Marketing joins IT in the too-hard basket for SMEs

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The aim of my small digital services business was to provide as much digital communications help (not IT) to the smaller business sector as possible.

And for the past dozen years, that’s predominantly what we’ve been doing.

But more recently, a number of my clients have asked if we could also manage the rest of their marketing strategy in addition to their digital worlds (i.e. websites and their management, email marketing, SEO, social networking and so on).

And to a degree that makes sense. Traditional marketing and digital marketing aren’t mutually exclusive and should absolutely work hand in hand.

But I guess I’d gone out on the not unreasonable assumption that given most of my clients have been practising traditional marketing much longer than digital and so that side of their marketing would be well catered for.

As it turns out, that is no longer the case.

Two key factors appear to be the culprits.


The marriage of traditional and digital


First, because digital marketing is now almost completely interwoven into traditional marketing, the lines are now very much blurred.

For example, a traditional marketing tactic might use your website as a ‘call to action’ or you may use the same article in both print and online.

In fact, very few traditional marketing tactics don’t refer to or work in tandem with digital components these days.

Therefore why involve two people (or suppliers) if one person (or supplier) can do the lot?


A complex puzzle evolves


Second, the addition of ever-evolving digital marketing techniques to the marketing mix means that the whole marketing task has become far more complex than ever before.

As outlined here before, more than a decade ago few small businesses used more than four promotional tactics to reach their target market.

For example, a locksmith may have used a combination of Yellow Pages, local classifieds, letter box drops and visits to real estate agents to drum up new business enquiries.

But these days, whilst some of these tactics may still be effective, they may also have to create and maintain a website, ensure it is optimised for search engines, run a Google AdWords campaign and maintain a presence in one or more service bidding websites, amongst others.


Who you gonna call?


Because most are continuing to use traditional marketing in addition to digital marketing, trying to keep up and service the entire marketing effort is often beyond the resources they once utilised.

Instead they are looking for a turnkey solution to their entire marketing effort. And finding someone who can do that affordably, who understands both traditional and digital marketing and who understands their business and industry is not easy.

In turn, these developments have put more pressure on smaller businesses to be more sophisticated when it comes to marketing strategy and planning.

In the past, many smaller businesses perceived marketing as simply a mix of promotional media and the materials each required to communicate the marketing message.


Managing the four Ps


Whilst they practised the old ‘Four Ps’ of marketing (product, price, place and promotion), marketing strategy was less about dedicated planning and more about trial and error.

But without good and independent advice on all aspects of marketing, less informed businesses can soon rack up large bills as a result of experimentation with the various tactics in an attempt to embrace some of the newer digital tactics.

This complexity can often see smaller business owners invest considerable time in learning more about digital marketing, which can take them away from running the business – a risky scenario at the best of times.

I’m certainly not complaining about adding the traditional marketing work to our existing suite of offerings. But it’s just another example of technology developments continuing to alter the way business is done.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.


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