywords and demographics related to their target market,run regular reports to refine performance and increase overall return. Advertscreated in adCenter can appear on a variety of Microsoft properties, includingBing search results pages, MSN-affiliated websites and Microsoft Office.Increasingly, businesses are also able to advertise on Microsoft partner sitessuch as Facebook and the Wall Street Journal Digital Network.With Bing now the world's second most popular search engine, it has thepotential to be an extremely value tool to business advertisers. SMBs can useBing to quickly and efficiently reach target customers among millions of activesearchers for a particular product or service. And should the ads receiveclicks, it greatly increases the chances of online sales being made. Consumersfrom any part of the globe can find an SMB over the internet, not merely thosein the local town or city. And this means the world is very much an SMB'soyster, providing their products and services are of sufficient quality.