Earning the SME dialogue

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Omobono explains how analysing SME relationships can improve the ways in which government and business communicate to SMEs to develop a win-win relationship.

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Earning the SME dialogue

  1. 1. 1 Earning the SME dialogue How analysing SME relationships can improve the ways in which government and business communicate to SMEs Francesca Brosan, Chairman, Omobono Limited. March 2010 OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  2. 2. 2 Analysing SME relationships can improve the ways in which government and business communicate with them Introduction A Business Relationship is “a The research focused on large, dynamic link between at least complex organisations whose two parties operating within a business relies on long term given industry and expecting relationship building and mutual benefits from each decision-making. other... the quality and nature of the relationship depends on the What was also revealed was the quality of the interaction value of ERM as a mapping process.” (Zineldin, 1995)1 process which can improve the way in which big companies and In summer 2009, Omobono government departments partnered with the University of communicate with SMEs – the Cambridge‟s Judge Business backbone of British Industry. School to investigate the This is particularly pertinent in theories surrounding Enterprise the current environment which Relationships and Enterprise demands that businesses move Relationship Management away from traditional mass (ERM): the ways in which market driven approaches and organisations in the commercial become more savvy about and public sectors interact with marketing to SMEs. their customers, partners and This white paper explores how staff. The Judge Business business and the public sector School investigated how can communicate more Enterprise Relationships are effectively with SMEs to produce used to achieve organisational the nirvana of business goals, to deliver to customers relationships – a win-win and create mutual value; and situation. how that is measured. OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  3. 3. 3 SME diversity and commercial pressures Reaching SMEs categories will also be a wide make them a difficult spread of activities. The SMEs are the backbone of Creative Industries sector for audience to reach. British industry, accounting for example covers businesses as 99% of all private sector firms, diverse as art galleries, 50% of turnover and 59% of architecture practices and private sector employment advertising agencies (and that‟s (Source: BIS, Oct 09)2 making just the A‟s). them a hugely important target for both government and You can talk, but will they commercial organisations. listen? Some SMEs are more equal 3. The third problem (as if you than others. needed any more) is that SMEs are notoriously hard to reach. 1. The first problem in At the heart of every SME is the understanding SMEs is that they proprietor or director are not a homogenous group – themselves. Hard pressed, the category officially covers facing a tough market, their businesses up to 250 people but focus is on trying to do the best there is an obvious, and huge, for their business and their difference between a well people. established business at the top end of the spectrum and a self No matter how much a employed carpenter, or PR communications plan may make consultant who has just set up sense to commercial on his own. organisations or government departments, you have to face 2. The second problem is their the fact that the people on the sheer diversity. SME receiving end of the messages businesses cover every sector have almost no time to consider of UK industry, from non-essential information. construction to creative services and within each of these OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  4. 4. 4 Successful engagement with Successful SME communication But there is an alternative way SMEs is more likely to demands a particular blend of to think about communicating come via those with skills. Unless you are offering with SMEs however, which is to them an opportunity to do look for those to whom they existing ‘permission business, getting their attention have already given „permission to speak’. relies on the right combination of to speak‟ and use these factual (no frills, no fripperies) channels – from trade and emotional. The more associations to special interest engaging (but not time-wasting) groups - to deliver your it is, the more likely they are to message. respond. Response levels are more likely Of course they will read and to increase for the simple ingest the mainstream reason that they are more likely consumer media, and there is to look or listen to the message plenty of business media which if it comes via someone they also reaches them. already interact with and are more likely to trust. But because of the diversity of type, sector and stage of Identifying these audiences, development many of the and their role as future broadcast messages are highly ‘carriers’ is therefore vital. wasteful unless they are literally applicable to all. Gaining ‘Permission to Speak’ To truly engage with SMEs, as with any audience, it is of course essential to ensure that the message is highly pertinent. OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  5. 5. 5 Identifying the stakeholder channels Peter Haigh, former B2B This approach is as relevant for and their potential role Marketing Director of E.ON, government departments tasked as future carriers is an referred to this some years ago with communicating with SMEs as „the Fish Friers Strategy‟. To about a range of issues, as it is essential part of reach fish & chip shops across for commercial organisations, communicating with the country it makes sense to from banks to professional SMEs. find out the main associations advisors and energy companies. that they would belong to or the main trade publications they would subscribe to. Subsequently, you work with the “Fish Friers Association” to provide their members with benefits which are not available to those outside the group – an advantageous energy tariff, for example. This gives the SME a direct benefit (cheaper energy), the Association a benefit (members get perks, which encourages people to join or to maintain their membership) and the corporate gets the advantage of reaching a highly relevant target group via one single channel – despite the fact that they might be spread across the UK from Scunthorpe to Brighton. OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  6. 6. 6 Relationship Mapping In partnership with the Judge Mapping these connections also Business School, Omobono enables companies and public has developed a specific sector marketers to evaluate the approach to mapping the strengths and weaknesses of relationships held by business. the communications links, both direct and indirect; identifying Our Enterprise Relationship how best to use them. Mapping process allows companies to analyse SME Digital and social media relationships and the roles they connections can also be have in reaching SME mapped, although SMEs and management (see Fig.1) their associations are capitalising on the opportunity to connect in this way much slower than corporate brands, as a recent survey from Sage UK3 revealed. FIG. 1 OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  7. 7. 7 Understanding SME influencers – the ERM Reviewing the business The ERM approach maps points exercise. relationships which SMEs of interest and groupings not manage reveals both the necessarily obvious when influencing factors upon them looking at a business from the and the channels via which they outside. might be reached. For example, At the heart of this analysis is those with significant work the belief that they will be more forces will need HR advice, and open to messages which come may well connect with via those to whom they have Government HR resources or given permission to speak and trade associations. in the places that they naturally Those who don‟t buy directly gather and show an interest in. may be reachable via their suppliers; distributors of office supplies, food service or electronic components. Are they a service business with a strong trade press or are their services intermediated via a brokerage service such as an online portal or agency? What is their relationship with Government? Do they operate in a business in which the original thinking is driven by academe? OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  8. 8. 8 Understanding the stakeholder agenda One essential implication of this But your agendas may conflict – is a core element is the importance of gaining the and who owns the relationships buy-in of the influencer or can become a thorny problem. in communicating intermediary. These people are effectively with SMEs. Stakeholder communication the stakeholders from the wider (See Fig. 2) therefore becomes world of business and an important element of the government, who communicate Relationship Mapping process. with SMEs as they set up, grow and flourish – in order to help them while finding benefit from the process themselves. To successfully use those stakeholders as a communication channel means developing mutual benefit for all parties. There must be a benefit of carrying your message to the stakeholder as well as a potential benefit of receiving it for the SME themselves. FIG. 2 OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  9. 9. 9 Top Ten Tips – a recap 1. Communicating with SMEs is 7. Invest in engaging work actually likely to be a two stage which reflects positively on your process- one direct and one via brand and the stakeholder. stakeholders. 8. Promote it so people know 2. Identify the key segments it‟s there. you wish to attract and prioritise them. 9. Identify success. Traffic, uptake or referrals? Clicks or 3. Map their key relationships behaviour? and the stakeholders who influence them. 10. Remember that content is only as good as the last 4. Identify the stakeholder’s update, which has implications own agenda and look for ways on how it is managed. to align yours with theirs. 5. Communicate with stakeholders as actively as you communicate with SMEs. 6. Create valuable content which provides a service to both SME and stakeholder. OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  10. 10. 10 Conclusion Traditional thinking would have you believe that reaching SMEs is volume-driven activity, similar to consumer communications which rely on sending out vast numbers of communications in the hope of a low level return. But the current environment suggests that businesses and government need to become more savvy about marketing to SMEs to ensure that their budget is spend on building ongoing value for audience and stakeholder alike, rather than a one way flag waving exercise. Viewed in this light, communicating with SMEs should become part of a service – a service which produces mutual advantage for all players, not just for the biggest. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 1. Zineldin, M. (1995) “Bank-company interactions and relationships: some empirical evidence”, International Journal of Bank Marketing, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 30-40. 2. http://www.berr.gov.uk/index.html 3. The Sage Group plc, Sage (UK) “Connecting With Your Customers: a guide to social media”, http://www.sage.co.uk/PDF/ACT201 0_Social_Media_Whitepaper.pdf 4. Morgan, R.M. and Hunt, D.H. (1994) “The Commitment-Trust Theory of Relationship Marketing”, Journal of Marketing, Vol.58 (July 1994), 20- 38. OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk
  11. 11. 11 Relationships drive your business. We drive your relationships. ERM® helps world class organisations drive value from their business relationships by examining the ways they interact with their customers, partners and staff; and how that is measured to help achieve organisational goals, deliver to customers and create mutual value. We look largely at the contribution online technologies can play, and how companies can maximise value from the infrastructure put in place over the past 5 – 10 years. By exploring alternative approaches to improving B2B marketing effectiveness, ERM Francesca Brosan is Chairman enables us to think about marketing and Founder of Omobono Limited, differently, to put it back to its the digital communications services original place; where marketing has company. A former Board Director a meaning and purpose beyond of WCRS, her career has spanned communication and becomes a consumer advertising, PR, live business essential, not a business events and digital. She now expense. focuses on B2B strategy for the agency’s corporate and public Omobono targets SME businesses sector clients. Francesca is the for clients including regional and author of 3 IPA Advertising sub-regional development Effectiveness Awards and is a agencies, government departments regular speaker and contributor and commercial. to marketing forums. uk.linkedin.com/in/francescabrosan OMOBONO LTD, THE WAREHOUSE, 33 BRIDGE STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB2 1UW, UK T +44 (0)1223 307000 | F +44 (0)1223 365167 info@omobono.co.uk | www.omobono.co.uk

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