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  • Writer's pictureYankai

Small But Mighty

The Power of Storytelling for Singapore SMEs in 2023

Key Takeaways

  1. Differentiate or discount Storytelling and emotional connections are especially crucial today for SMEs to stand out in a competitive market.

  2. Branding attracts talents A compelling employer brand increases odds of appealing to top talents, which in turn can improve company performance.

  3. Magic of Retention A 5% increase in customer retention rates can result in increased profits ranging from 25% to 95%, a famous study shows.

Perception Matters

Singapore has long been recognized as a thriving business hub in Asia with tons of global accolades but many SMEs here still struggle to stand out in a sea of sameness. As of 2023, a staggering 99% of the 409,000 ACRA-registered firms here are small businesses, with 80% earning less than S$1m per year.

In the world of business, it is a common misconception that the best product will always come out on top.

Customer perceptions shape business and revenue.
How do they really see you, you sure?

Quality is still a crucial factor. However, perception is quite everything in today’s experience-driven world. Your customers are swayed not just by product quality, but by intangible factors like branding and reputation. This makes it challenging for small businesses to attract new customers and grow, without a strong brand image.

Breaking Free from the Vicious Cycle

Without it, businesses easily sink into the vicious cycle of commoditization and price wars, leading to limitations in talent and returning to old ways of working.

  1. If we continue to do the same things, we will continue to receive the same results.

    1. SMEs can achieve success by using automation and creativity to differentiate ourselves. Someone in the company needs to initiate change to break free from this deadly "me-too" cycle.

  2. If we think small, we are more likely to be bullied.

    1. The power of our thoughts cannot be understated, as leaders' directions influence the whole team’s actions and words. It is the responsibility of leaders to facilitate change, but someone MUST initiate action.

To win in business, we need to keep finding better angles and focus on creating a compelling story that sets us apart. We’ve won multiple tenders against much larger competitors with our creative positioning, storytelling and emotional connections with customers. It is indeed possible and even addictive.

In the game of tenders, just like in business, there's no room for 2nd place. But how do you ensure that you're the one coming out on top? How do your clients perceive you? When done well, your customers will be more willing to stick to you, even if you’re not the cheapest. Think about how you are different and better, in 1 line.

Think of branding as a secret weapon that gives you a competitive edge. An emotional connection with your audience can retain existing customers and secure new ones, with a renewed loyalty translating into increased sales and profitability. There are tons of famous quotes out there on how vital branding is and its impact on selling and even survival.

According to Steve Forbes, "A brand is the single most important investment a business can make."

However, building a strong brand can be a daunting task, particularly for companies with limited budgets or in-house talent. The risks of falling behind and becoming irrelevant is real and require a creative rethink on new ways of working, leveraging new tools and people.

Collaborating with top quality third-party providers can offer a cost-effective solution to overcome these challenges. In such cases, this can be a game-changer.

Superior partnerships can help you tap into expertise and resources that may not be available internally, allowing you to create a more compelling brand and grow your business. Be curious, go find out what’s possible, invest 30% of your time on social media here. New tools, new ways, new you.

Bounce and Conversion

In today's digital age, the neglect of branding can result in high bounce rates and low conversion, ultimately costing your business money and customers. With weak differentiation, potential customers may likely perceive your business as a "cheap" option, perpetuating a vicious cycle of competing on price. It is only natural.

  1. High bounce rates mean that people leave your site soon after visiting it —— usually within 8 seconds, without interacting or exploring further.

    1. It's like customers going to your physical store and leaving immediately without looking around or buying anything.

  2. Low conversion rates mean that visitors are not taking the desired action —— such as clicking that button to buy, fill forms, or sign up.

    1. A healthy conversion is between 2-5% depending on industry.

    2. SMEs we spoke with needed 10x to 50x more visitors to get that same number of clicks. Google Analytics doesn’t lie. Some even needed 100x, this for real.

Cheap is costly. Primitive 'More of the Same' templates in today's world will quickly lose eyeballs, naturally.

Branding is the pillar to hold onto hearts, minds & wallets.
Branding as the pillar, to hold onto hearts, minds and then, wallets.
Evolution of Branding

When branding is done for the sake of it, clients can smell it even. Looking more of the same not only drives your prices down but also leads to reduced engagement and detachment from potential customers, a return to that vicious cycle.

The traditional elements of branding, such as logos and taglines, may work in 1990 but are no longer enough to engage with today's customers. Instead, Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX) are crucial aspects of branding that must be considered.

  1. This includes elements such as short videos and gamified loyalty programs that appeal to younger audiences and helps you stay top of mind.

  2. Additionally, it may be necessary to transform your brand personality, tone of voice and visual identity to communicate your unique value proposition, to better resonate with your target audience of today and tomorrow.

“When You Do It Because That's What Everyone Does, Clients Can Tell"
From Unknown to Trusted

Customers are willing to pay more for products or services from a brand they know and trust. Further, it can also help SMEs expand into new products and services and even venture into overseas markets with confidence.

  • On the other hand, they are also often sceptical of new and unknown brands, we are like that as customers, right?

  • It’s a very human thing. This is especially true in industries where quality control and customer service are vital, such as healthcare and hospitality.

In a world where first impressions matter, looking different and better can make all the difference between a successful SME and a struggling one.

A Compelling Employer Brand

On building a strong team, many SMEs overlook the importance of branding when it comes to attracting and retaining top talents. However, just as customers are more likely to trust and pay a premium to well-branded SMEs, that top talent is also more likely to consider an employer that has a strong and distinctive brand image. Yes, easier said than done, but do we do something, or wait and see?

Creative branding helps improve

quality of candidates who apply.

Don't be afraid to embrace the quirks and idiosyncrasies of your team members. Instead, use them to your advantage. It’s a great form of differentiation and authenticity. You are not expected to be flawless. By showcasing your unique strengths and values, you can create a compelling brand that resonates with young talents. This step is often assumed away, which can lead SMEs back into the cycle of competing on price and a race to the bottom, with no good people to help raise standards or perception. By forming a strong team that sets you apart, you can break free and establish a unique identity in the marketplace.

The Power of 5%

In today's market, it's crucial to retain customers to sustain business viability and even attract potential investors. Loyal customers who value your brand are more likely to become repeat customers and recommend your products or services to others. A famous study by Bain and Company has shown that a mere 5% increase in customer retention rates can result in significant increase in profits ranging from 25% to 95%. Make them return and refer.

Not only is customer retention crucial for profitability but it's also more cost-effective than winning new ones. Acquiring new customers can cost up to 20x more than retaining existing ones (many reports on this), not forgetting today's skyrocketing platform fees. While buying eyeballs may be easy, converting them into loyal customers is not. Hence, customer retention is not only cost-effective but also essential for the longevity of any business.

Without repeat customers, businesses risk being deemed unviable, in the eyes of investors.

By focusing on customer retention, SMEs can create a loyal customer base and improve their profitability. So, take advantage of the power of 5%. Go Google; CRM and Loyalty Programs.

Fusing Artificial with Human Intelligence
Fusing Artificial with Human Intelligence
Automation; Work Smarter, Not Harder

SMEs often face resource constraints when it comes to daily operations. However, automation tools like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI can help alleviate this.

  1. RPA has been around for a decade; it can handle repetitive tasks such as data entry and inventory management while

  2. Modern AI tools can conduct market research and even generate insightful reports.

Moreover, with low-cost SaaS tech tools and grants from the Singapore government, SMEs can initiate change and take the first step to avoid falling behind. Adopting automation not only saves time and resources, but also improves accuracy and product quality, leading to happier customers and increased revenue.

This was further highlighted in our recently concluded 4-month long Digital Growth and Innovation course, a pioneer SkillsFuture Queen Bees (SFQBs) project in partnership with Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Here at Whizzard, we have kickstarted proof-of-concepts and readied 2 MVPs on several fronts to "scale and automate to the extreme." Automation may not be flawless, but it is crucial for driving our processes, systems and products.

To avoid common pitfalls and deliver value, SMEs must stay updated with industry trends and gather feedback from customers, to simply keep up. As Davids taking on Goliath, we need to think smart and band together to take advantage of new tools and new ways to partner. To enhance our efficiency and to remain competitive in today's exciting market.

“I’ve never seen this level of business subsidy anywhere else in the world.", a seasoned globetrotting management consultant recently told us.

Now is the time to deploy modern tech tools and talents at low cost with high impact. Embracing automation can enable SMEs to work smarter, not harder. Time is precious, spend more time with your loved ones, clock that 7,000 steps and drink more water.

Memorable Uniqueness
  1. You know why luxury brands evoke such strong emotions and drive people to pay exorbitant prices?

    1. It's all about the perception of scarcity, which creates exclusivity and desirability.

  2. But how can small businesses break out of this never-ending cycle of price competition and create their own memorable uniqueness?

    1. Customers can easily tell if a brand is just going through the motions.

Authenticity is key. It's not just about the product or service, but the story behind it that can create an emotional connection with customers. By finding your unique characteristics and showcasing them authentically, you can stand out in a crowded market. Creative angles and partnerships with the right people can help businesses unlock their own secret to success.

In this digital age, perceived value

matters as much as product features.

Emotional Connection

Storytelling helps SMEs build emotional connections with customers, but many prioritize short-term marketing over branding, which can often be limited by high bounce rates and low conversion rates.

To compete with bigger brands, SMEs need to start to prioritize targeted messaging, storytelling and new technologies to break the cycle of commoditization and to keep customers coming back. To convert eyeballs into share of mind and share of wallet, we all need to keep finding better angles to our stories.

Winning Combination

No, we don't have the winning numbers to this week’s Toto. Branding is a complex process that involves both art and science. Investing in branding is crucial for SMEs to create a memorable and engaging experience that keeps customers coming back for more.

By creatively utilizing available tools and partners, small businesses can stand out from competitors, go beyond short-term gains and sometimes, beat the big boys.


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