Advice for SMEs – Survival of the Smartest

Caribbean SME at work

Advice and mentorship come in handy when you’re an ambitious SME and trying to win your world. Of course, not everything out there is going to resonate with you or be applicable to your particular business scenario. There are some common scenarios, that many SMEs around the world struggle with. We’ve chatted with a few small and medium sized business owners from across the Caribbean and they’ve shared some of their business challenges with us. We were not surprised to find commonalities among some of the problems they faced. Among the challenges identified, prioritisation, email management, and marketing on a budget stood out as three of the most common issues faced by small business owners and entrepreneurs. Here are some quick recommendations on how you can address these challenges.

The Caribbean SME Must Learn to Prioritise

Gene Marks, President of the Marks Group called it as it is, in his contribution to the Entrepreneur – “You’re Too Busy? No, You’re Not. Here’s Why.” Sounds familiar? You might have heard it from other business mentors, successful entrepreneurs and motivational speakers who say – “if it’s important to you, you make time for it!”

No one is ever going to doubt an entrepreneur or small business owner when they say they’re busy. Most often, we’re wearing multiple hats, operating as marketing and sales managers, performing HR and operational duties, as well as getting any other ad-hoc tasks done to ensure that the business stays afloat. Let’s think about it, how many balls can we realistically juggle at once, who’s going to suffer when we can’t keep them all in the air?

The same will apply to our employees. Startups and small businesses often run on skeleton staff, many of whom are expected to manage several deliverables across varying business areas. Everyone’s busy but busy doing what? You can bet that if you’re not prioritising, they’re not, and before you know it, those balls you’re proud of juggling will be on the floor and your customers will be out the door! How do you fix it? Gene has a simple suggestion –

“The only way you’re going to find this out is by managing better, supervising better and being more actively involved in their day.  Maybe now it’s time to equate your priorities with theirs.”

Avoid Death by Email

Would you have guessed that your employees are spending as much as 28% of their workweek sorting through and responding to emails? You can just imagine what they can get done with all that time, the customers that would be serviced, the operational tasks that could be completed!SME checking email on mac book

CEO of Lemonly, John T. Meyer shares a few tips that can save you from sure death by email and help you improve overall productivity. Here’s what he recommends –

  1. Sort
  2. Batch
  3. Only hold it once
  4. Last in, first out
  5. The more you send, the more you receive – so stop sending so much.

Take a look at John’s video – In the Office – Tips to Cure the Email Blues and start making use of those extra hours you’ll be saving.

Marketing on a budget

In 2013 Cocoa Cola reportedly spent $3.3 billion of advertising globally with the intention of increasing their advertising spend to $1 billion in 2016.  As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’re a long way off from allocating that size of marketing investment for your brand. Of course, this is not the signal to fold up shop and give up your slice of the market to the bigger enterprise engines. Instead, it’s a call for overall smarter thinking with relation to how SMEs approach sales and marketing strategies.

The folks at The Marketing Donut have pulled together a great panel discussion that addresses the marketing needs of SMEs. The session churns out some marketing tips and techniques that provide answers to some of the questions we ask ourselves as entrepreneurs or small business owners.

  1. What are the most effective marketing methods to reach out to new customers?
  2. What are the affordable techniques that an SME can use to understand the behaviour of their customers?
  3. How can business owners best use those methods and techniques to appeal to and help win new customers?

For companies like Cocoa Cola, who can spend millions to develop stirring campaigns like the Happiness Campaign, the positive brand sentiment that’s gained is just icing on a cake with an already hefty profit baked in. SMEs on the other hand, are expected to have an entirely different approach, focusing on a marketing strategy that’s centered on driving sales.

“The greatest marketing initiatives may be clever and memorable, but of even more importance will be the simple fact that they helped a company sell more of its product or service to even more customers.”





Recession Marketing and Caribbean Brands




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