Running a small business can often seem like an uphill struggle - especially when you're up against richer rivals that seem to splash out the equivalent of a small country's GDP on their marketing.
Some of the biggest companies operating in the UK lowered their advertising spend in 2018, according to research data provided by Nielsen. Yet, even with Brexit fears causing them to cut back, Procter & Gamble were able to invest £186 million, and Sky shelled out £124 million.
These figures demonstrate what businesses with a more modest marketing budget are up against. While the giants can spend on the latest technology to use customer data wisely, and automate and personalise their messaging, how can small businesses stand out?
Here are four things you can do to compete with bigger players, no matter what your marketing budget.
1. Focus on your target market
Big companies can often afford to adopt a scattergun approach to their marketing. Having a massive budget gives them the ability to reach out to a number of different markets at the same time. They can also make sure that their message is adapted accordingly.
Without the funds for this, it is vital that smaller businesses focus tightly on their target market. You need to know exactly who you want to sell to, and how to reach them. Who is your ideal customer, and why should they be interested in what you have to offer them?
An example of tightly-focussed marketing that is often cited is that of Red Bull. This is now the world's most popular energy drink, with over six billion cans sold each year. When the company started out, they concentrated on 18- to 34-year-old males with an active lifestyle before reaching out to other market segments.
The best starting point is to understand who your product or service is most likely to appeal to. Many businesses that fail in their early years do so because they don't clearly understand their target market.
2. Make an impression at exhibitions
Exhibitions offer a smart way for businesses to reach out to a lot of potential customers without great expense. For a start, there is a good chance that anyone who attends an exhibition on something that you sell is almost certain to already have some level of interest in the subject.
Think about your stand design and promotion carefully. Many different businesses are competing for visitor attention - so it's important to stand out of the crowd.
You exhibition stand should fulfil two main functions: attract the people passing by, and drive recognition of your brand. Easy design solutions that require minimal cost and labour can help you leverage a small budget for maximum impact.
3. Find your unique selling point
What is it that makes your offering stand out from the crowd? A strong unique selling point (USP) can make up for any disadvantage in the marketing budget stakes.
DeBeers' "A diamond is forever" is often regarded as the best advertising slogan of the century. Indeed, this slogan turned around the fortunes of an entire industry, by connecting the durability of diamonds with lasting romance. From an all-time low uptake in the 1930s, 80% of US brides now have a diamond engagement ring.
Then there is the case of Avis. As the world's number two in the car rental industry, they turned this position into a USP. "We're number two. We try harder." was a bold yet hugely successful slogan that saw their market share rocket by 20% in four years.
If your business doesn't have an obvious USP, going back to look at your target market may help. What do these people want in their lives that you can help with? Is there a real-world problem that you can solve, or a unique connection that you can draw between your product and a better life?
A strong USP can be the starting point for years of successful marketing. As well as catching the attention of the public, it can also help your team deliver a coherent, unified marketing message.
4. Offer a highly personal service
If there is one area in which smaller businesses have an advantage, it is in offering a more personalised service. Indeed, many people now look specifically for local firms that offer a personal touch, rather than huge global brands.
Invest time in understanding your customers and building rapport with them - this is a service that larger businesses can never compete with.
By using marketing cleverly, you can turn the fact that you are a modestly-sized business with a low marketing budget into an advantage, rather than a disadvantage.
Copyright © 2019 Article was written by Craig Stapleton