I recently read a Marketing Week article about how Vodafone has decided to bring its social media activity “in-house” (ie back into the business and run by its marketing team there, rather than by an external agency).

The article explains this move is significant because it “marks a key step in how the mobile operator employs social media as an integrated communications tool”. So far, pretty bland; Vodafone has decided that social media, like Twitter, Linked In and Facebook, needs to be used alongside other marketing tools, like advertising and PR.

Then I read a comment that made me cross:
“Large corporations like Vodafone have already started embracing the unified marketing approach. As consumers go digital and as digital becomes a part of life for the consumers it is increasingly necessary for organisations to get over the “line” between traditional and digital marketing. Let us see how the SMEs react to this evolution.”

First, as a marketing consultant who works with SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises), I am cross that the implication is that we follow where the “big boys” lead. That our marketing activity is behind the curve and we are all patiently waiting to see what others do before making our play. Utter rubbish.

In my experience, working with SMEs for over 9 years, SMEs are often the first to identify and then embrace ways of marketing that combine different tools. Why? Because they have to.

SMEs, if they don’t adapt, die. They learn pretty quickly to look at the market place, figure out what is going on, decide if it is a fad or a trend, then adapt their marketing to it, using new tools and combining them with existing ones. KMS Marketing is often called in because companies know the ground is changing underneath them and want advice and help on how to keep up with it. SMEs do not have the reserve funds of large companies to fall back on if they fail or the complicated structures that can hinder rapid response. They need to keep pace with the world and react to it quickly, so that they stay in business for another year.

Second, I am cross because my clients embraced this approach of combining social media with traditional media ages ago. Well, by ages ago, I mean as soon as it became apparent over 14 months ago that social media was a key part of life and that people use it interchangably with other media.

For example, with all of my clients where it was relevant, we agreed and implemented this formula:
– write a news release
– post it on company website
– send out to traditional sector media (both on-line and off-line)
– tweet about it
– post on Linked In about it
– post on facebook about it

Third, SMEs’ marketing is often run by one person or by teams like the KMS Marketing Team. To keep cost down and the knowledge in-house, SMEs don’t have the option to outsource huge chunks of their marketing to the extent that the right hand doesn’t talk to the left hand. In my view, this is a strength as it means SMEs are able to be more flexible and also make sure that the marketing is joined up.

This is the “unified marketing approach” that Vodafone is being lauded for taking. It is one that many SMEs have quietly adopted and been running with for over a year now. It is a formula that we know, used thoughtfully and well, works.  Perhaps the query in that comment should have been, why has it taken the big boys so long to adopt a method of marketing that smaller companies have already tried, used and made work?

By Kara Stanford, Managing Director, KMS Marketing

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