Marketing communication crucial to survival of SMEs

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face numerous challenges in a complex and dynamic market environment despite their potential to drive African economies.

Marketing compass. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

BY EMILY KINUTHIA

IN SUMMARY

  • Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face numerous challenges in a complex and dynamic market environment despite their potential to drive African economies.

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Small market enterprises are an important mix to economic growth and are a key catalyst in improving the living standards of Africans through employment and entrepreneurship in the business value chain.

According to the World Economic Forum, these small and growing businesses create around 80 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s employment opportunities and are a key ingredient in establishing and growing a new middle class while fuelling demand for new goods and services.

However, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face numerous challenges in a complex and dynamic market environment despite their potential to drive African economies.

One of the greater challenges facing SMEs in Africa is packaging and delivering a compelling value proposition that will persuade not just their customers but one that will allow them access investors who will unlock their funding.

Among other challenges are access to credit as well as a difficult business environment brought about by policy inefficiencies. This only results in SMEs lacking sufficient capacity to leverage market opportunities for growth.

Marketing communication is a vital activity for the survival and success of SMEs. As the marketing and communication scene keeps evolving fast as a result of technological advancement, small market enterprises have to rethink their business value proposition infrastructure in addition to the traditional or normal forms.

Small market enterprises need to critically analyse the use of traditional and technology-enabled marketing communication tools employed by SMEs globally and map out how best they can utilise them.

Over the years, different sector players have developed models to explain the apparent mismatch between the need for marketing activities to sustain and grow companies in a competitive business environment and the actual marketing efforts used by these organisations.

The models have from time to time evolved to accommodate the changes in this fast environment and marketers have to find new models to adapt to the new reality.

During a recent Hubspot study, marketing professionals confessed that among the most difficult scenarios they have to navigate, is showing the return on investment for their allocated budget. Forty per cent of the respondents said their companies’ biggest marketing challenge is showing the return on investment (RoI) for marketing activities. Twenty-eight per cent said the other big challenge was securing enough marketing budget and lastly, another 26 per cent said identifying the right technologies with which to carry out the marketing activities was a challenge.

In marketing, all these factors need to be put into consideration for them to meet the specific targets that will steer the business forward.

The organisation, and in this case the SME needs to find the perfect mix that works for its products. Identifying the right technologies to use, supported by the right budget and lastly justifying the resources allocated to the specific tasks actually yielded results by increasing profitability — RoI.

Marketing value propositions should be clearly articulated, precisely targeted, communicated effectively and deliver on their promise consistently.

This is critical for any business to succeed partly due to the complex competitive environment we operate in today.

However, due to the increasingly discerning and tech-savvy consumer with a lot of information at their fingertips on the various products and services to make decisions in a split second.

As a business, you need to be able to capture this consumer at their point of decision-making and appeal to their rational and emotional needs, in order to convert and keep them loyal to your product.

To do this accurately and consistently calls for a great understanding and accurate articulation of your value proposition, and the ability to make the connection between the consumer need and your product offering, in a compelling manner. It also needs to be appreciated that markets, in general, are increasingly fragmented, and there is immense pressure on SMEs to differentiate their products and service and add value to the consumer whenever possible. This way, there is consistent growth, and it makes it easier for the firm to build a loyal customer base while adding new ones.

Even though there are issues in the SME sector that cannot be solved by marketing, it needs not to be a hurdle for the businesses to have sleepless nights. Without a targeted value proposition, the business cannot take off even with other problems of stable energy, sufficient funding and infrastructure out of the way.

Therefore, entrepreneurs need to give first thought on how they will package their business and brand it properly so that the target market finds it relatable and attractive. That way, the business will be able to grow sustainably and grow its brand equity.

Emily Kinuthia is a marketing and branding consultant based in Nairobi, she is also the general manager for marketing, citizenship and communication at NIC Bank.

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