Making Marketing Work for SMEs [opinion]
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The Small and Medium Entrepreneurs are major players in global economies, Zambia included. In the world's most leading economies such as the United States of America,United Kingdom, China, Japan, Germany and India, the Small and Medium Enterprises constitutes the second largest manufacturers and employers and to a greater extent contribute to these economies source of revenue by way of Tax.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2nd Conference of Ministers responsible for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises held in June 2004; SMEs play a key role in transition and developing countries. These firms typically account for more than 90 per cent of all firms outside the agricultural sector, constitute a major source of employment and generates significant domestic and export earnings. As such, SME development emerges as a key instrument in poverty reduction efforts.
When you conduct a survey in Zambia today, you will observe that the majority of companies are established as SMEs. Over the recent past years, there has been some change on the way many people look at business in this country.
Some years back, most of us could not imagine or even think of owning small companies. Most of us only dreamt of getting employed in a big corporate oganisation, government or quasi - government institutions.
I do not know whether this mindset could be attributed to the kind of education and learning the majority of us received, where probably the main focus was training individuals for service and employment.
I recall about 15 years ago when I was pursuing my marketing programme, we had about three students in our class who were well ahead of us in terms of reasoning, as well as in future personnel plans.
These colleagues had made it very clear that they were pursuing their marketing careers purely for the purpose of enhancing their business skills, so that they would establish their companies and create jobs for other people. During that time, some of us could not share into this vision and let alone envisage it.
Five years later after completing our programme, I was to meet one of these colleagues, while I was working as a sales executive at our country's public broadcaster, he was proudly running his own fumigation company in the Lusaka's industrial area and even gave me some business to advertise his company.
Having given this account, it is now established that SMEs play a very a very significant role in this country's economy. Zambia being a free market driven economy, an economy which is open to traders and investors implies that the business environment has become highly competitive and businesses, therefore, need to apply effective marketing strategies in order to remain competitive and to become successful.
For most SMEs, however, having proper marketing in place is easier said than done. Unlike the big corporate businesses or organisations which normally operate with huge marketing budgets, it is not usually the case with the SMEs.
Having a huge marketing budget does not necessarily mean that an organisation will be able to market its products and services effectively. Not having sufficient financial resources on the other hand, should not be a constraint to any business' marketing efforts.
What matters for entrepreneurs is the ability to think strategically when devising their marketing plans. This is so much a requirement for SMEs who may not boast of having a big spend for marketing.
Let me elaborate on the point of thinking strategically. From the marketing point of view, this simply means applying the marketing mix to your business.
The marketing mix can be defined as a set of controllable variables that marketers use to influence the buyers response. The concept was first expounded by Professor Neil Borden of the Harvard University in the 1940s. The marketing mix is also sometimes referred to as the marketing strategy.
The biggest problem I have seen with the SMEs in this country is the tendency to establish businesses based on conjecture. Most SMEs have challenges with marketing their products or services because they do not take time to conduct research on the market.
Some SMEs lack adequate information on the markets with regards to product or service demand. Remember that with the right product, a business is on the right track to succeed. Secondly, the price on which the product can be sold and customers are willing to pay.With the right priceyour business will remain competitive and make a profit or a Return on Investment (ROI).
How will the people be informed? If people don't know about you and your services, how will they come to you? What about your location and distribution are you going to use agents or will you use one point of sale?
Looking at business from this perspective is part of the marketing strategy.
Author is a consultant in marketing, public relations and customer service
For comments, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on twitter
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