As we all look to move forward after a highly stressful 2020, business growth is imperative for an increasing number of SMEs. According to a recent SME market survey by ACA Research and Fifth Quadrant, a focus on business growth is increasing across the production, distribution and service sectors.
However, for many SMEs, getting access to capital is still a challenge. 49 per cent of Australian SMEs experienced difficulty in getting loans.
For those of us operating in the B2B space, selling our products and solutions to other businesses, we face additional hurdles including:
- More stakeholders involved in buying decisions.
- Longer sales cycles.
- Increased levels of scepticism and mistrust.
How can SMEs seek to achieve their growth ambitions in B2B markets in such challenging conditions and limited financial resources?
1. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is where the leaders and experts in your industry or niche promote and endorse your company and its offerings. It is about identifying the “go-to’s” that your target buyers rely on for insights and advice and working with these credible experts that have the attention and trust of your target customers.
Examples of Industry influencers include:
- Professional associations.
- Thought Leaders.
Why is influencer marketing important?
When business buyers are researching a purchase, the sources they turn to after searching the web is usually their “circle of trust” comprising of peers, colleagues and industry experts.
Benefits of Influencer marketing
Influencers can help drive the growth of your SME by:
- Raising your company’s profile.
- Providing access to a specific audience.
- Helping your company establish expertise in a specialisation.
Studies have shown that 82 per cent of customers are likely to follow an influencer recommendation.
Ways to collaborate with influencers
Collaborating with influencers should be a “WIN-WIN” for both your company and the influencer. Opportunities to explore working with influencers include:
- Speaking at events
- Influencer Review of your product or service
- Hosting roundtable customer events
2. Advocacy Marketing
Advocacy marketing is about using existing clients and customers who are strong advocates of your SME to endorse and promote your products and services.
Advocacy marketing is comprised of two key components:
- Referrals: Endorsements from trusted people such as colleagues, employees and friends
- References: Customers who are willing to speak to on your behalf to potential customers
It is essential that you have advocacy marketing as part of your B2B marketing strategy as B2B buyers find peer to peer dialogue to be authentic and trustworthy.
Benefits of advocacy marketing
Advocate marketing helps brands reach more people than traditional promotional methods and generates word of mouth that is more authentic than messaging that comes directly from marketing
Referrals and references can significantly impact a B2B company’s performance.
- Companies with reference programs have increased their closing rates ranging from 30 to 150 per cent
- 71 of companies with referral programs reported higher conversion rates
3. Customer Co-Creation
Another way to drive growth is by co-creating solutions with a small number of your clients/customers that possess long term strategic value to your company. Ideally, you would be seeking to collaborate with:
- The top five to 10 per cent of your customers in terms of revenues or margins.
- Clients who can help you achieve other key strategic objectives such as penetrating new markets or industries.
The aim is to create mutual value for both your company and the clients you collaborate with. The solutions you develop should be applicable (possibly with some minor modifications) to other clients, market segments and industries. This will enable the solution to be scaled to many other customers, driving revenues significantly higher than the marginal cost of delivery.