How SMEs can compete with international firms in Malaysia



As more and more international companies look at Malaysia as an alternative to their lacklustre domestic economies, Malaysian SMEs will have to be on top of their game if they are going to compete.

In the first two parts of this article which you can find here Do staff ‘live’ your brand? and here Why Malaysian firms must start to build brands and how to do it we talked about how Malaysian SMEs can make sure their Internal brand is ready to meet this threat.

In this final part we provide 5 more strategic steps for Malaysian SMEs to take to help them build a powerful brand.


Understand that customer facing staff are the frontline of your company

No matter how much you spend on advertising, public relations, celebrity endorsements, inventory, technology and so on, the first touch point most prospects will have with your brand will be via a member of your staff.

It may be on the phone, in a shop, a showroom, at an exhibition or conference etc. If that first interaction is unsatisfactory and your staff are unable to deliver on the brand promise, the prospect will at best, never return and at worst discuss the experience across social media.

Train your customer facing staff to represent your brand. This is even more important as showrooming becomes a key element in the purchasing process.


Standout from the competition

Today consumers are spoilt for choice. Even as recently as 10 years ago, many Malaysian SMEs in many sectors operated alone. There was little need to invest in the corporate image or packaging.

Those days are over. To compete with foreign companies, SMEs must develop a contemporary image that reflects their product and target markets. Moreover, flexibility, agility, integration, innovation and speed in all areas will be key to brand building over the next 10 years.

Embrace this Teutonic change or get left behind.


Create relevant content for multiple platforms

Consumers are no longer paying attention to ‘one-size-fits-all’ corporate driven messages pushed out across traditional media. Today they want content that is relevant to them and meets their requirements for value.

Content today must be topical, quick and easy to engage with and focused on adding value to the consumer experience. And it must be device optimised, especially in the retail sector.


Embrace Social Media

The increasing influence of Social Media can bring multiple benefits to SMEs. Research from consultancy Bain and Company has found that companies that are accessible through social media and engage with consumers openly, encourage those consumers to spend between 20% to 40% more money with them.

Social Media usage by western SMEs is growing significantly and is expected to double over the next 5 years. If you don’t move fast, you may get left behind.


Develop a brand strategy

But instead of focusing on your brand essence, personality, positioning, harmonization and so on, focus on how to deliver economic, experiential and emotional value to your customers and on their terms.

Build your brand strategy from the customer backwards. Understand their needs and what they expect from you so that you know what the moments of truth are and then prioritise your delivery around these points.

It is much easier yet in many ways more difficult to build a brand today than it was in the past. Customer expectations continue to rise because so many companies continue to innovate, delivering a better customer experience.

So although it can be easier to create awareness and build a following, retaining that following can be harder. But if you follow the internal and external brand steps laid out in this and the previous two branding articles, you will build a brand that can withstand the imminent invasion of Malaysia by international brands.


About FusionBrand

Marcus Osborne is Managing Director of Malaysian owned FusionBrand, Asia’s only customer driven brand consultancy focused on customer driven not corporate driven strategies to build brands. For more information, please contact Marcus Osborne at FusionBrand. Tel +6 (03) 7954 2075 or or you can find Marcus on Twitter @brandconsultant


Photo User: Flickr GlobalRepat

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