What is the utility of Digital Marketing Solutions for small brands and businesses is a question that many of my colleagues, as well as clients, often raise? Do we really need this? Will my small business be able to afford this? Does Digital Marketing have any value at all and so on? In this, article we aim to answers most of these questions and stress the fact that Digital Marketing solutions affect and improve all forms of business, no matter the scale of their revenues or operations.

Suppose you are a small brand, with an annual turnover of roughly $20,000. By industry standards, it is quite small, and modest. However, almost 80% of businesses in Asia and Africa fall within this margin of operations. If you look at booming economies like India and China, most of the businesses fall within the SME category (Small Medium-Sized Enterprises).

These businesses can be related to the food and beverage industry, fashion and retail industry, grooming and wellness industry, agricultural industry, and the like. The challenge is to maximize the potential and profits of these businesses by integrating them within the digital framework.

This article will help Creative Agencies, Small Entrepreneurs, Digital Marketing Experts, and novices in navigating the way forward for Digital Marketing and Small Brands- their overlapping mediums, the challenges forward, and the potential for inter-dependent growth.

The Challenge of Digital Marketing for Small Brands:

According to leading experts at NetSearch Digital Marketing, small brands require digital marketing to scale up their businesses, make it future proof and build a loyal customer base. While everyone needs digital marketing to succeed, it becomes all the more important for small businesses, especially given their fewer resources. If they are not able to leverage digital platforms, its puts too much strain on their offline strategies.

Small brands are often confused when Digital Marketing practitioners throw around digital jargon like e-commerce, social media marketing, SEO services, Content Marketing, PPCs, CPAs, and other terms loosely.

One of the fundamental flaws in our industry is the fact that we start building relationships on mistrust and suspicion. Almost all the people I spoke to, and have experienced the problem first hand, point to this never-ending practice of confusing the brands. The lesser they understand, the better, right? Wrong! We need to end this immediately.

Digital Jargons Confuse Small Brands and Owners:

Digital Marketing Companies and Creative Agencies feel that if brands start understanding everything, start comparing PPCs, CPAs, and other metrics with competition, other agencies, it would mean a lot of headache for the agency. So what do they do, they strategically avoid the learning phase of a brand, quote a figure, and say we are the best people to help you out.

This is the standard operating procedure of the industry, one that needs an immediate overhaul. If you are an executive at a Digital Agency, it is part of your job to educate brands and owners, who are not part of the digital bandwagon. Sooner, rather than later, they will figure this out, as it is their money and brand which is up for stake, and once they do, they will not only doubt you but the entire Digital Marketing industry.

A Small Case Study of a Fashion Brand who we transitioned into Digital Marketing:

Digital Marketing Agencies need to start with educating brands- telling them the basics, explaining how things would work, and then starting off in an affordable fashion. For example, we had a client who was in the fashion industry. She wanted to upscale her business but was quite unsure of what should be done. We told her that e-commerce for a brand, like hers, would not make sense at the present juncture. We told her to go for a robust social media strategy and start small.

The only expenditure that we suggested was setting up social pages, regularly posting content, and a small photoshoot, from which she could use assets. We suggested setting up e-commerce and other verticals after a period of 6 months. After 6 months, once she started seeing returns, she was in no doubt that; she should go for an e-commerce site and start publishing blogs (Content Marketing). The rest, as they say, is history.

The first step involved caring for her brand and managing her finances rationally. The next involved educating her about the pros and cons of how she should proceed. The third involved building her confidence from a very small social media vertical, to begin with. The fourth involved giving her business and the brand a considerable timeframe to assess and judge the worthiness of undertaking the next step.

One of the biggest elements that go missing in the Digital Marketing Industry is trust and credibility. We see clients as people who just sign cheques, the bigger the cheques, the happier we as agencies are. This leads many people to say, that there is no transparency and ethics in the industry, and I am very sorry to state, that these people are right.

The Digital is an Infinite Zone of Possibilities:

It is engineered in our DNA, as human beings that we want to trust people. If you cannot trust someone, how would you do business with that person or agency?  If you are a small business owner who is not familiar with the animal that is Digital, we would want to clear some doubts immediately.

For starters, digital offers infinite scope for you and your business to grow, provided you do it right. If the question is should you do digital or not, the answer is, you definitely should. There are no two ways about it. The next hurdle is how to approach the digital domain.

By aligning yourself with the right digital partners, you can maximize the potential of your business in ways you would not have imagined. All the statistics and data point out how consumers have started trusting brands digitally, how billions of dollars of sale happens every day on the digital domain.

How should Small Brands approach Digital Marketing?

The first thing you should do research on would be what is best for your business and brand. Questions like where you see your brand in the next five years should be answered. The question is not whether you should do it just because your competitors are doing it, but more importantly, whether you think it would be a good fit for your brand.

Once you have answered these questions, the next question should be the scalability of your digital entrance. For owners and brands who are not too familiar with this, we would suggest that you start small. Many agencies and Digital Marketing Companies will tell you that you need to start with a bang (they have their own interests in mind, trust me), but we would suggest you start small.

Starting small means understanding your audience, whether they are consuming the content, whether they are engaging with you, or whether there is even a need for you to connect with your TG on digital. We would suggest starting your digital journey through Social Media. Set up your Facebook, Instagram, and other pages, maintain hygiene, and post content regularly.

Social Media Marketing

Facebook and Instagram have started rolling out the shop function for business pages. You can even set up your shop to test waters and then use that as a study or a reference to decide on your e-commerce website in the future. Getting the ‘Hygiene’ of your social media pages is very important. If you do not have the time or the workforce resources to maintain social media pages, we would suggest getting a Creative Agency.

The next step would involve sitting down with your Digital Marketing and Creative Agency and understanding what should be the appropriate course of action when you have decided to scale up your digital journey. This would involve setting up your company website/e-commerce site and including some of the core functionalities.

Please bear in mind that building a website is like building a house. The better the foundation, the better the website. Terms like Site Architecture, Platforms, Domains and Hosting, SEO Optimised, Back Links, Database, would routinely come up. As a brand owner, you need to do two main things- do your research, and trust your agency. If they have been able to get you this far, they will stay with you all the way.

For Example…

Many Website Design and Development companies advertise themselves as affordable. They even put on their own websites prices that would shame all their competitors. Nobody can build a website for $50. If they are, chances are that you would be wasting your $50 completely. A good website needs good designers, programmers, testers, a credible and talented team. You are running your own business, what if someone comes up to you and says, I will handle your sales in three cities, and treble your revenue for a pittance, just hand me all your products. Always remember – if it is too good to be true, chances are, it is false.’

The Right Digital Marketing or Creative Agency for Small Brands:

Creative Agencies and Digital Marketing Companies come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them boast employee strengths of more than 1000 individuals. Separate teams, verticals, departments, and most importantly, retainers, fees, and commissions.

Choosing the right digital team to collaborate with can be a tricky situation. You need to see your budget, but you also need to see which agency or digital company will be more invested in your brand or business.

It would be in your best interest to meet agencies and companies, which are midsized or starting out in business. If you were a start-up, you would find it stimulating to work with agencies or digital companies, which are start-ups themselves. Whatever they lack in experience, they more than compensate for it in terms of hunger, desire, and aggression.

A small brand owner should typically meet with executives or team members of Creative Agencies or Digital Marketing Companies and see how they work, how they understand the market, and most importantly, how they understand your brand. The person on your account should know your brand better than your Marketing Head, or you yourself. That is a big statement but trust us, there are agencies and people out there.

For Example…

An agency of a company that is committed and invested in your brand will always try to show you different things. They might be shocking, but you will always have their attention. In terms of finances, an agency, which is starting will be highly competitive, but would never compromise on quality, as they themselves would want to put out their best work.

Always remember, for agencies and digital companies that are starting out, money and portfolio, are equally important. For bigger digital companies and creative agencies, if you are a small brand, chances are, you will not even feature on their portfolio page. For them, it is just about billings.

It is always a good idea to have professional relationships with people and companies who are your size. Those ways, the ugliness, the leveraging, the exploitation (all part of unequal professional relationships) will be avoided.

Small Brands should be Patient for Success on Digital Platforms:

Many times, small brand owners start losing faith after investing digitally. Please remember, that the digital journey is no magic, it needs time, investment, and financial resources. If there are companies out there, who are promising you overnight miracles, chances are, they are lying.

If you are a small brand owner, we would request you to be patient with the process and your agency or digital company. You do not start living in your house, the day you sign the agreement right. You get the contractors to build it, you get the decorators to furnish it, and the electrical company provides the electricity supply, the drainage department sets up the plumbing, and so on.

Try to take this approach to Digital Marketing. Like all good things, it needs a foundation, and you need to be patient during the process. The likes will come, the engagement will get better, and the products will start selling. Do not worry about that part; try to keep calm during the process.

The Final Word:

As we have already mentioned, all brands, regardless of their size, should experience digitally. If it would be an utter failure, chances are that Amazon and Jeff Bezos would still be selling and renting books from a one-room office.

Yes, there are challenges, and issues, and complications, but once you have navigated all that with your Creative Agency or Digital Marketing Company. Chances are that your brand will be a digital success story in the near future.

We wish you all the best in your Digital Journey.

Feel free to reach out to me in case of any clarifications in the comments section.

Happy Digital Voyages…

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Ejaz Ahmed

Part-time blogger, full-time dreamer! Ejaz Ahmed likes to think about how technology will ultimately transform human lives for the better. He is deeply fascinated with using technology to democratize the spread of useful information on the internet.

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