Andrew Bloch has made a living off telling people what’s good and what’s not, and he says SMEs don’t need deep pockets to do the same
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Andrew Bloch is an award-winning marketing and PR expert with nearly 30 years of experience. He has founded two highly successful PR agencies and currently works as a spokesperson and advisor to Lord Sugar, the host and ‘Boss’ for BBC reality series The Apprentice.
This week, Bloch will be hosting a Help to Grow: Management Alumni webinar titled Buzz on a Budget. In the webinar, Bloch will draw on a lifetime in PR and provide examples of how small businesses can get the visibility they need in noisy markets.
Agency or in-house
You will struggle to find a SME that doesn’t place great significance on the increased visibility of their product, service, or brand. But finding the right person to deliver a marketing and communications strategy that does this is another task in itself. The two avenues that Bloch says businesses will typically have in front of them are agency or in-house.
‘What you get with agencies is a diversity of thinking. They’re detached from the day-to-day and not necessarily constrained by some of the barriers that you might encounter within the organisation. They have specialist skill sets and are flexible in terms of you being able to pick them up and put them down when you need the resource. There is typically a greater breadth of capabilities with agencies.
‘The biggest benefits of having an in-house marketing team are insight and dedication. An in-house marketing team will always have a holistic understanding of what it is you’re trying to achieve and will therefore create a campaign of engagement that aligns with that. They will also be dedicated. They will have bought into the business and have vested interest in your success.’
Bloch advocates for a hybrid approach that involves part in-house and part agency. He says that you should lean on the in-house team for more labour-intensive work, such as social content, and the agency for fresh ideas and specialisms. Ultimately, the available budget will significantly impact the approach you take. However, Bloch emphasises that not all agencies will complement what you’re trying to achieve and spending a little more time figuring out if the agency fits is worthwhile.
Find an agency that works for you
Part of the agency pitch is promising the world, and with such fierce competition, who can blame them. But once that agency has been brought in they can often fall short of expectations.
In 2000, Bloch co-founded an agency called Frank that helps businesses in their agency selection process. He outlines four essential steps for businesses when deciding which agency to work with.
- Have the right sized agency for the brief – it is important that the agency has the capacity to do the work you’re asking them to do. How many other projects are they currently running over how many staff? The agency needs to be able to properly commit to your project.
- Have a clear scope of work – the agency needs to be able to say exactly how they are going to achieve the work you are asking them to do.
- Outline success – along with the scope of the work, the agency must be able to clearly articulate what success looks like: how will they know if they’ve achieved what you’ve asked them to do?
- Due diligence – even if the agency can demonstrate all the above, it’s important that you look at prior work and speak to some of their previous clients.
While the steps that Bloch outlines are time intensive, they are likely to save you a significant amount of time and money in the long run due to the agency actually delivering what you’ve asked them to.
Standing out in a crowd
Bloch argues that traditional marketing techniques are not the best approach for SMEs with a limited budget.
‘If you’re going up against a market leader with deep pockets, there’s no point in playing the same game. You’re going to lose. You must outthink the bigger companies and come up with creative ways of communicating and articulating your product or service.’
Two examples that Bloch points to are the successful betting company Paddy Power and cereal brand Surreal who both built a successful niche in the industry by being silly and speaking the language of their customer.
‘Any form of marketing needs to be able to generate buzz and word of mouth. A huge advantage that brands have today versus 10 to 15 years ago is that they can create their own channels and communities at virtually no cost. But just because you can press a button and reach one million people doesn’t mean they’re going to pay attention.
‘SMEs need to look at what market leaders in their industry are doing. They need to figure out their unique selling point and then go about creating a campaign that differs and grabs attention. Imagery is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to building a brand and if SMEs can be truly unique, their audiences will start listening and they will be able to start building a community.’
Bloch jokes that if marketing teams were run a little more like football clubs, they would have far more success. He argues that they have built communities that cultivate fierce loyalty, regardless of whether they are winning or losing. SMEs need to capture some of this in their marketing techniques if they want longevity with their customers.
To hear in detail some of the powerful marketing techniques that Bloch has implemented over the years, register for the Help to Grow: Management webinar, Buzz on a Budget, on Friday 27 October at 1pm.
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