5 reasons for an SME to be in Social Media

A research about the current situation of the SME (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) recently published by Sage shows that more than 73% of Spanish small businesses are not yet in any social network. This contrasts dramatically with the time that consumers (and therefore potential customers) engage in social media. As an example, the number of monthly minutes consumed in Facebook has doubled.

So what’s the reason for this disagreement? Surely there is no single explanation, but I tend to think that the most important is the lack of knowledge about the real possibilities that an effective use of social networks can bring to a small business.

Knowing the competition, knowing your customers

If we accept that information is power, then it is easy to understand for any SME what the first real benefit of being in social networks is. First, it lets you know what is being live activity in the context of your competitors, suppliers, customers, etc. Many businesses are taking their first steps in social networks and are starting to get results. So it looks reasonable to follow their activities on Facebook or Twitter, don’t you think so? You will be able to see what your competition is doing and adjust your offer to the market. On the other hand, you will have the opportunity to learn from what others are doing.

Show your product and brand to the public

Let's be reasonable: if our potential customers are on social networks, our product and our brand must also be there. You can start looking for a display effect to finally end up becoming a new sales or customer care channel. If your competitors are already there, then there is no excuse. If not, we should remember that "the early bird catches the worm".

Networking and new business opportunities

Another direct benefit that can provide an active presence in social media is networking. According to the study cited above, the small entrepreneur is lonely and somewhat abandoned to their fate. However, social networks can provide opportunities for contact with other entrepreneurs and, more importantly, with a proper monitoring of the network, he can identify potential business opportunities. Those companies that sell products or offer solutions for small niche markets are also more likely to succeed due to the unprecedented targeting opportunities that social networks offer.

Referral Marketing vs. Traditional Advertising

Nobody better than a small business owner understands what is called "referral marketing". Most new customers that an SME receive come through a recommendation. Not surprisingly, over 70% of consumers trust more the recommendation of a friend or acquaintance than conventional advertising. In this context, the world of social networking is clearly gaining ground. First because they are the natural environment of the recommendations for a very important part of today's consumers. Second, because they are a viable and affordable alternative to the traditionaly huge communication budgets.


In the current economic situation most SMEs have serious difficulties to continue investing in training. Well, the use of Social Media can be a very interesting development alternative. Access to knowledge shared by opinion leaders and prominent people from academia and business is a wonderful complementary way for the staff development.

Therefore, now more tan ever Eric Qualmann (Socialnomics) is absolutely right: “As a result, we no longer have a choice on whether we do social media; the question is how well we do it”.

(Versión en español, aquí)


SME: Keys to grow your business

The economic context is not easy and the near future does not seem to bring good prospects. At least that's what all the economic forecasts suggest. Therefore, if we want to survive to this awful times, it becomes more necessary than ever to remember the old truism that says that behind every crisis lies an opportunity. There will come a time when the economic cycle will change and will appear many opportunities for those who are ready and have done their homework.

We know that when we are concerned about surviving in our day to day, it is difficult to think on the long-term, but if we want to make our business sustainable and profitable there is no choice to do so. In my opinion, this means doing some things like:

Redefine your strategy

Sometimes we want to do too much, shoot everything, and we blur. From time to time we should stop and think. It is not inventing anything new or to follow any new theory becomes fashionable in business schools. What I propose is to review the essence of business strategy and to bet on any of the models that have proven effective enough. It is essential that this model is consistent with the nature of business and the profile of clients and prospects. We must concentrate on being excellent in managing costs, total adaptation to the needs of the client or on constant innovation in products or services. You can not excel in everything and make money at the same time. We must choose our model and then apply it consistently over time.

Innovate, diversify

It is not only about launching new products or to introduce the latest technology in our business. It is also about analyzing what other customers may be target for our product or exploring alternatives (for example, maybe with a little adaptation of your product you can reach out to other customer needs that were hidden before). And, of course, you can also consider a geographical expansión.

Choose the right partner

When you're little you need others to grow. Sometimes you need a partner to provide capital to meet new challenges. If so, choose it well and beyond the specific need you have, make sure you both are compatible and what kind of future you can have in common.

Being part of the distribution network of a large company may also be a great choice to enhance the supply and market position, and gain credibility with customers. In this case, it is also important to assess the compatibility between our business model and the company for which we distribute. If there is understanding, the possibilities for growth and development are quite often very important.

But it is not always necessary for someone to enter the capital or dip into a large company through a distribution agreement. There are other interesting options. For example, the alliance of equals (to complement the offer to cover other areas, to exploit synergies, etc.) or even the integration when the business case is favorable to it.

Professionalize your marketing

Perhaps one of the great weaknesses of the average SME (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise) is the lack of professionalism of some essential business functions. It is quite common for the owner of a small business to be a great salesman for his product. However, it is not so common to have a marketing profile.

To grow your business you must build the brand, communicate effectively and reach new customers. It is very important that whoever makes the strategy of the company have a marketing visión as well. It is not about to have someone in charge of the website or brochures: it's about having someone who is able to make a comprehensive marketing plan. At this point we have three alternatives: the training of existing managers, hiring a professional specialist or contracting an agency. In all three cases you must invest money, but the return is worth it.

It is important also to take the great possibilities that social media give us as a way to gain notoriety or, of course, as an alternative channel to reach the market or to manage your customer service.

As in the previous case, we need to manage the talent in a professional way. What does this mean? Basically, be aware that the human factor is crucial when taking the business forward. Therefore, we must stop relying on luck and be very careful in selecting and developing people who work in our business. That necessarily involves using techniques that large organizations use for these processes (training, evaluation, career planning, management by objectives, compensation models, etc..), adapted to the budgets and characteristics of a small business, and sizing your resources according to your action plan.

I may suggest you to invest in your sales department (after all they are who bring the business) and make sure that every person in the organization become commercial ambassadors of your company (through training, incentives, etc..). This way you will achieve a team committed with the success of your company: they will understand that your success is what guarantees its present and future.

In short, if you do not have the right people, the business will not work. And if you have the right people but you don’t develop and motivate them properly, they will leave you or they won’t be committed enough with you (and obviously the business will not work).

And be patient ...

Unfortunately the results are not as fast as we would like. Persistence and patience are key ingredients for success in business. None of the keys listed above will result in immediate account results of your SME, but as we said at the beginning of this article, you have to think on the long-term to be prepared to take every opportunity that the future holds.

 Versión en español, aquí


Motivation and talent management in SME (small and medium-sized enterprises)

According to a recent study, there is a clear connection between the productivity and the motivation of the employees. Pure common sense. However, very few SME (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) managers and owners consider this topic their priority. Perhaps it is a simple lack of time or thinking, but the truth is that only a minority manages employee motivation in a professional manner.
If we accept the expression "we have what we give", we should also accept that a mediocre people management will report us also mediocre performance results. We expect from our employees professionalism, commitment, initiative... and in compensation we only offer them an economic remuneration. This was never enough but nowadays much less. We should not forget that motivation is key to bound drastically the absenteeism, retain the best people and increase the quality of the engagement.
I can easily imagine a small business owner thinking: "I have more than enough bringing business daily to maintain the company alive to think on keeping employees happy. They should bring the motivation from home! Who does motivate me?" It's true that the principal source of motivation must be yourself and your personal attitude is the main ingredient. However we can't expect a high level of people engagement if we do not promote an inspiring leadership.

What can I do to increase my team engagement?
First of all, communicate. When was the last time you met all your team to inform them about details of the company strategy or objectives? As an initial step for your employees to accept the company's objectives as their own, you have to be sure they know and understand them. According to a survey from Manchester Consulting, one of the strongest confident builders is open communication about company's vision, values and objectives. And it is clear that trust is key to generate commitment.
Secondly, transparency  (be clear). In the SME environment all employees know each other and it is quite easy to detect when something is hidden intentionally. The lack of transparency creates mistrust and therefore lack of objectives alignment. You don't need to explain everything , but at least you should share the basic information that can make your collaborators feeling the project as their own.
Third, empathy. Are you hoping your employees perform to the limit if they do not receive or feel a minimum of empathy from your side? 
Let's remind that people are driven by emotions and therefore a reward and emotional reinforce is mandatory. When was the last time you congratulated one of your reports for a job well done? We say very often that the most important element for the company success is the people. So let's put it into practice.

A few tools to better manage the talent
There are some ways to align the team towards a common objective and make every employee a true ambassador of your company.
Remuneration. How many of your employees are paid based in the business they bring to the company? Including a variable retribution scheme in accordance with the results is a tool that really works. We are not talking of paying more for nothing: the rule is to compensate for the additional business. If we want a more commercial organisation, we should remunerate it. For example, why not compensate the administrative staff who is in contact with the customers if they bring business?
Training.  One of the SME managers biggest problems in a new employee search program is to identify the valid person. In a present time with a high unemployment rate, this task could look very easy, but it is not. They try to indentify candidates that can be ready 100% for work from the first day but unfortunately that is often very difficult to achieve.
 It is mandatory to invest time and resources in the staff development, not only in technical but also in other skills and company values. In many occasions we hear SME owners complain about the lack of employee motivation, commitment, ambition and passion. Why not try to train them in these values? The managers can be the best trainers for that. We know that this requires time and adeptness. Time can be found with a little effort and concerning the skills we should not forget there are external companies that can help. We know it is costly but the return is clearly justified.
Development (future plan). Do you have a future plan project for your business? I am sure you have. At least you'll have expectations, dreams for whose you are working hard every day. Fine: your employees are not different than you, they also have expectations and if these are not fulfilled in your company they will move to other when the market situation improve. Have you ever considered that your employees have profesional aspirations and if they can reach them in your company they will keep engaged? If not yet, do it. The development programmes in big companies are complex but in a small ones are much easier. Try to identify the talent, ask and offer a true future link to a challenging plan. I give you some examples:  “If you perform in the actual position you will have more responsibility next year” or you will have a x % of the company if in x years you double your sales”.
In summary, it’s true that the employee motivation should come from home, but at the same time it can also be developep in the working space.
 The keys? Communication, transparency and empathy.
 The tools? Remuneration, training and a development plan.
Nothing in this article is fiction science. It’s easy to accept to any small business owner that the lack of motivation of the staff causes a lack of productivity and effectivity and to achieve the business goals we need a motivated, engaged and committed team!
I know that most of the companies use some of these tooIs, but they often do so in a non-structured way. In these cases, the challenge is to integrate all of them, add what is missing and create a follow up action plan aligned with the company goals.

Versión en español aquí