As 2020 unfolded, the spotlight quickly shifted from Brexit to coronavirus. But with lockdowns beginning to ease and business disruption, thankfully, decreasing, it is time for British SMEs to once again focus on Brexit – and the potential it could hold for expansion beyond the bloc. As budget constraints remain a harsh reality, British businesses will need to be savvy with their spending to maximise marketing efforts and ensure post-Brexit growth is a possibility — despite reduced budgets. Simon Woolley, PR Account Manager, IBA International, explains.
In the current environment, financial resources are already limited, and bosses are more hesitant than ever about making adventurous expansion plans for their business. However, now could be the perfect time for B2B organisations to grow outside of the EU. The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that remote working can be a successful approach to doing business – location is no longer a limiting factor. With organisations the world over wanting to restock their sales pipeline, British SMEs need to apply the post-pandemic mindset to the post-Brexit business expansion. Organisations must use the lessons they have learned during the coronavirus pandemic to enable growth into new markets and geographies beyond the limits of Europe.
The pandemic has highlighted the need for innovation within businesses – and this applies to marketing strategies as well. As budgets are squeezed in the wake of the virus, organisations need to look beyond the age-old structure of PR and marketing that revolves around large retainer fees and look to a leaner approach to communications. With a hub strategy, B2B organisations can control their global marketing efforts from a single location and scale into new geographies and industries as they choose – keeping costs down and company messaging consistent.
Time is ripe for British businesses
Small and medium sized-enterprises, or SMEs – are often nicknamed the ‘backbone of the British economy’ because they account for 99 percent of all UK private sector firms. The sector continues to fuel innovation, job creation and economic growth. In 2019 alone, 200,000 new SMEs entered the market and one only has to look at the London Stock Exchange Group’s annual ‘1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain’ list to find shining examples of world-class expertise and grit. As the potential of post-Brexit prosperity begins to take shape, SMEs have no time to waste.
Look beyond the bloc
These businesses are fully aware of the opportunities available to them on the wider global stage – especially across the Atlantic. A recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that the US is considered as the most important individual country market for small firm exports over the next three years, with over 30,000 SMEs already involved in export activities. In fact, SMEs that focus on exporting to markets outside the EU grow faster than those exporting to the bloc – the 2019 YouGov research found businesses that drew more than a quarter of their revenue from non-EU exports reported annual growth of 13 percent.
Rethinking traditional marketing models in the post-pandemic era
A recent report from the British Business Bank shows a third of SMEs have the desire to grow, but feel a lack of available funding is curbing their ambitions. The single biggest force holding these businesses back will be their expectation that in order to gain brand awareness they must employ PR agencies or have a marketing team on the ground in every new geography they want to expand to, creating an organisational nightmare. With multiple offices working in silos, approvals processes are lengthy, messaging is diluted, and timely press opportunities are often missed. Location-based PR is big business for ‘old school’, inflexible agencies that boast smart offices in high-rise buildings and equally sky-high fees – with a three-month launch campaign costing anywhere between €6,000 and €11,000 per month.
A hub delivers compelling thought leadership, social media and influencer programmes to put your brand front and centre in new industries and geographies – and win new business. Geography-specific content should be localised centrally, translations managed through an agency or designated in-house staff member and all communication should be routed via a single point of contact, providing accountability and streamlined, frequent, metrics-based reporting.
One team – multiple geographies
An asset library will offer boundless possibilities to create media touchpoints. With a content hub, created internally or by an agency partner, one team can create, store content and re-purpose it from existing assets – localising with specific insights depending on the geography it is intended for. This should then be pitched and placed in media targets in specified geographies – with further reworking where required to guarantee multiple placements for each piece of content. Prospects will find their way to your subject matter experts and website, no matter where they are in the world.
Targeted press pitching – to the journalists that matter
The press release is a hugely powerful tool for establishing presence and building credibility in a new market or geography. Many organisations will spend endless cycles on getting it right, only to pass the release on to newswire services that plaster it on websites that prospects may have not even heard of – let alone read! This ‘spray and pray’ approach is not only ineffective but also unnecessarily expensive. Press releases should go straight into the inboxes of the most influential target journalists in a certain industry or geography to ensure it is read by the right people at the right time – and for a fair price.
Golden opportunity for British SMEs
As British SMEs emerge from an extremely difficult period, expansion might not be top of mind. But those businesses that have successfully weathered the storm of widespread business disruption will be well primed to grow in a post-Brexit market environment. With trade agreements underway with leading economies across the globe, the world is open for businesses following Brexit, and British SMEs should take advantage.
But the financial implications of the pandemic continue to take shape, so B2B organisations will need to keep a close eye on budgets. Large fee agencies that adhere to traditional time-based models of marketing and PR will soon damage expansion plans. Either in-house or through a results-driven agency, organisations need to maximise their marketing spend and have the flexibility to scale their business – and marketing efforts – into new markets and geographies when they wish. Those businesses that re-think their marketing strategy in the post pandemic age will be able to grow post-Brexit, while keeping budgets under control.