In the 21st century, digital marketing companies have become so ubiquitous in the business world that there are even jokes about the services they provide. For example: Why did the…

In the 21st century, digital marketing companies have become so ubiquitous in the business world that there are even jokes about the services they provide. For example: Why did the online marketing professional stop using a trampoline at the gym? Because she was concerned about her bounce rate being too high.

Whoever did not understand the bad joke above is a prime candidate for digital marketing school. Seriously; just about everyone who is involved in the management and operation of a small to medium enterprise (SME) these days should have some degree of familiarity with digital marketing.

SME owners often have a hard time making decisions about whether they should hire digital marketing companies or invest in new products and technology. To be sure, there is a clear need for SMEs to invest in digital marketing; the companies that fail to do so are at risk of lagging behind the competition. Failure to retain the services of digital marketing companies could lead to the early demise of SMEs, and this is a situation that frequently occurs when business principals lack digital marketing literacy.

The Elephant In The Room

The idea of sending SME staff members off to digital marketing school is not far fetched. In the United Kingdom, for example, only 35 percent of SME owners were familiar with the concept of inbound marketing, which is vital to small business success these days.

A late 2013 survey conducted among small business owners in the United States suggests that digital marketing adoption was tepid and guarded. On average, Internet marketing accounted for less than half of advertising budgets, and 32 percent of SME owners believed that spending less than $100 per month was adequate for this purpose. This conservative approach to digital marketing, which can be attributed to a lack of familiarity, becomes the proverbial elephant in the room for SME owners.

The need for SMEs to embrace Internet marketing is unquestionable. In late 2014, business research firm Gartner estimated global smartphone use at 1.64 billion, a figure that is expected to climb to more than two billion by the end of 2016. The worldwide expenditures on Internet advertising totaled more than $138 billion in 2014, and most of this money is being thrown around by mega corporations.

It is easy to see from the figures above that people around the world are increasingly warming up to technology, and that major companies are spending billions of dollars to reach them on the platforms they are adopting. It is also easy to see how SME owners who ignore digital marketing just because they don’t fully understand it are basically inviting a nasty elephant into their office.

One does not need to graduate from digital marketing school to understand that SMEs need to incorporate Internet branding and advertising strategies in order to survive.

Business Life Without Digital Marketing

The elephant can only be ignored for so long. Some SME owners will be able to get by with traditional marketing for a little while, but the high costs of print advertising, radio spots, billboards, etc., will quickly add up. Other SME owners believe that the old-fashioned word-of-mouth strategy will keep them afloat, but they fail to realize that even this marketing stalwart is shifting to social media and online review websites.

Not many businesses these days would last too long without a solid online presence and a smart digital marketing strategy to keep them afloat. The only exceptions to this rule would be those businesses that exert a monopolistic control within a community; for example, a convenience store in a remote, rural area.

Some SME owners have reservations about digital marketing because they see how dominant major corporations appear to be in this regard. This feeling can be compared to a “David and Goliath” syndrome, and it emanates from not being informed about certain aspects of digital marketing such as segmentation, funnels, inbound campaigns, geotargeting, etc. These marketing techniques even the playing field between SMEs and large companies.

Digital marketing is simply too important for SME owners to brush aside. An Internet presence is not enough; customers, clients and prospects must be engaged, and it is actually easier for SMEs to accomplish this and scale accordingly than for major corporations.

Building Confidence Around A Brand

All efforts undertaken by digital marketing experts are intended to have a positive effect on branding. The ultimate goal for SMEs is to be known as a brand and not as a small company. The difference between a business and a brand is that the latter can actually grow and expand while the former simply operates in a commercial capacity.

Branding is an exercise in confidence. To achieve adequate return on investment (ROI) from digital marketing, SME owners should insist on creating a brand instead of simply advertising discounts and special promotions. In the past, branding was essentially out of reach for SME owners because it required retaining the services of advertising and public relations agencies such as the one depicted in the hit cable TV series Mad Men. These days, however, branding is within reach of SMEs thanks to the advent of the Internet and personal computing.

With digital marketing, SME owners can build confidence around a brand that can be appreciated by clients and customers. Big budgets are not required for this; digital marketing agencies can adjust to the size and ability of each SME. The process starts with identifying the marketing needs of each company and the profiles of their prospects; the next step is to figure out the platforms where audiences should be reached. Search engine optimization (SEO) and social media engagement may follow.

Advanced digital marketing for SME owners focuses even more on branding. Online reputation, authority, community engagement, video marketing, and mobile advertising, are some of the advanced branding techniques that can be incorporated into a comprehensive online marketing plan.

In the end, digital marketing should be more than a deal breaker for SME owners; it should actually be a cornerstone. Business principals who decide to forego Internet branding for their companies will probably succumb to the forces of competition before they even realize it.

When it comes to digital marketing, SME owners should take a proactive stance before their competitors get too far ahead; getting started is as simple as retaining a digital marketing firm to determine what needs to be done. Even if some level of Internet advertising is already in place, an online marketing specialist can build upon the existing efforts and turn them into a branding opportunity and a strategy for success.

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