Opinion

MSMEs need brand image

Asha Sampath | Updated on January 21, 2021

The B2B buying process has undergone a sea change

The MSME sector’s contribution to the Indian economy’s growth cannot be overstated. This industry segment, with close to 63.4 million units, contributes to 33.4 per cent of India’s manufacturing output and provides employment to around 120 million people (CII data).

However, long-term sustainability at an enterprise level demands that businesses should start to look at themselves as brands rather than as mere businesses because branding helps to bring visibility, connect with customers and create trust in their minds about the product or service.

Branding is a powerful tool that not only defines revenue streams but also determines life cycle of businesses. Yet, many MSMEs, especially the ones run by first generation entrepreneurs, are sceptical about value addition from branding and perceive branding as avoidable expenses rather than strategic investments.

Branding does not necessarily mean allocating huge budgets to TV ads and celebrity branding. Today, we are in a digital era which offers ample opportunities to stay visible, engage with prospects, generate leads and convert them through a well-thought-out digital branding strategy.

There are various digital marketing platforms that businesses can use for accelerating growth. Tools such as social media marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing, online PR and influencer marketing offer immense opportunities for businesses to brand themselves. A well-thought-out digital branding strategy can be implemented with moderate initial budgets and higher allocations can follow based on return on investments.

Here are five aspects of digital branding that MSMEs in the B2B space can consider:

B2B and B2C are converging: Platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart have over the last few years transformed lives of B2C customers to such an extent that people expect to explore also B2B buying options at the click of a button and from the comfort of their offices and homes before making a purchase decision.

According to statistics from Hub Spot, over 80 per cent of buyers visit website before taking a B2B buying decision. Therefore, a well strategised and inviting digital presence with content that is informative, engaging and impactful are now a prerequisite for B2B businesses.It also offers an opportunity to showcase core values and brand personality.

B2B has multiple touch-points as opposed to B2C: One of the foremost prerequisites for any B2B marketer is to be able to drive traffic that qualifies as potential leads. Unlike B2C, B2B businesses involve long sales cycle, multiple touch-points and a structured buying process. So, a vanilla SEO may not suffice. What is needed is account based digital marketing campaigns that can impact decision-makers across all touch-points so that robust connections are made and nurtured.

Real time analytics tools will help track potential customers who are still contemplating purchases and influence their decision-making early enough with valuable product information and, thereby, channelise their actions and decisions in favour of the brand.

E-commerce: Statistics from Forrester Research suggests that the US B2B e-commerce industry will hit $1.8 trillion by 2023 while India’s “will be $700 billion by 2020” aligned with the government’s digital plans and the outlook for the manufacturing industry.

So, besides digital presence, online commerce will soon coexist with brick-and-mortar platforms. Omni channels will also be a significant area of convergence that MSMEs will have to gear up for to cater to automated self-service platforms and seamless omni-channel experiences.

Creating customer experience of high recall:Agility in responding to online enquiries has become a key factor in connecting to the customer and creating initial trust as would a B2C marketeer. And the relationship nurturing should extend all through the customer journey and create an experience of high recall.

Customer loyalty schemes: Tracking the customer after the purchase, whether offline or online, helps to stay connected to understand customer needs and insights . Statistics from HBR show that “acquiring a new customer is at anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones, and that increasing customer retention rates by just five per cent increases profits by 25 to 95 per cent.”

Reward programmes based on 80:20 rule can help achieve customer loyalty and improve repeat sales.

Branding is therefore not a matter of choice if MSMEs in the B2B space want to connect seamlessly with customers, build trust, create unbeatable competitive edge and drive premium pricing.

As Steve jobs would say – “Get closer than ever to your customers. Stay so close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves “

The writer is Founder, Brand Horizon

Published on January 21, 2021

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