More and more SMEs are dedicating large amounts of time, creativity and resources into developing online marketing strategies that could see their corporate counterparts learning a lesson or two.

In a recent survey by the B2 Group, some 44% of SME participants said they had online advertising strategies in place and 40% of respondents also said they would be increasing their spend in this area over the next 12 months.

Over the past 12 months web channels were again, the top advertising/marketing medium used by small to medium enterprises.

Corporate firms are learning from their small business counterparts and starting to see the benefits of targeted, cost effective digital channels. Yet at the same time they are also still the biggest users of scatter gun marketing channels such as print advertising and direct mail, TV and radio. Whilst brand names were happy to buy into channels were much is wasted in communicating to a high audience percentage that will simply not purchase the product, SME’s were getting out networking. They were making use of word of mouth. And it’s this word of mouth principle that is the key to success in social media.

The continued trend of digital marketing growth amongst SME’s is highlighting a growing awareness that a digital strategy is integral in not only attracting new business but also retaining current customers in these difficult economic times. Whilst this is obviously not a revelation to the marketers out there, the rapid change culture embraced by the SME playing field is beginning to turn the heads of the big boys and brands are now employing agencies to embrace it for them.

While SMEs have smaller budgets and smaller resources to effect change it is the type of change that they embrace which characterises entrepreneurial spirit and creates best practice.

SME’s were some of the first to embrace web2.0, recognise the benefits of social networking and in seeking out more cost effective methods of using software, they were also pivotal in the growth of cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS).

By far and large the biggest contribution SME’s have made to the web is the explosion of new content through blogging platforms and product review forum sites. Whilst this explosion in content has made it more competitive to get the SME message across in the myriad of web blogs and small business web sites, some innovative SME’s are one step ahead here too.

At present, the internet is growing faster than the likes of Google can index it and in an effort to overcome this overcrowding of search engine results pages, SME’s are becoming more efficient in developing SEO strategies that get traffic to their sites. Using PPC and organic SEO, small businesses are more frequently targeting their traffic sources using locally derived keywords rather than casting the net out to cover the whole UK or international markets that they would likely never think to service in any case.

Thinking Smarter

Taking this further by way of example, a more corporate facing design agency in its efforts to attract more business online would need to work towards getting the general term ‘web design’. This however comes at great expense as on Google UK it produces 480m results.

By contrast, a small design firm based in Leeds aiming for the term ‘web design Leeds’ will see those 480m results come down to just 580k. In this range, Pay Per Click campaigns are cheaper as the term is less competitive and on the same premise the road to achieving organic SEO results is a lot less travelled.

Now, many might say in response to this, “But surely the firm that is in the top 10 on Google for ‘web design’ will get more business than the one who has ‘web design Leeds’?”

It is correct to say that the corporate site will certainly get more traffic but when we factor in pricing and locality and the business model of both businesses, we see how David the Leeds firm stacks up stands up to corporate facing Goliath.

The profile of customers likely to buy into the Leeds agency will be mostly SME local firms. These businesses simply don’t have the budget to pay top London agency rates as top agencies have clients like high street banks and television networks and the rates to reflect the client list. The lesson the SME’s have learnt and taken advantage of in this regard is to ‘know your audience, and know where they are’.

Embracing Social Media

Adopting social media in the corporate world often requires getting reams of red tape which inevitably leads to substantial delay. The marketing department needs to first decide if social networking is a good idea or not, then it comes up with brand guidelines, human resources then implement staff training and management also put in place content monitoring, brand reputation monitoring and management information systems. By the time the first blog post is on the web, the SME has been blogging away for 6-9 months.

SME’s are also generally a lot closer to their customers, and as such are quicker to learn about market changes and trends, and vitally, customer likes and dislikes. But as outlined above, they are far quicker than the corporate world to act on them and its this that has become the USP of an SME, namely being innovative and rapid to implement change.

Small business owner/managers can experiment and apply customer insights and data to a wide range of marketing initiatives and track the results with a faster turnaround than a corporate player. A smaller budget, as the recession has demonstrated for some UK SME’s, also drives greater momentum on efficiency, quality, creativity and return on investment.

If entrepreneurial thinking can be bottled, we might have a way out of the recession yet!

For more info about web design liverpool or to discuss how search engine optimisation can help your business get in touch with Edible, the SEO Liverpool specialist