Why your marketing needs to compete with nobody


Whether you’re an established SME, or in the process of launching a new business, having a strong online presence is more important than ever before. However merely being “present” is not enough, you must stand out and compete for customer attention in order to see advertising convert into sales.

Small-business owners don’t have huge budgets and endless amounts of time to spend on marketing, so how can you compete (and win)? You need a plan for every dollar you spend. And, if you want your business to really stand out, you should consider holding some budget back for marketing to use specifically for experimentation. You need to be brave and take on some risk to succeed in marketing.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have been dominating the business landscape ever since social media became a necessity for online lead generation and brand awareness. However, they are heavily saturated with advertising, making it increasingly difficult for SMEs to stand out.

That’s why turning your attention to new social media platforms with less competition can be extremely effective; the greatest results in marketing often come through discovering something before everybody else does. Think about how cheap Google ads used to be, and how organic posts on Facebook were once worthwhile. By taking on a bit of risk and diversification in your marketing mix, you open yourself up to a lot of potential reward before the competition becomes too high.

Here’s a quick guide on getting started:

Decide on experiment protocols

Create test parameters for each social channel, including how much money to allocate. Focus on what ad creative and message you’ll use, how long the test will run for, and what audience you will target.

Consider allowing for a period of optimisation (e.g. 1 week) where the campaigns are left untouched before making any changes based on performance, then repeat the process.

Identify platforms to test

Think beyond the standard, high competition platforms you’ve likely already tried. Consider new options, for example TikTok, Reddit, Pinterest, and Quora.

Have a look at each platform’s advertising options (i.e. costs involved in setting up an account, minimum ad spend, whether it’s possible to run the account yourself, how long it will take to set up an account and get the ads running, etc). You can then make a decision on what platforms you want to test.

Run the tests

Set up the accounts, campaigns and ads, staying true to your determined testing period and budgets. Record the results and include any optimisation needed, as well as the impact of any changes.

Analyse results and make decisions

Analyse the data. Compare each platform’s performance to the others in your experiment, and to your existing advertising channels. Based on this, make the decision whether to test these further, add these to your marketing stack, or scrap them for now.

Even a failed test is valuable because it answers the open question of “will it work”. Experimentation plays a huge role in effective marketing, and this will ultimately lead to faster decision making.

Repeat regularly

Since this process is a continual cycle, you need to regularly repeat it with new and emerging platforms as they are discovered. By adopting a regular process of testing and experimentation, you will position yourself at the forefront of your industry, giving you an edge over your competitors.

Competition in every industry is high. It’s becoming even more difficult to break through the noise in saturated social media platforms. That’s why regularly testing and exploring new platforms to reach potential customers and generate more leads is a fantastic way for SMEs to stand out from their competition.

Evan Cunningham-Dunlop, Founder and CEO, livingonline.com.au