Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Online Marketing: Challenges faced by Indian SMEs

Most of the Indian SMEs have not even considered it. 90% of those who have, don't think its for them and they don't see any use in it. A very small proportion have overcome their mental barriers, adopted it and are reaping the benefits. Its online marketing that I am talking of.

Just like many others, sitting in my ivory towers, i thought 'Online Marketing-What a boon for SMEs; its bound to click. How can they ignore its power'. Especially for SMEs, it is extremely useful tool giving them the power to reach a wide audience fast and cheap. It was enough to get them going and once they start making substantial profits, they could move to other form of media as deemed useful then.

So what are the barriers to the use of online marketing by the Indian SMEs?

  • The very first is Inertia. Inertia to accept anything new, however useful it might be. The reason for this could primarily be the fact that online marketing takes time give results and is a long term decision which the SMEs are not able to accomodate being used to short term decision making.
  • The fact that online marketing does not start giving retuns the day you start doing it makes SMEs quite anxious about the time spent on it coz most of the times it their own time.
Online Marketing just like any other initiative takes time and no one can do anything about it. There are short cuts you can apply but they won't take you anywhere and are definitely not sustaining. Another advice is to please reconsider your strategy if the first one does not reap well. Also, do try to get some expert opinion on why what you do just doesnt work.
In most cases, the problem is something else and is quite trivial which when solved makes your online marketing initiative profitable.
  • Cost involved which would include either the direct costs of the vendor or indirect cost in terms of their own time spent is pervievably higher than the returns. Especially because the TG might or might not notice them first time and hence, doing the same thing 10 times to get attention is both time as well as money consuming.
Costs involved in online marketing are comparatively very less compared to any other traditional form of marketing. Especially considering the fact that once something is put on the web, stays there whether you add on to it or not and hence, for a long term keeps giving you traffic and ROI. Thus making the cost trivial. Just look at it this way: if you are spending time on it, you are basically investing time to know your TG if nothing else. And if you are paying a vendor, you are getting the marketing doen on the web quite cheap.
  • Online marketing is still new and not really tried and tested in India especially for the SMEs which makes it an unsure activity to put resources in.
Being an early adopter would make you comfortably positioned when everyone else is trying to get in and make a place for themselves. That is when you can reap the benefits of the efforts put in now.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thinking of outsourcing Online Marketing?

Before outsourcing online marketing for your company, I would strongly recommend getting your hands dirty once. Getting on to some of the social media like blogging, facebook, twitter etc. It's always better to have an idea of what you are outsourcing. It becomes easier to understand and measure.

Some of the things you need to know before outsourcing online marketing are:

1) Even if you outsource the job to someone, be in complete control. while this is true for all kinds of outsourcing, it specially holds importance when in this case. The company you have outsourced to, would be responsible for content writing and creating your presence on different forums etc. What goes out on the internet about your company/product or what forums you are present at, are important.

2) Higher amount of communication: No one knows your business better than you do. You would know the knowledge gaps that exist in the market, the relevant information that needs sharing and the topics that would generate interest. You have to express your business, how it works, important websites (if at all) etc. Communicate your intentions and knowledge to the partner and ensure there are no gaps.

3) Choose a consultant carefully: IT is ever changing. Your consultant needs to keep up with what's new at all times. Online Marketing requires much more involvement from the vendor compared to any other field. If the choice of partner is good, he would provide you with a great launchpad and visibility on the internet.

4) Before finalizing upon the consultant, define your objectives and how would they be measured along with the timelines. Be as specific as possible as online marketing can tend to get unmeasurable easily.

Once all these things are ensured, you can expect great results from your vendor!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Can SMEs in India afford to ignore Online Marketing?

I have gone through quite a few examples about companies using online marketing to connect with the consumers directly. The ball game is quite different for companies outside India where almost all their consumers are on the internet, use it in their day to day routine versus in India. However, I still feel SMEs cannot afford to ignore online marketing for reasons cited below.

1) Expansion to foreign markets easier: Lots of SMEs make products that have demand in the markets abroad. However, no exposure makes them lose out on these opportunities. So as I see it, there are lots of consumers out there waiting to be explored and there is nothing like online media to do it!

2) Be the first to enjoy benefits later: While online penetration in India is quite low, its increasing at a rapid rate. Hence, your consumers would be on this media sooner or later. Its better to enter it right now, learn the tricks of the trade to be able to enjoy the benefits of being first entrant later.

3) Not too expensive: Online marketing is not a very expensive proposition. With a little consulting anyone can start exploring the different media options available, try his own hands at it and get going!!

What's important is that it requires time and patience to see results, tweaking strategy and waiting for results again. Just like any other initiative that you undertake!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Online Marketing for SMEs: How to start?

I was recently involved in a discussion on how useful are online marketing tools for SMEs. While there were many opinions being bounced, the SME representatives themselves did not feel much use for it. While some were trying to understand the usage benefits, others we opinionated against it (but open to any argument in favor of it).

What made me feel great was that SMEs had at least started thinking about it which is more than enough for people like me :). Now let's explore how SMEs should get started.

Let's assume the owner of an SME hears about something like Online Marketing and that it can do wonders for the businesses. He plans to try all out himself. Creats a Twitter and Facebook accounts, a Blog and everything else. Tries sending 2-3 tweets a day, a blog entry per month, tries all this for about 3-4 months, does not get any response or feels no one reads tweets or gets no visits on the website - basically ends up feeling that online marketing is all $@!#!!!!

If this has happened to you, don't worry. This definitely does not mean that Online Marketing is not for you. Using Online Marketing is just like starting a new business. At first you have not clue how to go about it, you try out everything and then when you start understanding how things work, you are far more confident in your moves. But all this requires time! Time to spend on the job, time to see results and analyse and time to understand. Understanding how each media works, what each media is capable of doing and hence, which one is important for your business.

My suggestion is, definitely try your hands at it but only to get an idea of what you might be getting into and preparing for a consultant. But then, hire a consultant who can clarify your doubts, tell you what media would be the most effective for you and why, conducting it for you for sometime and when you get a hang of it and see results big enough to build an in house team, go for it!

Go back to doing what you are best at doing i.e. your business and leave this to consultants for sometime. They have used different media time and again for various kinds of businesses, understand what each media takes and can give in return and hence, should be able to do it faster and with a lot more efficiency. Once you are caught on, its yours!!!

My next post will focus on what steps to take when outsourcing your online marketing.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Its all about Conversation(S)

My entire experience of Internet Marketing somehow always tends to revolve around conversations. Conversations about life, about products, about companies, about economy, about family, about.....
Ever wonder how important a role these conversations play? As it turns out, A LOT TODAY!

People have so many platforms to interact, to pass on their experiences, to share their knowledge that it has become like a complete marketing tool - The Conversation!

But do companies involve in these conversations or are they still passing one-way information?

If you are a company and feel the need to explore the online space, 2 questions that would tell you if you have started off right:

1) Do you know which platforms is you company being discussed and are you present there?
2) Are you starting off conversations about your industry, your company and your products?

If you are doing both, you are heading in the right direction!!