Keep Calm and Carry OnA few weeks ago I was asked to be a guest expert on a marketing panel and the very last question of the night, after a fantastic and inspiring debate on a wide variety of marketing topics, was:

“What do you think will be the biggest marketing challenge for small businesses in 2012?”.

This was a really good question and I’m fairly sure that many of us probably feel we have many challenges still ahead. After all, with so much talk of doom and gloom and a depressed economy that is showing only a glimmer of recovery, it’s very easy to panic and get the jitters about how best to keep going.

But I feel – very strongly, actually – that if you run a small business you should trust in your ability to succeed, hold your marketing nerve and as the saying goes, “keep calm and carry on” – doing what you know is right when it comes to marketing your small business.

Broadly speaking, small businesses appear to be successfully operating under the radar, and those that are proactive in their marketing seem to be doing relatively well. I can’t deny that some business sectors are being hit hard, but I have clients in several vulnerable sectors, including recruitment, travel and retail, and by having a highly focused marketing approach they are all experiencing growth, despite the current economic climate.

What’s your view?

Since attending the debate, that question has stayed with me, so I decided to ask a few of my clients and associates (many of whom are also small businesses like us) what they believe will be their biggest marketing challenge in 2012.

So here they are in their own words….

“The biggest challenge for me will be refining my social media strategy so that my social media activities encourage engagement rather than merely broadcast…”
Carys Jones, Carys Jones Photography

“To get a message across that we are DIFFERENT to our competitors and better for it!”
Steve Oldroyd, On Target Recruitment

“The biggest marketing challenge for small businesses is to hold your nerve and to keep a presence and a voice out there, so prospects don’t forget all about you. All the more in tough times. It’s the easiest thing to slash your marketing and PR, yes. But that’s exactly what the competition is doing, so by continuing to market you’re gaining a competitive edge, by showing you’re out there, confident and still doing business. It’s worth remembering that in every recession Procter and Gamble increase their marketing budget for that very reason.”
Paul Nathanson, Director & Founder, PNPR

“For me it’s how can I get ‘Gary Morgan’ number 1 on page 1 of Google without spending a fortune.”
Gary Morgan, Speaker & Trainer, founder of Milestone Experts and Milestone Contact Centre UK

“I think the biggest marketing challenge is beating the competition and trying to understand how to get the best out of SEO to bring traffic to my website to generate sales.”
Alison Withell, Founder of Dribblebuster

“My biggest marketing challenge is trying to make ourselves appear big and strong enough to give larger businesses the confidence to use us, yet small and personable enough to make the smaller businesses feel like they are important to us – I sometimes get people saying ‘we thought of using projectfive but we’re too small for you’ (as they sign up with a competitor who is actually bigger than us).”
Steve Coburn, Project Five

“My biggest challenge is competing with the money and clout of the large publishers and book shops. It’s hard to get one small voice heard, but I have decided I will SHOUT!”
Eireann Littlefield, author of the ‘Maisie the Animal Minder’ series of children’s picture books

“I think our biggest marketing challenge is making time and applying sufficient brainpower and effort to consistently do one campaign after another.”
Andrew Cahill, Mobileworxs

Would you like to add your own thoughts?

If any common themes emerge I’ll plan a blog article on them with some helpful marketing tips to tackle your challenges!