We have heard a few times from small- and medium-enterprise (SME) founders in Singapore that they do not need digital marketing. And particularly so when they sell to other businesses (B2B).
Usually, the answer starts from how they had plenty of growth; and then, it goes on to the fact that they know everyone in the industry; and finally, the fact that only they know their business. However, they often find that certain questions challenge these assumptions, questions such as "why are your competitors growing faster than you?", "why are you losing employees to competitors?", and "why are they closing more profitable deals than you?"
Top five reasons why digital marketing is relevant for traditional B2B SMEs in Singapore
To learn more about digital marketing for SMEs, check out this article about digital for SMEs: Three Articles to Help You Identifying Your SME Digital Marketing Solution
1. First impressions count
In today's world, you often have one chance to make an impactful and memorable impression. This applies in the physical world (e.g., stores, offices, showrooms etc) as well as in the online world. In the now more digitally-relevant and digitally-led landscape, customers are likely to discover your business online, through Google search or through advertising. What would a website with the 90s look and suboptimal navigation say about your business and your expertise? How would using outdated technology affect your customer engagement? Are you leveraging the best tools available to understand better your customers and prospects?
Research from DemandBase on B2B buyers showed that:
“The majority of B2B buyers are continuing to self-navigate through early stages of the buying journey, which is proving to make digital touch points more influential in forming early and lasting impressions of potential solution providers. The research showed the overwhelming majority of buyer journeys are starting on the web, with 61% indicating they started with a broad web search and 56% saying they started on specific vendor websites.”
B2B SMEs may be tempted to believe that they do not need to be very sophisticated with digital marketing. They may believe that they do not need the latest in digital technology to sell and service their customers. However, there are simple yet impactful ways to use digital to not only make a good first impression, but also to be easily found online and to be able to engage with prospects.
2. It’s a way to find more business
Over the years, you have optimized your business offline, you have built a network of connections and a sales team to get you new business. In very much the same way, it’s now time to do this online. The key online tools are content marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), online advertising, social media marketing, and marketing automation (see our recent post here to see how other SMEs are doing digital marketing in Singapore).
You will need to invest some time to learn how to use these levers in the most effective way. However, you can fast-track your lead generation through digital marketing in ways much simpler than previously imagined.
- Online makes it easier to get to prospects well beyond your traditional physical boundaries, allowing you to potentially attract or serve customers well outside of your original geographical scope
- A new type of prospect is looking for information about suppliers online and you may not even know about their existence
This is just as applicable to B2B enterprises and B2B SMEs as B2C companies. According to this Think with Google article, based on Google search data:
“It's not a secret that the B2B audience is online. We know that 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process.”
3. It’s about convenience
A basic rule about good communication is about respecting others. Convenience, and offering the channel that your audience is most keen to use, is exactly about this. Because today people are used to using multiple communication channels, you cannot continue to solely engage them in the way that has worked in the past. Prospects and customers have more power over the marketing and sales processes now more than ever before.
According to Accenture's report on "industrial consumerism":
“Constantly evolving digital technologies are reinventing industry as we know it. And B2B customers increasingly expect the personalized, frictionless interaction they are already experiencing in B2C markets.
By 2025, we estimate that most B2B customers will have an online touchpoint at some stage between research and purchase. As a result, more than half of industrial transactions will be induced online.”
In addition to prospects, there are also other stakeholder groups who you will need to engage effectively online:
- candidates looking for jobs
- members of the media looking for info or researching a topic
- investors or potential investors seeking information
- potential partners with business collaboration ideas
….just to name a few examples.
Good digital marketing makes all these potential engagements better.
4. It’s because of your competitors
Competition is the fourth most important reason why SMEs fail, after all.
In the battle for the customer base, savvy competitors will leverage digital to acquire, engage and retain customers faster and more efficiently than slower-moving businesses. They will set up an effective digital ecosystem of owned, earned and paid digital assets which will enable them to analyse customers' needs and deliver the right experience or product in the right place (or channel) and at the right moment.
They are doing it, even though they are in the same B2B niche market that you are. Some of your competitors have better online presence and be fully invested in digital marketing. Although this may not be the only reason why there are more successful than you, it’s certainly one of the contributing factors.
5. Last but not least, B2B e-commerce is growing
Competitive B2B SMEs are becoming more efficient with their digital processes, such as B2B e-commerce. They are using technology in order to:
- reduce the number of people working on order processing
- save on mistakes from manual entries
- speed up processing time with automation
- free up their salesforce's bandwidth for prospects that really deserve high touch
These businesses are then able to grow their top line through ecommerce channels in addition to their traditional channels by reinforcing the sales funnel through leveraging digital.
“Despite being slow to adopt ecommerce, B2B brands are increasingly looking to digital means to boost sales – a move driven by the success of Amazon Business and the changing B2B buyer demographic.”