In part seven of the Small Business Survival Toolkit series, Ravi Pillay, Ph.D. candidate at the Gordon Institute of Business Science focusing on Multi-stakeholder Partnerships linked to development and improving livelihoods, shares some insights on marketing in a post-Covid era.
Compiled by Tarren Bolton
In part 7 of the Small Business Survival Toolkit series, Ravi Pillay, Ph.D. candidate at the Gordon Institute of Business Science focusing on Multi-stakeholder Partnerships linked to development and improving livelihoods, shares some insights on marketing in a post-Covid era.
As a doctoral researcher at GIBS, Ravi is also an adviser to the Chairman and Managing Director of Nestle southern and eastern Africa. In this segment of the Small Business Toolkit, Ravi shares his local and global practitioner experience in the area of marketing, and hopefully provide small businesses with the ‘ingredients’ to be able to give their businesses a boost.
Ravi looks specifically at brand reputation and marketing at both a global level as well as a local level. “We really need to be very cognisant of how businesspeople are feeling as well as how we as consumers are feeling – even though we are marketers and practitioners, let’s not lose sight of the concept of the consumer,” says Ravi.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better
“As marketers, we should bear empathy and transparency in mind during this time. Everyone is is in a very sensitive and a vulnerable phase – people are feeling it and the moment people feel that a business is doing something to help them it creates a connection with the consumer.
“If ever there was a time in history to associate brand and your company with good, now is a great opportunity. Leverage the brand resonance and link it with something that’s good and practical and useful for your consumers. Notwithstanding the reliance in the past on very predictable data and trends, we now need to create a new business ‘textbook’.
“The word ‘entrepreneur’, by definition, means ‘adventurer’. If ever there was a time in history for us to be adventurous it’s now. The old ‘textbook’ rules are no longer current.
“Now is the time to experiment and play around with ideas. It’s time to consider some lead marketing models, some new opportunities, and how to maintain brand power and reputation. It is worthwhile taking the time to step back and really look at, “Why does my organisation or franchise or small business exist?” Once that has been clarified, then look at the ‘how’. What is your point of difference in comparison to other companies that are providing the same service? And then of course, there’s the ‘what’ – what is the product and the service?” says Ravi.
Post-Covid, there are many buzzwords going around – leap frogging, pivoting, business models, agility and the digital era. We’re living in a world of convergence, and we need to move quickly and smoothly.
Clever digital marketing
Ravi says that after being accustomed to human interaction pre-Covid, the post-Covid era brought a lot of focus to social media. “Social media filled the void, and we were able to advertise our businesses, which has helped boost the business and attracted customers.
“Leverage digital in whatever simple way you can. It’s known in South Africa that we lag behind in terms of using data for SMEs. The good part about this is that there are opportunities to leverage cloud-based services to allow SMEs into this ‘data world’ so that they don’t have to invest their own infrastructure.
“About 71% of people are quite concerned or fearful of data. Many people are saying it’s not for me. Some are saying it’s too expensive. Some are saying it’s too complicated. However, let’s embrace it even in our own simple way in whatever business we operate in, and say that it is not that complicated,” advises Ravi.
The role of e-commerce for an SME – a case study
Shortly after the first lockdown, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition said that e-commerce had become a major platform and that government would be supporting it fully. The encouragement is that SMEs go into e-commerce prepared, really leveraging the so-called ‘township economy’ and providing services that could actually help during this very interesting post-Covid time. For those that have, it’s clear that their businesses are showing steady growth.
“Some may say that e-commerce for SMEs is overkill. I beg to differ. As an example, let’s look at a case study: The company Greenfish – a family-run fishing business that services the restaurant, hospitality and wholesale industry, based in Cape Town.
“Co-founder Ryan Nienaber says that his world fell apart after lockdown was announced. He had R100 000 worth of stock that potentially couldn’t sell, and no cash flow. What could he do? He got hold of his wife’s cousin who knew quite a bit about the online and ‘computer’ world, so to speak. Within three days, they went live with a website selling fish to consumers, offering delivery within 24-hours. It was a very bold claim, but they went for it and why not? The beauty of it was that this family-run business did not expect such a huge response, but very quickly received 400 positive customer reviews, and within six weeks, Greenfish had made over 1 000 deliveries of an estimated 1.2 tons of fresh fish caught the old-fashioned way with handlines.”
“SMEs should go into e-commerce prepared, really leveraging the so-called ‘township economy’ and providing services that could actually help during this very interesting post-Covid time.”
There still a role for radio in traditional marketing. Many people are working from home, and radio advertising rates have dropped drastically. Perhaps there are small businesses who are operating in malls or in other ‘cluster-types’ such as shopping or commercial areas. They could pull their resources and do some kind of promo to encourage traffic to a particular area and collaborate to leverage it. Another advantage of radio is that it is targeted – you can target your customers in specific, refined areas, and you can also get DJ endorsements and then sponsorship becomes a tool that you could use and leverage quite effectively.
“You have to build up your brand equity and your brand personality now.”
PR public relations
“As Bill Gates says, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR,” and it’s not a coincidence that Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world.
“Why should small businesses use PR at that stage? A good PR strategy prevents problems. You have to build up your brand equity and your brand personality now. It’s a very effective direct way of communicating your message. PR boosts brand visibility and creates long-lasting relationships. Reputation is key, and now is the time that customers must trust you and know that you are reliable. You want to keep your momentum going for when the economy rebounds and prepare for the new wave of business to come through. It is possible for SMEs to have effective marketing campaigns on a tight budget – and one of the key things to look at is brand resonance,” says Ravi.
“This is a critical time, and you need to connect with your consumers.”
“This is a critical time, and you need to connect with your consumers. Are you on Facebook? Are you on social media, regardless of what small business you’re in? You need to accelerate the gap with your competitors now. Local Search Engine Optimisation is key since people are now working within their own geographies. They don’t want to go further than five to ten kilometres for a product or service, so it’s a good idea to make sure that people know that you are within this boundary. There’s no need for panic moves. Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose – I either win or learn.” I think that as South Africans, as we travel on this new journey, let’s take some chances out there as entrepreneurs and have some adventures,” concludes Ravi.