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Five Communications Mistakes SMEs Tend To Make (And How You Can Avoid Them)


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may often prioritize product development and sales excessively, at the expense of neglecting other critical areas like communications, which can significantly contribute to the business’s value.

As the Managing Partner of Leidar MENA, a boutique PR agency in Dubai, I’ve witnessed firsthand the critical role effective communication strategies play in shaping the destiny of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs today often operate in very competitive environments, where the slightest misstep can propel a competitor to win more clients, steal talent or acquire additional market share. SMEs can sometimes be guilty of focusing too much on product development and sales, while disregarding other important functions that can bring value to the business- such as communications.

This, however, can ultimately be to the detriment of the overall brand, and the difference between success and failure. The following are five classic mistakes SMEs make in their communications:

1. Talking to all your stakeholders in the same way 

One of the fundamental mistakes SMEs make is using the same messaging with all their stakeholders. Usually, this is the messaging that is used internally, and it’s just duplicated when talking about the company or its product and services externally.

One of the fundamental mistakes SMEs make is using the same messaging with all their stakeholders.

SMEs need to understand that each stakeholder audience has different needs and expectations. Most SMEs have a very varied target audience, which includes employees, customers, consumers, suppliers, media, investors, and, in some cases, analysts. What a consumer or customer wants to hear from you will be very different from what an investor expects to hear. Using the same messaging or communication channels for all audiences sets you up for failure.

To make the desired impact when it comes to communicating, it’s essential for SMEs to map out their key target audiences, and then adapt the messaging that will most resonate which with each group. One tech company we worked on a messaging platform with claimed that it helped them improve the attention span of the stakeholders they engaged with by 40%.

2. Using company-centric language aka jargon 

Most SMEs, especially the ones working in technology and niche industries, tend to use the same language and terminology that they use internally with colleagues. This is an easy trap to fall into, because you live and breathe your brand and products, and so, you will be very familiar with all the technology and specs, and you won’t necessarily adapt it when talking externally.

The problem is that most of your external stakeholders will not be as familiar with your brand or the tech specs of your product, and so, you can easily miss an opportunity to make an impact. It’s your responsibility to ensure that when you communicate externally, you can adapt your language and communicate in a way that is clear, compelling, and resonates with your audience. How many times have you watched an interview on CNN or CNBC, and not understood what the spokesperson was talking about? That’s because the language they are using is not adapted for an external audience.

The problem is that most of your external stakeholders will not be as familiar with your brand or the tech specs of your product, and so, you can easily miss an opportunity to make an impact.

A good example of how to do this right is the late Steve Jobs of Apple. In all his product launches, he never talked about the tech specs of his products; instead, he focused on how they would bring value to your life. One fintech startup we worked with on adapting their language went on to raise over US$9 million in Series A funding. Although we can’t claim to be solely responsible for this success, the external messaging helped the startup simplify their language, and connect with their audience.

3. Ignoring internal communications 

When SMEs are in a growth phase, there is understandably a focus on recruitment, expansion, and revenue generation. What tends to be sometimes forgotten is the internal communications with existing employees.

Fast-growing businesses can be at the risk of losing existing talent simply due to poor internal communications. It’s the CEO’s responsibility to foster an open and transparent communications culture within the organization. Regular CEO communication keeps everyone updated on news and changes, and it can also align with the company’s direction and goals. It creates engagement, loyalty, and a rise in productivity.

Fast-growing businesses can be at the risk of losing existing talent simply due to poor internal communications.

Poor internal communication, instead, can result in unwanted turnover, low morale, and disenfranchisement. So, CEOs need to invest a certain amount of their time and resources to communicating internally, which, if done right, promotes transparency, and can produce a more inspired and motivated workforce.

4. Invisible leadership 

Invisible leadership refers to company leaders who are not visible externally, or do not have any social presence, especially on LinkedIn, which is the most prominent business building tool on social media.

An SME’s success is partially linked to the profile and visibility of its CEO and his/her personal brand in the market. In addition to growing the business, the CEO of a SME has a responsibility to promote the company externally. This means building their respective profile on LinkedIn, and sharing relevant content throughout the year.

An SME’s success is partially linked to the profile and visibility of its CEO and his/her personal brand in the market.

Employees are also increasingly expecting their CEOs to have an opinion on important topics. All SME leaders should be engaging with media at opportune times to tell the company story, and to speak at industry events. This can indirectly add value to the SME brand, and accelerate potential business opportunities. Many SME leaders are not naturals at media interviews or public speaking, and that’s ok- practice and coaching are the keys to profiling success.

5. Adding a “showtime” aspect to the business 

So, you have an SME business, why should anyone care, especially if you’re a B2B brand, or are selling products that are not of mass appeal? Well, every company has an interesting story to tell, and no matter what industry you are in, there is a way to make your business interesting to your stakeholders.

You must have an aspirational part to why you do what you do, rather than focusing on just the delivery aspect of the business. Packaging your company’s DNA into an attractive narrative will add a much needed “showtime” element to the business and a story that will inspire your employees, but also resonate so much more with your external stakeholders.

You must have an aspirational part to why you do what you do, rather than focusing on just the delivery aspect of the business.

Remember, it’s not about the products you make, but the stories you tell. Whether it’s developing a founder’s story to illustrate how the business was created, or highlighting how your products and services add value to consumers or society, every business has a showtime element to it- you just have to unearth it. Don’t underestimate the magic and power of storytelling- as examples, remember that Apple sells lifestyle, not tech, Tesla sells innovation, not cars, and Red Bull sells thrills, not drinks.


 
Andreas Keller

Managing Director & Partner MENA, based in Dubai

Andreas Keller is a Managing Director and Partner for Leidar MENA. He is an experienced international communications consultant with an outstanding track record in agency leadership.

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