Staying ahead as an SME

Marketers in small and medium businesses are under daily pressure to keep pace with change and stay ahead of the competition.


trategy isn’t just for big businesses and the big corporate brands – it’s vital for SMEs too. And there’s plenty the big players can learn from their smaller counterparts. How do SME marketers in the East of England ensure their firms are resilient, and how does this inform their marketing priorities?

Small businesses in the East of England face a major dilemma: because, chiefly, they need to build a recognisable brand and offer a consistent service for customers. This is essential if the organisation is to establish a market presence and differentiate itself from competitors. But, alongside this need to build a settled brand identity, the quick-moving small business environment requires the brand to be responsive to risks and opportunities.

However, building a brand is increasingly vital for small businesses, too; it can differentiate your products and services from competitors, and ensure your offer cuts through the noise in a busy marketplace.

Of course, for many entrepreneurs, it’s tough to take a long-term view when working with limited resources. How can marketers in the East of England gain a competitive advantage by building and leveraging a brand?

Create a strong brand

Keeping the momentum going and keeping ahead of the game should be on every marketer’s minds, with personal and authentic branding at the forefront of your strategy. Building strong relationships is significant as people buy from people and not just brands. Having someone seen as an expert in their field of expertise will put you ahead of your competitors. Whichever direction SMEs plan to take, ensuring your voice is heard amongst the noise of Brexit is key to keeping front of mind to your customer base.

Make your brand stand out in a
crowded market

As well as keeping the business on-message, a brand helps consumers to understand what your company or product stands for. In today’s highly competitive SME environment, it’s crucial for businesses to articulate a point of differentiation to increase the chance of gaining a foothold – something that genuinely distinguishes the brand and its offering from others.

Pinpoint your brand qualities

Working out the ‘what, how and why’ of your brand will help you work out some of these questions and establish your core offering: what you do or make; how you approach that; and your purpose in doing so. Try to avoid clichés – you should be imaginative but do be honest in establishing what your brand values are. And when determining these core values, be careful not to choose too many, as this can become unmanageable and easily forgettable. Your values should be practical and reflect what the organisation genuinely wants to achieve. It’s vital to be seen as authentic, honest and credible in order to engage today’s consumers.

Managing your costs on a
smaller budget

With a limited budget, smaller brands need to be smart in the way they engage with their customers. Unlike larger brands, you may not be able to be everywhere at once and talk with everyone in a pre-determined way. But you can be agile and use your credibility and authenticity to project your brand in a flexible manner. It’s important to think about who your customer is and segment your target audience, as consumers expect an increasingly, but not overly, personal experience in the digital age.

Attracting the right talent across the East of England

SMEs across the East of England are urged to invest in their workforce and, as such, many people want to work for good brands that they can trust. SMEs need to see if there are any gaps present within the skills of their workforce and address this in future recruitment, in order to maximise on opportunities to propel your business forward.

Top key takeaways for marketers in the East of England managing an SME brand:

  • Invest in brand-building as early as possible – Don’t be tempted to leave it until later – it will provide the blueprint for all you do; it provides a cause, a mission and a purpose, and can be a tool to guide decision making. It will also help you differentiate your offering from competitors.
  • Determine your ‘what, how and why’ – This will define your mission statement, your approach and your brand purpose.
  • Decide on your brand values – But don’t select too many and end up creating a forgettable tick-list. Think ‘practical and authentic’; consumers demand honesty and credibility, so your organisation must live these values.
  • Understand your market – Listen to customers and competitors. Define and target your customer closely to maximize impact. Work out what media your target customer looks at and concentrate on that.
  • Measure everything you do – Look at the data and react to it. Change things, be agile and flexible, and stay focused on using any data gathered to further understand customer needs, and ensure your products or services are meeting these demands.
  • Engage your audience and respond – Creating a strong digital presence for your brand can be cost-effective and create real impact, though quality of content and consistency of message is critical. Also use social media and other channels to gather feedback and acknowledge that you are listening and responding.
  • Partner with complementary brands – Work with others to showcase your organisation and increase brand awareness. Provide relevant added-value content in channels where your customers are and define your brand as expert in your marketplace to boost your credibility.

What could you do today to kick start
or further your marketing career?

Whether you’re an experienced marketing professional or just starting out in marketing, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s (CIM) volunteers in the East of England are here to help. From face to face networking events to local training workshops, we aim to support your learning and development throughout your marketing career. To find out how you can become
a member of CIM’s East of England community, visit:

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