New Media and the Internet: Blessing or Curse for SMEs and Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, you own your new idea. You may actually have a revolutionary idea that will change the lives of many. Or it may be the case that you are evolving an industry and know how to make it work better.

Having this idea is great, but you need to let others know about it. Otherwise, there will be no customers and no customers means you will soon be out of business. There are many things to consider when getting your name out to the people who may buy your product. The Internet is one of many possibilities, the one we will be looking at here.

What is available to you as an entrepreneur?

The Internet offers you a myriad of opportunities to promote your brand (to learn more about our view on brands, please see our earlier article: weblink). We would suggest you closely link your brand to the tools you are using. Here is an example: If you produce a product for youth, you should be utilizing the platforms that your audience frequents. Facebook for example. Should your target audience be older and less tech-savvy, this approach may not work. Yes, you may have to think about font sizes here as your readers may not be able to see the small fonts on Facebook.

Depending on your budget, you can use a mix of many tools. Here are just a few worth considering if you run a small business:

–          E-Newsletters: This amazing tool tells you who reads your news, who forwarded it and most importantly, which e-mails bounced. A bounced e-mail is an indication that your contact has moved on. Remember, you know that person and new client acquisition is away more expensive than keeping current ones. Pick up the phone, call them to update the email. It also shows that you care about their business and them personally
–          Search Engine Optimisation: Given that your website may not be large, this can be an affordable option. Given that more than 70% of users carry out an online search before ANY purchase, it is important to come up relatively high in the search results. This will get you short listed more often. While this is not a guarantee to sign up new clients, it improves your chances.
–          Syndicated E-PR: If you have something news-worthy, you may want to prepare and distribute a press release. Magazines, trade journals and newspapers might pick up this news and publish it (free!).  As you may not know whom to send the release to, you can use service providers that will, electronically channel your news to the right people. You can even specify where it should go, depending on your target market’s geography.

The other side of the screen (aka. Flipside of the coin)

However, with the new medium also comes a host of difficulties for others, the small companies.

While today a website is a must (with more than 70% of users searching online before any purchase), some companies struggle with the new media. Budget constraints and the lack of dedicated staff to manage online accounts are just two issues. Basic understanding might be lacking and some may fall for service providers offering a cheap solution that will cost a lot in the long run.

Above we suggested using Facebook for a youth brand. While the actual account is free and using the medium is free too, there is a certain cost that needs to be associated with this. You may want to call it an ‘opportunity cost’ if you, as the owner of the business maintains the account. You have the choice between posting something on Facebook or doing something else. Maybe meeting a supplier that can offer you a better deal, thus improving your bottom line. Alternatively, you can appoint one of your staff to handle the account.

Then there is the question of whether or not that person is able to communicate the brand in the correct manner. Or if the investment into a dedicated person is worthwhile. Or, if it might make sense to outsource to a specialist company to ghost-write for you. The last option then requires you to be able to identify a suitable and reliable partner. Not an easy task either.

Some of the tools will also require long-term thinking. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is not something that you start and stop every now and then. It should be carried out continuously over extended periods of time. The simple reason is that the dynamics of change are in a constant flux. Today, your audience finds your site looking for a specific term. That term may change next month. Then the terms in the back of your site need to be amended too. As a result, one needs to keep going with SEO, which can put some restraint on budget and cash flow.

Can a website really sell your business?

The short of the long is: it depends. From our (Launchpad’s) point of view, a website can assist in the sales process. Unless the site is meant to be the, or one of the main sales channels (Amazon, E-Bay), then the site is probably a step in the sales process.  Let’s be honest. If you are a service provider, your offer will be tailored to the needs of your clientele. You will not be able to sell a six-month consultation package off the shelf.

Your website can only suggest what can be done. The final offer will be determined in personal discussions. Your website needs to look good and has to be up-to date. However, you may not need the biggest and fanciest site. What is important is that people find your site and have the opportunity to contact you.

Quoting The Adcontratrian, here is a thought: What is more important? Engagement with people or selling your product? While it can be fun to chat with stakeholders on Facebook or to up-load a video to YouTube, always ask yourself if the activity translates into sales. Maybe a networking event will yield better results?

Here is a simple question that I haven’t been able to answer myself:  We have two websites, one blog, we send out e-newsletters every month. Yet 67% of our business originates from networking events that we attend in person. (Having said that, every time we attend a networking event, people we know comment on our E-Newsletter).

Is it that our websites are wrong and don’t work for us (could be, I admit) or are people just more open to a face-to-face? Maybe they check out the websites after meeting us to validate that we are for real?

Look at your online assets like it is your business attire. Just wearing a suit (having a website) will not sell your services or products. But NOT wearing any attire will certainly not help. In essence, you need to have an online presence (wear business attire) and that attire needs to be appropriate for your business.

Big brands dominate the internet

In today’s interactive arms race, SMEs might be the ones losing out. Perhaps it is time that service providers educate them? Or maybe a new paradigm is needed where less is more and tailored solutions for SMEs are easy to understand and apply? Perhaps there is too much hype around interactive and the web isn’t really that good for building your business?

About Launchpad

Launchpad is a full-service, branding, marketing and communications group of forward-thinkers, devoted to brands that will shape the 21st Century. As Asia’s only partnership of strategic, marketing, creative and technology people, the group has diverse backgrounds, vast experience and a long track

record of solving tough marketing challenges. Launchpad’s expertise spans marketing, advertising, design, branding, digital / interactive, technology, and beyond. We work best with brands that have ambition for growth and want to make a difference. Launchpad is your ‘marketing lift-off in Asia’.

Stefan Pertz
is the Group Managing Director of Launchpad Sdn Bhd.

Passionate about marketing, Stefan has practiced what marketing textbooks teach. He set up direct distributions in Singapore and Sydney, helped to open offices in Hong Kong and Malaysia. The successful launch of a new brand under his supervision resulted in the client, a postal service, being nominated among the top 10 direct marketing providers. The name Launchpad (Your marketing lift-off in Asia) depicts the sole reason for its existence: the company boosts companies in the region to new marketing heights.  Learn more about Launchpad: www.launchpad.com.my or www.launchpadnews.com

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