Small and medium businesses (SMBs) have a big target painted on their back, and ad platforms and social media firms are fighting for a piece of their future.
Asia is especially critical, accounting for half of all internet, mobile and social media users worldwide.
Diana Vincent, head of digital and performance marketing for SMV Group Singapore, says platforms believe the “bulk of the opportunity” lies with SMB segment. “There’s an opportunity to grow media spending with the platform. They understand this and they are building strong SMB sales teams,” she said.
She and other marketers agree the introduction of self-service ads and Gross Rate Point (GRP)-style media buying have helped level the playing field for SMBs. Emily Huo, head of SMB sales for Twitter Southeast Asia, says the rollout of the self-service Twitter Ads across the world this year is aimed at SMBs. The platform requires no minimum spend and can be accessed with just a credit card and a Twitter account. In Asia, Huo says Indonesia is already one of Twitter’s top markets worldwide and has 55 million SMBs, while India is one of the fastest-growing and has 51 million SMBs.
Facebook is also working the region. Andy Hwang, director of SMB Asia-Pacific, says the next billion people connected will be in Asia.
More than 45 million SMBs worldwide have Facebook pages and 1.5 million are posting videos each month. Earlier this year, Facebook launched the Ads Manager app and some creative and educational resources for SMB marketers. For emerging market users on slower connections, it has rolled out a product called Slideshow, a ‘lightweight video ad’ created from still images intended to aid SMB campaigns. Hwang cites a report from Milward Brown suggesting that in developing markets with slower network speeds people are even more receptive to video ads. Facebook is also optimising ads on feature phones and smartphones and using bandwidth targeting.
Yet despite these efforts, many SMBs aren’t equipped to take advantage of ad platforms. Prantik Mazumdar, partner at Happy Marketer in Singapore, says small firms often have “very little understanding” of the potential of digital. “They typically come to us with something very specific. For example, ‘I want to do something on Facebook or Twitter.’ They don’t know why. Or they say, ‘I have $20K, I want to run ad.’”
So education is important. Happy Marketer, a Google-accredited SEO firm, offers digital strategy and execution-focused training for senior executives and marketers.
SMV offers something similar, Vincent says. With so many self-service, real-time platforms in the market today, she says agencies play a crucial role helping SMB clients understand the channels and impact of specific campaigns.
While many believe the rise of self-service platforms will shrink the role of media agencies, she says SMBs will still come to agencies both for buying and consultancy.
“They will have media agencies for analytics, measurement and to scale and drive efficiencies through volumes,” she said. “So audience buys are still directed through agencies, but also [we play] a more consulting role to help them evaluate what works and what doesn’t work.”
So what questions do SMBs have? Vinny Vijeyakumaar, managing partner & founder of Singapore-based Sparkline, sees a growing demand for understanding the social ecosystem and what data to look at. The main focus is on Facebook and Instagram, although there’s also a strong demand for analytics to optimise paid marketing campaigns on search. “Paid search is great for capturing demand at the moment of relevance,” he said. “Social media can be effective for branding and social proof.”
Balloon business takes off with SEO
Thai entrepreneur Poomjai Lohaprom was motivated to start a balloon decoration business after a trip to Japan over 20 years ago.
Starting up her business, Balloon Art 2Go,at home, she promoted it through traditional print, broadcast and radio ads. She also made sales by approaching shopping malls and event organisers directly.
However, growth was slow and brand recognition was limited, until she tried the Google AdWords and Google Analytics.
Spending 450 baht (US$11) per day, she was able to better target customers who were genuinely interested in her balloon decorations. Whereas previously she had typically one or two orders for balloon bouquets a week, she was now receiving 10 leads per day and her revenue virtually doubled. A Valentine’s Day campaign brought in 300-500 orders a day.
“In the past we spent a lot of time and effort, but only got maybe one or two customers,” Lohaprom said. “Using Google AdWords brings us new customers all the time, all of whom came to us on their own.”
She added, “this online approach is measurable. We can get clear feedback, and we can learn about our target customers and how to better serve them.”
Since beginning her search marketing campaign, Lohaprom has taken her business nationwide, opening another ten stores around the country.
Our View: The expansion of self-service tools will benefit under resourced SMBs.