chess game Great Britain and the European Union

Barely a week goes by without someone enquiring about the impact of Brexit on the SME marketplace. It is quite difficult to work out exactly what impact Brexit is going to have on SMEs. But one thing is for sure, if the external environment within which we trade is going to change, then it is most certainly going to have some impact on our business and how we market ourselves.

Too many businesses may consider themselves to be in a “protective bubble” when it comes to the topic of Brexit.  Their thinking is that they deal with local people at local businesses on a local level. Indeed, if you don’t trade internationally, in terms of clients or suppliers, you may consider it all to be a fuss about nothing.

Young businesswoman trying to get out of soap bubble

However, just like with marketing in general, it is not all about you. Consider your customers and suppliers, or even their customers and suppliers. It won’t be many steps (probably no more than one or two) before the impact of Brexit could start to have a domino effect down the supply chain. In addition, the predicted lower levels of capital investment, reduced access to external finance, lower levels of growth and less product development could similarly filter through to impact your business.

So, if this is the case, what do we need to consider from a marketing perspective in preparation?

1. Greater cost fluctuations

The aforementioned domino effect down the supply chain could have major implications on your cost base. Suddenly your normal trading margins may start to be affected.  With this in mind, you may be required to reconsider your product and service offering, in conjunction with your pricing. Your most profitable product may no longer be the cash cow in your business!

Dominoes lined up ready to be knocked over

Volatility in currency could have further impacts. Even the tools you use within your business could be impacted by exchange rates. Consider cloud-based software tools, of which many are US based, and charged monthly or annually in US dollars.  These could be negatively affected by a drop in value of the pound. Ensure you keep your finger on the pulse of pricing, cost of sales and margins. Failure to do so may have a serious impact on your cashflow (and we know “cash is king”).

2. Drive towards local support

Local business deal

We may well see a huge social shift in businesses wanting to keep business local. This could be a massive positive to you, particularly if you already work primarily on a local basis and rely on word of mouth. It may have a detrimental affect if your customer base is much wider spread, as you could potentially lose out to more

locally based competitors.

Either way, if the social shift does occur then it may be that you need to address your positioning and messaging, to maximise the benefit of this mind-shift. Get this right and it could be a launchpad for your business. Get this wrong and it could prove fatal.

3. Strength of customer relationships

Customer loyalty phrase stand out

If your business is already trading overseas then the whole Brexit process could really test the strength of those customer relationships. Greater emphasis may need to be dedicated towards customer service and relationship marketing. You will have to give your customer(s) positive reasons / added value as to why they should continue to trade with you. It is unlikely you will remain the easiest option – so you have to make sure the pros far outweigh the cons.

4. Re-categorisation of target markets

Target markets should always be an ever-evolving area of your marketing strategy. Customers, industries, policies and environments are continually changing. With this in mind, a marketing strategy, including who your key target markets are, is only ever of a snapshot in time.  Therefore, it should be continually monitored and evaluated accordingly. The whole Brexit process will provide a good reason to re-evaluate your whole marketing strategy and look again at re-categorising your target markets.

Attracting customers (with magnet)

The impact of Brexit may seriously affect one of two industries who had previously been key to you. However, the fall-out of the whole process may be that they are less likely to spend/invest in your products or services in the near future. You therefore need to work out how you are going to replace this lost revenue.  Perhaps you will need to identify other markets that are now more profitable or emerging in terms of growth.

5. Consider different routes to market

Bearing in mind everything which has already been said in points 1-4, it may be that you also need to re-evaluate your routes to market. If potentially your product or service, price, positioning or target markets have changed, then you may also need to reconsider the channels you have previously relied on.

6. Greater focus on ROI

One positive, from a marketing perspective, that will definitely come out of Brexit is that businesses will have to place a much greater focus on return on investment. No longer will companies be able to frivolously spend on activities that don’t generate a return. What this means ultimately is that there needs to be greater accountability in showing that the business is investing in the right areas. Why this will be good for the marketing industry is that it will naturally cull those suppliers of marketing services who can’t evidence the benefit of their service. Transparency will be demanded, which can only be a good thing for SME business owners and the reputation of marketing as a whole.

Clenched Fist in Control

So, there is a snapshot of some of the marketing considerations surrounding the impact of Brexit. Whether you think our overview is an accurate reflection or not, we would recommend that you don’t just wait and see what happens. You are a business owner and the captain of your own ship. You need to positively take control of the situation and ensure that you guide your business through this potentially tricky period to come out stronger on the other side. We know by default that not everyone will do this. What this means is that those who do will be in an even stronger position for the next phase of business growth.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.