Communications Challenges for Large vs. Small Brands

, Jan 25, 2019

CATEGORIES: Public Relations
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From strategy development through execution, communications programs need to stand up to scrutiny. What difference is it actually making to the business? The value should be crystal clear.

Without that, any communications program will be difficult to defend when it comes to securing the next round of budget. Although we are in the services business, it’s not necessarily just about making clients happy; it’s about making sure that whatever you’re doing is doing good things for their business.

That end goal rings true whether you’re working with a larger or smaller brand. But, how we actually go about “doing good” can vary greatly.

At March, we certainly enjoy working with big, established companies. That said, we also know that smaller companies, like startups, tend to have more leeway to be bold and innovative in their communications, and that’s what we’re all about. We love rocking the boat and bucking the status quo.

What are the other important differences between communications strategies for larger and smaller brands? And how do we design and implement innovative, effective communications plans for brands of all shapes and sizes?

Setting the Right Goals

It all starts with where a company is in their journey. Smaller companies, often startups, don’t yet have a set customer base. Marketing tends to be a bigger priority for these companies. They’re trying to build a brand from scratch and establish themselves in the market. That means their communications strategy needs to be focused on things like lead gen, customer acquisition and customer loyalty.

Bigger companies, on the other hand, have already established themselves. Think about the big luxury car companies, for example. Everybody knows what these cars do, so the brand differentiation is focused on style and reputation, rather than education. The demand for cars is well established, so marketing focuses on making one car stand out from another in a particular way.

Needs change over time too, of course. For March client Drift, for example, the focus right now is on building brand and growing the customer base around an innovative marketing technology. As the size of Drift’s customers grows, they will need to also communicate the experience and robustness of their solution. The bigger the company they’re serving, the less appetite for risk there will be when rolling out a new piece of software.

Managing Expectations

From strategy to results, marketing is increasingly data-driven and accountable for brands of all sizes. Big companies always have to be mindful of shareholders, and startups, under pressure from investors, need to show tangible growth and results.

Smaller companies operating on tighter budgets benefit from tightly-focused communications programs. Conducting research can help make the most of a limited budget, while also giving small companies confidence that the program will be successful.

That’s what March’s Zoom Practice Group is all about. Through targeted research, Zoom helps emerging brands and startups design communications programs that match their unique needs, budgets and expectations. Who are your potential customers? How can you differentiate your brand? We want to define an innovative, integrated communications program and achieve the desired results.

Even within a big budget in a big company, there should be a real focus on the specific objectives of every element of the program. Bigger isn’t necessarily better: it also needs to be smarter.

Implementing the Strategy

When it comes to executing that strategy, bigger companies with large budgets might be more able to experiment, or do clever brand development that doesn’t necessarily drive customers. But, those companies can run into the issue of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Lots of good ideas, but it can be difficult to get anything done. At smaller companies, we might be working directly with a CEO or co-founder to bring their vision to life.

Credibility is also a challenge. Bigger companies have more credibility than smaller ones that aren’t well-established. Helping smaller companies establish credibility in their space is part of our charge. That said, small companies are also more interested in pushing the envelope. Leadership teams at bigger companies may have trouble getting controversial statements approved. But, a CEO at a smaller company can say what they want. That’s an exciting position to be in.

Ultimately, an effective communications strategy requires an innovative approach that’s tailored to that company’s specific immediate needs, no matter the size of the company.

This article was originally published on The Holmes Report.