But in reality, there’s plenty of opportunity for SMEs that are willing to innovate. Globalisation can level the playing field, allowing companies of all sizes to do business with consumers worldwide.
SMEs may have to adapt to survive, so let's break down how they do this...
1. Maintain a Strong Presence at Home
Globalisation can play a key role in scaling a small enterprise, especially when the local national market isn’t that big ... i.e. Ireland.
Being a small island means that customers are pretty much locked into local companies, right? Well, no...not anymore.
Irish people are spending more and more online each year, but the amount earned by Irish online businesses remains relatively static. Why? Because we’re not capitalising on the local market.
This presents a huge opportunity for ‘substitution’ – replacing foreign businesses with a more attractive local equivalent. The problem isn’t that people want to shop abroad; it’s that they think they can’t get what they need at home.
This is where local SMEs can gain ground. In your advertising, focus on highlighting how you're similar (or better) than your multinational competitors.
Attract locals to your artisan coffee shop, rather than Starbucks; your clothing store, rather than H&M or Zara; or your local law firm, not Walkers.
2. Create Your Digital Footprint
Today’s conversation with your customers is as likely to happen online as in person.
All the more surprising, so, to discover that one in six Irish SMEs have no online presence whatsoever.
What customers want to see, what they need to see, is an online presence. It builds trust and legitimises your business in their eyes.
Some 74% of Irish consumers are frustrated when a business they’re interested in doesn’t have a website. One of the easiest ways to talk to your customers is by imparting regular information of interest to your customers or prospects via your website.
WordPress, in particular, is seriously easy to use, and claims to power 29% of the Internet. It also lets you link easily to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram channels.
Yes, you’ll need to get to grips with these too...
3. Connect with Your Tribe
Everything today is reviewed online. Connecting with your target demographics on a variety of social platforms is no longer optional...it’s essential.
Whether you’re selling clothes, washing windows, creating wedding bouquets, or baking cakes, customers expect a social presence from your business.
Producing regular, eye-catching content is by far the best way to stay relevant and in the public eye. You can, of course, do this yourself. Social Media isn't as complicated as some people or publications would have you believe it is.
That said, if your budget does stretch to hiring a Content or Social Media Manager, consider doing that, as you can then ensure your social channels are monitored and highly engaging at all times.
Check out our previous blog for some useful tips on how to get more out of your social media channels: 5 Simple Ways SMEs Can Increase Their Social Media Engagement.
4. Find Your Voice
If you’re targeting local business, you’ll need a blog.
Content marketing gives businesses a voice, which is an often underestimated but powerful tool.
Suddenly, your framing studio isn’t just a framing studio; it’s a multi-channel business with an online following because you’re offering quality content that people want to read.
How does that work? Easy – just give people what they want. Find out what they’re searching for. Your business could become an online authority that others turn to when desperately Googling business solutions.
As with point 3, a good Social and Content Specialist will ensure your blog pops up when people search for related queries, improving your visibility and relevance, and customer conversions.
SMEs in any sector, no matter how niche, can hire a content marketer with an interest in their industry - and develop a following based on quality content.
5. Take It Worldwide
With the wheels in motion to secure local market networks, it’s time to turn your gaze elsewhere.
The global market is massive, and it never sleeps.
If done right, even the smallest of Irish SMEs can have a reach as far as any big global retailer.
Kerry startup, Mobacar, is one such success story, operating its AI car rental platform in more than 200 countries.
With EU grants and support available for Irish SMEs looking to expand globally, the opportunities are there for the taking.
Expansion requires market research and strategy. One of the biggest benefits of the digital age is that expansion is possible with little to no physical infrastructure. Foreign markets can be tested with ad campaigns and product trials from the comfort of home, before diving in fully.
If you pick your markets, plan your approach, and embrace technology for all the new and exciting doors it opens for your business, your SME won’t just survive – it will thrive.
If you are planning any sort of investment in digital marketing, website design, or would like to hire in a dedicated Digital Manager, Linked Finance can help with fast and affordable business loans.