By Chris Mullan,
Head of Medium Business,
UK & Ireland, Dell Corporation

As we move into the new economy, it’s evident that SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) are top of mind for a lot of large companies as the good target. Businesses of all sizes are looking to get back to basics in order to be primed for growth as the recession slows and the economic recovery begins. Beyond cash flow and budgeting, small businesses should refocus on the fundamentals of marketing to understand how they can bring structure and success to the new world of marketing online.

What are the 5 things to focus on?

SEO: Natural search continues to grow quickly and drive online traffic for Ecommerce sites. 50% of searchers are Brand Advocates and share recommendations with friends and family and often write positively about their purchase online. However, a company needs to foster a ‘SEO culture” to ensure that everyone in marketing is creating, maintaining and influencing online content. Creating diverse content like news, images, videos and blogs in addition to your Website will impact how well your brand ranks in search. The three most important search elements that companies can influence are:

• Creating a site structure that makes it easy for Spiders to access and crawl,

• Keyword rich content,

• and quality inbound links from trustworthy sites.

Ecommerce: With an e-commerce footprint covering 160 countries and 34 languages, we have developed 10 tips that any sized company can use to build a successful online presence.

1. Listen to your customers

2. Uptime is king — fix site stabilization issues first

3. Maintain a simple and intuitive site

4. Establish, forecast and adhere to reliable and rigorous metrics

5. Develop and optimize robust promotions, online demand generation, merchandising and search programs to drive traffic and conversion

6. Always be testing

7. Don’t forget to upsell

8. Prioritize and develop technologies that yield significant business results

9. Track your core competitors

10. One size does not fit all - target

Social media: For small businesses, two of the easiest, and most effective ways to get engaged in social media is to blog and be active on Twitter. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with these new ways to promote and market your brand, here are a few tips businesses should consider when getting into blogging and Twitter.

• Blogging - Before creating your own blog (personal or a corporate blog) it’s best to explore other blogs to get a feel for how the online community will perceive your topic and others blogging in your industry. Get to know your readers and write about what you think they want. Have a unique voice that captures your personal and business brand and your readers will relate better with you. Write fresh, short, dynamic content and be sure to share it on your business Website and any other ways you market or talk with your customers.

• Twitter - Getting your point of view across in 140 characters might seem impossible, but it is a great way to start connecting with you customers and influencers in your industry. Twitter connects you with a network of millions and enables you to gather real-time customer feedback. But, remember to search for your brand or industry first to understand what people are talking about and where your voice fits in the conversation. With Twitter, a business of any size can market and sell products, resolve customer issues, get news out, and have conversations around topics of interest — all with a relatively small budget.

Branding: A great company begins with offering great products and services; that is necessary in today’s business environment. However, brand equity is how businesses truly differentiate themselves from the competition. Here are five steps any business can do to build their brand equity:

1. Elevate your brand and define your purpose - Determine your positioning. Ask what is unique about you vis-à-vis your competition? Good positioning forces hard choices of defining what you are and what you are not.

2. Listen and get to know your customer - What your brand stands for is based on customer insights, addressing customer pain points. Understand what are the emotional and function benefits customers gain with your brand. Drive customer loyalty by building and owning customer relationships. Commit to deliver amazing Account Management and focus on Operational Excellence as a key enabler.

3. Be transactional, but remember to think beyond the purchase - Start building your brand before the customers buy. Catch them early on in the A-C-F-P cycle. Define your offerings based on how the customers’ pain points are addressed with a key positive differentiation. Think beyond price points and understand how things like faster shipment, packaged solutions, and learning centres can enhance the customer experience.

4. Be integrated - Create a list of action items to establish your brand and use different vehicles to talk to your customers. Engage customers through traditional and digital approaches. Many elements of integrated marketing are low cost and can fit any budget.

5. Measure and refine — Research has shown that willingness to recommend is the key indicator of brand health. Therefore, it’s key to measure your brand’s progress. Survey your existing customers and prospective customers why they purchased or are considering your brand. When possible, ask former customers why they went to the competition over you. You need to have a top-down systematic approach to identify critical loyalty drivers, develop Touch Point research that addresses top drivers, and drive Business Process Improvement. Be sure to check out conversations in the social media and brand search results on your brand.

Measuring Success: Set measureable objectives for your company’s marketing efforts and track your progress. To do this SMBs can:

• Leverage free programs such as Google analytics

• Measure web-site and blog traffic

• Track the number of mentions about your company

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