How does one target SMEs? They are spread out everywhere in the world. Unlike targeting a company like PG which has standard practices which it would follow across the world, SMEs are different in every country. They are universally acknowledged to be the toughest segment to reach. Here are some ideas to get started:
- Content to Attract, Community to Retain: This takes a leaf from the traditional dot-com strategy. Use content which is valuable to get the SMEs in – this could be advice, case studies or the ability to generate business inquiries. Think of this as the enterprise version of “Reader’s Digest”. The challenges which SMEs face are well-known; so what can we done to help them in their quest for growth? SME owner-managers can also learn a lot by interacting with others like them. This is where the community ideas can play a role.
- Create Buzz: Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful ways by which decisions are made. The challenge then is to create buzz, such that demand for the enterprise software solution “tips” over. This will happen if there are clear productivity benefits which can be demonstrated quickly to the SME customers.
- Use Channels: Computer vendors, banks, telcos, Business Yellow Pages companies can serve as indirect channels through which SMEs can be targeted. This can help these companies differentiate their offerings and for the software vendor provide a cheaper means for customer acquisition. An extreme example of this would be build an Amway-type marketing network, which would be neighbourbood-based.
- Ideas from Gaming: How about combining ideas from multi-player gaming into the marketing exercise? One can perhaps learn from what Electronic Arts is doing with its newest online game, called Majestic. Writes Rafe Needleman in Red Herring: “Electronic Arts’s Chris Plummer says Majestic is unlike any other game because “you play you.” It would be hard not to: the game, a combination treasure hunt and thriller, interacts with you through your standard communications devices — email, phone, fax, and instant messaging. The computer-controlled characters in the game contact you at unpredictable times. You can also interact with other people playing the game, although it won’t always be obvious who’s real and who’s programmed.” Now, imagine a world of SMEs connected together, creating a parallel universe in which they can play and learn. Combine this interactive world with information broadcast via TV, print and radio – perhaps, a daily SME-based soap opera that offers learnings, which can be tried out in the real world.
These are just a few ways to get started. In doing so, it is important to remember that SMEs are the starting point, and the final goal is to target the larger organisations with the enterprise software solutions. For Indian software companies, it means doing things differently and innovatively across the value chain. The challenge is immense, but then so are the rewards. The Internet as a technology can be disruptive – companies which can use it thus can win big in the next decade.