LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP – Relooking at digital investments.
It is said that companies shut down not because the product is bad, but they did not have the ability to market & sell. This holds true not just for large enterprise, but also for MSME segments, where the initial investment in the company can run up to a few crores.
With digital explosion happening in India over the past few years, marketing via digital could be considered a safe bet for the segment. It is estimated that by 2020, there would be 700 million internet users, primarily on mobile devices. However, as a marketer, I have hardly seen a great deal of initiatives by such enterprises. Most of them, if I am not mistaken are happy riding on the market places like Amazons & Swiggys & their initiatives.
Like any large MNC & enterprise, MSMEs are also divided into B2B & B2C. B2C segment has the task cut far easier, as it is more about reaching as many people as possible. On the B2B side though, business owners have to be lot more careful on their approach to digital investments. More than 50% of the B2B customers decide on which business to buy from, even before they call the sales representative. This makes it very important that the digital investments by MSME B2B clients are well thought out.
Most of the businesses start by making a website which covers the basic requirements. It talks about the services or product, the legacy and then the contact information. What most businesses tend to overlook is that they are addressing two set of consumers in the B2B segments, the influencers and the decision makers. Invariably, the research is done by the influencers, whereas the assets are created for the decision makers, leading to a broken customer experience. The business, thus doesn’t get the due returns from the website information. This leads to a change in website objective, to that of information hub when customers do search for them.
It is important that businesses understand the time that is taken from the first point of interaction to the conversion. A typical sales cycle, i.e., contacting the sales team to the purchase takes anywhere between 3 to 6 months. There is a research that is done before the contact happens. In other words, it takes over a year for the digital assets to create any impact in the sales funnel & that is something that businesses need to understand & accommodate in their digital journey. “Nobody was fired for buying an IBM” happened after years of building a brand.
Businesses also tend to invest in SEM & affiliate marketing to increase the leads, hoping to increase the sale. That doesn’t happen without a right foundation. These will result in operational inefficiency, as the sales team will spend more time chasing the leads to no end. A year or two into this rigmarole, the potential of digital will be lost on the business & they would go back to traditional sales channels, ignoring the importance of building a brand.
It is important that MSMEs, especially the B2B businesses understand what is needed & how they have fared so far in the digital journey. There are few checks that can be taken internally or with an external party, which broadly entails
- Strategy Document – It is important that all businesses have a clear strategic roadmap that is defined before investing in digital technology & mediums. This document should broadly define the objectives, KPIs, budgets & priority platforms.
- Timeline – As mentioned before, the results for MSME, doesn’t happen instantaneously. All key stakeholders should be clear on the timeline that they are working towards & this needs to be documented and accepted by all parties.
- Holistic Picture – The business needs to be ensure that they are looking at all aspects of digital together & not in silos. This is a key mistake that is done across, and it is important that a relationship metrics is created between paid owned & earned media.
- Customer Experience – The most important aspect of digital marketing is understanding the consumers better. It is important that business create a detailed document about the consumers, their habits, aspirations & motivations. This will help the business in understanding the customer journey better, identifying key touch points, creating memorable experience, leading to optimal investments. In the absence of such a document, business will also be chasing its tail.
- Content strategy & creation – There is a huge demand for content & MSMEs should show the intent & willingness to create content that will improve the customer engagement. This has to be a regular affair, and not campaign specific. After all, your customers are always looking for a content, and do not wait for your campaign. The frequency, platforms, promotion activities, formats and such needs to be documented in the strategy document.
In case the business doesn’t have any of these document, then they need to relook at everything they have been doing so far. Businesses, especially MSME should stop investing in digital thinking of it as a cheap alternative for advertising, and start investing it in for the efficiency it can possibly bring to the table, and for efficiency to happen, you need to create a great foundation.
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