The ever-expanding world of the Internet and mobile devices is enhancing the ability of social entrepreneurs to bring life-enhancing solutions to millions globally. However, just having a product ‘in the ether’ doesn’t guarantee success.
Effective marketing makes all the difference – it makes a service noticeable and accessible.
“The growth of the Internet, social media and digital marketing has enabled small enterprises to compete on equal terms with big businesses,” says Mrs Reeves, Marketing Manager: Scotch Whisky at Chivas Regal South Africa.
To the 27 finalists of The Chivas Regal The Venture competition getting ready to pitch their ideas to an expert panel in New York for their share of USD1 000 000 million, marketing will have to be a key focus.
This must be considered if they are to achieve their dreams of taking their products global so they can have the most impact on peoples’ lives.
“In this digital age, it’s vital that start-ups make full use of the benefits available in the digital marketplace, including social media,” explains Mrs Reeves.
“This often means filling gaps in marketing knowledge and translating these into action, so growth opportunities are created.”
In only a few years, social media platforms have not only evolved into useful marketing tools, but also valid channels through which consumers express their views and receive customer service.
A major advantage of this is that consumers can assess a company on its offerings only. The rest depends on responsiveness, the quality of an offering and the service experience provided.
As small companies are generally more ‘hands-on’, the opportunities to build large, faithful customer bases are real. Add the convenience for customers to take up offers 24 hours a day, and the picture is complete.
According to Mrs Reeves, the tools that should be considered include:
- Websites and ‘owned media’, such as blogs
- Managed properties, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or mobi sites
- Media sites where people talk about businesses. This involves taking time to consider all options and then developing a digital public relations campaign that encourages people to get to know and discuss your business online
- While marketing efforts may drive traffic to targeted social sites, customer service teams should meet customers where they are already socialising.
“An advantage of digital sites is that they are far easier to measure than the more traditional forms of marketing,” Mrs Reeves continues.
“Every time a site is opened, this is recorded and tracked, providing the owner with a synopsis of how often the site is opened and even what products are most often viewed.”
Valuable ‘conversations’ with customers can also be created by offering value-added features, such as interactive devices specific to products (e.g. calculators); in-depth information on the technical aspects of products and tips for optimal product and service use.
For smaller businesses, costs and budgets are usually major concerns. These can be minimised by:
- Setting up a business website: Initial costs and monthly fees are required, but this is generally the most effective way to enter the digital market
- Using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to attract visitors: The costs of this approach are negotiable. Key search words can be regularly changed, so the best phrases for your business can be developed on a ‘trial and error’ basis
- Setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account etc.: These don’t involve initial costs, but time is required to ensure that profiles are kept current
- Getting onto LinkedIn: This can provide business leads and networking opportunities
“Although these options provide easy entry into digital marketing, it’s worth researching what other companies in your sector are doing and what services they are using. This information can be used to address the gaps you may see on their sites,” advises Mrs Reeves.
An understanding of digital marketing is key for social entrepreneurs as it will help them increase their impact in addressing socio-economic ills while incorporating current business practices to grow their social enterprises.
“Though digital marketing seems quick and easy, it is almost worthless without a well-thought-out strategy,” says Mrs Reeves.
To ensure future prosperity, the social entrepreneurs must decide on two crucial factors before they start tweeting or instagramming; what they want to accomplish, and their brand identity.
“Once they know this, they will be able to speak with a specific, unified voice; set up a digital marketing budget; and – most critically – plan and measure their success.”