How SMEs Can Leverage the Power of Digital to Engage and Influence Customers

Author Dan Hughes

Regardless of your sector or industry, you will no doubt be aware that the competition in your space is fierce. But, while getting ahead of the pack can seem like an uphill struggle, by leveraging the power of digital the right way, you'll be able to cut through the noise and grow your business, one initiative at a time.

Studies suggest that in the US alone, 66% of SME owners are responsible for personally overseeing three or more areas of their organization's activities, including marketing. And, of course, marketing is one of the cornerstones of sustainable success in the age of digital.

As digital technologies continue to evolve, there are more platforms, mediums, and touchpoints than ever, opportunities to connect your target audience on a deeply personal level.

By developing initiatives around even a portion of these touchpoints, you stand to boost brand awareness while accelerating your business’s growth.

Here we look at ways ambitious SME leaders, like you, can harness the all-encompassing power of digital to engage and influence customers.

Focus your Marketing Efforts

Focus your marketing efforts

When you're in the midst of operating a busy SME, time is always of the essence. That said, the foundations of your digital marketing success will lie in your ability to select the marketing channels that are likely to make the most impact.

For instance, in addition to your website - which is essentially your business’s HQ - you might decide to drill down into your email marketing communications and your Instagram channel, as opposed to spreading your efforts across several social media platforms, third-party eCommerce sites and landing pages.

Naturally, digital never remains static so these choices may change over time and as your business scales, so will your scope to broaden your marketing efforts. But, initially, by forming initiatives around two to three core marketing channels, you’ll be able to generate a focused buzz, potentially enticing droves of new prospects to your brand.

Building on this notion, now we’re going to explore four key areas you can leverage to your SME’s advantage - starting with social media.

Go Social

Go Social

95% of adults aged 18 to 34 years old are likely to follow and engage with a brand through social media. Moreover, 73% of marketers state that social media marketing has been either a somewhat or incredibly effective part of their business strategy.

But, despite this clear cut for social media, around half of today’s SMEs aren’t using this proven marketing medium to their advantage.

As mentioned, to squeeze optimum value from your business’s social media marketing efforts, you should take ample time to decide on one platform on which to focus the majority of your efforts.

Depending on the nature and mission of your business, different platforms will appeal to different audiences.

Facebook is still a tried and tested market leader and Instagram is enjoying exponential growth, with its visual nature appealing to younger generations. And, then there’s Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, as well as dark social outlets such as WhatsApp, and the list goes on.

Take the time to conduct your research, creating buyer personas to understand your audience on a deeper level. Study your competitors’ social media efforts to see what resonates with their audience the most and you be able to make an informed decision on your business’s primary social media platform.

Once you’ve set up or optimized your social media accounts (selected striking profile images, checked that all links are working, produced relevant, punchy bio copy, etc.), you should start building awareness by ‘listening’ to your target audiences conversations through social media, tapping into dialogues where appropriate and using this data as a means of producing engaging relevant content that will strike a chord with your consumers.

For inspiration, explore this selection of incredible social media marketing campaigns.

Bonus: As an SME leader, it’s likely that budgets will play a big part in the ongoing growth of your organization. To help you cut costs while enhancing your social media marketing efforts, here’s a guide to seven free audience listening tools.

Optimize your Email Marketing Efforts

Optimize your email marketing efforts

While many regard email marketing as somewhat of a lost art, it couldn't be further from the truth. A golden asset to any budding SME, email, if used effectively, has the power to engage and influence consumers in a big way.

In fact, 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses through email. Plus, 99% of people check their email every single day. That said, there’s plenty of scope for connecting with your audience with email communications.

To build a successful email marketing strategy for your business, you will need to consider the following elements:

  • Understand your audience.
  • Plan your goals and campaigns.
  • Choose the right email marketing tools and software.
  • Create engaging, relevant and value-driven content for your audience.
  • Monitor, track and measure your results.

Circling back to content: your email marketing copy will often make or break the success of your campaigns, so getting it just right is critical.

To ensure you engage and influence your customers on a meaningful level that is likely to result in a conversion, you should aim to be personal and focus on telling your customers an authentic story with your content.

“Make your customer the hero of your stories.” - Ann Handley, author and digital marketing pioneer

Strong narratives grab readers on a deeply personal level and as such, if you tell a story with your emails, you’re more likely to attract customers to your brand.

Take ethical cosmetics brand Lush, for instance. To communicate its core brand values with new subscribers, Lush uses a seamless mix of visual content and well-crafted narrative based on its passion for environmental issues - emails based on the storytelling featured on its website.

Lush’s inspiring email marketing campaigns, coupled with its strong brand storytelling capabilities, have served to catalyze the company’s growth in recent years, with an incredible level of year on year growth.

As a testament to the power of email marketing - and engaging content to match.

Target Small-Scale Influencers

Target small-scale influencers

For SMEs in particular, influencer marketing is an effective means of expanding your commercial reach and growing your audience. And, typically, this is achieved through the mediums of blogs and social media.

While attracting internally-renowned celebrities for marketing campaigns or initiatives is a relatively straightforward task for big-budget brands or organizations, for an SME, this task can prove a little more challenging.

But, for SMEs, concerning influencer marketing, the real value lies in sourcing small-scale influencers in your industry or niche.

At present, 94% of marketers believe that transparency and authenticity are key factors of influencer marketing success.

That said, by working to forge relationships with smaller-scale digital influencers in your niche, you stand to cut through the noise and connect with prospects that are likely to be highly engaged in what you have to offer or what you have to say.

While this is could perhaps be considered a large-scale influencer marketing campaign, SMBs can learn a lot from National Geographic & Microsoft’s ‘Make What’s Next’ campaign.

Launched on International Women’s Day, this influencer campaign aimed to encourage talented young women to start careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and saw the two brands posting images of relevant influencers across five of its most engaged social media accounts.

This innovative, emotive and incredibly niche influencer marketing strategy earned over 67 million social impressions, over 3.5 million ‘likes’ and an excess of 1,000 pieces of content generated via Instagram using the hashtag, #MakeWhatsNext. An incredible result for an exemplary digital marketing initiative.

Embrace Paid Advertising

Embrace Paid Advertising

Another business-boosting avenue you can take as an SME is paid-advertising. By embracing the potential of pay-per-click (PPC) though outlets including Google, Facebook and the recently regenerated, Amazon Ads platform, you’ll be able to connect with a wider online audience.

Studies suggest that 75% of people that click on paid ads say confirm that search ads make it easier to find relevant information. Based on that notion, a well-targeted paid ad has the power to encourage a healthy level of conversions.

Concerning paid advertising, there are a host of options but perhaps the most effective for boosting your presence on search engines is Google’s paid advertising platform.

To help you start embracing this platform and yield positive results, here’s our beginner’s guide to Google PPC advertising.

Final Thoughts

The best marketing doesn't feel like marketing.” – Tom Fishburne, Founder of Marketoonist

In the digital age, the possibilities for creating engaging, inspiring marketing campaigns are endless. By taking the time to connect with your prospects on a deeply personal level, focusing your efforts and taking a strategic approach to your activities, you will set yourself apart from the pack, cementing your success for many years to come.

Dan Hughes
Content Marketer