By Atul Raja
The extraordinary event of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world forever. Like many other business sectors, it also led to deep introspection in the MSME ecosystem. Among some additional critical growth inhibiting factors, the key challenge of poor market and customer-led communication systems and processes in small enterprises was strongly reinforced.
The communication myths
The myth that marketing communication is just about spending and big budgets is fast getting busted in the MSME community. Another myth is that marketing and communications are all about brand building. In contrast, their role is much more diverse and far-reaching in a business’s growth and revenue implication.
Small business owners are fast realizing that targeted outreach can be a cost-effective process providing rich dividends to business outcomes. As a result, businesses with shoestring budgets and limited resources are now warming up to marketing and communications.
Tips for improving communications in small businesses
1) Get a Laser sharp understanding of the target customer profile: It’s not just the communication professionals but the entire organization that should be aligned to a standard definition of the target audience. Who do you want to communicate with? What are their needs, preferences, and concerns? Where are they located, etc.?
2) Develop a clear messaging architecture: The key messages should be clearly outlined in a concise, consistent, and easy-to-understand manner – who you are, what you do, what differentiates you from others, what is your USP, etc.?
3) Invest in good quality design: Attention-grabbing and clutter-free designs across websites, sales collaterals and social handles will reinforce your brand identity, attract customers, and set you apart from competitors.
4) Pursue Public Relations as the core of your external communication strategy: This is the most credible way of impacting the larger customer base and can prove to be the most cost-effective in terms of cost per audience reached.
How can communication help MSMEs to achieve growth and success?
A) Developing customer and partner relationships: Effective stakeholder communication creates long-lasting bonds with consumers and goes a long way in retaining them and winning customer loyalty.
B) Creating Brand Awareness and Recognition: In a crowded marketplace, it can be hard for MSMEs to rise above the noise. Effective communication can help MSMEs cut through the clutter and create awareness and recognition among customers, partners, suppliers, investors, etc.
C) Generating Business Leads: There are several ways in which communication can be used to generate leads, such as market research, marketing campaigns, events or webinars, or by just distributing helpful information via email or social media.
D) Positioning against larger competitors: Carefully crafted communication can portray a meaningful, differentiated and believable promise that fulfils customers’ needs by having a better alternative approach.
E) Crisis Management: Strong communication can help SMEs manage crises by ensuring that accurate and timely information is disseminated internally and externally. This allows control over the situation as well as the reputation.
Communication is a critical tool that all businesses need to leverage. This is especially true for MSMEs, where effective communication can mean the difference between success and failure primarily because they do not invest enough time or resources in developing their communication strategy. As a result, their messages are often unclear, their target audience is undefined, and their overall communication lacks coherence.
Broadly speaking, MSMEs are unaware of modern marketing strategies, technology solutions and tools and how they can add to the bottom line. They are also unaware of the ways to measure the effectiveness and ROI of marketing spend, which in turn, guides business development. As a result, MSMEs in India face intense competition from large-scale enterprises and global conglomerates armed with better product quality, financial might and skilled workers, apart from the communication and marketing know-how.
The role of communication cannot be understated enough to succeed in a competitive business environment. For example, an SME producing organic food products could use marketing communications to highlight its products’ health benefits relative to its competitors. Another example would be an SME that provides home healthcare services targeting senior citizens and using marketing communications to highlight its experienced team of doctors and nurses relative to its competitors.
As the post-pandemic world moves online, five in 10 MSMEs in India are using digital channels such as online aggregators, marketplaces, social media and mobile marketing, according to Crisil, as against three out of 10 before the pandemic. Therefore, MSMEs must find innovative ways to succeed in such a scenario by upping their communication skills. A sharp message can attract clients or customers and be invaluable in getting access to funds, business expansion and attracting top talent.