With every passing year, the ecosystem for SMEs in the UAE becomes ever more favourable. The Government has gone to great lengths to help small businesses, acknowledging the key role SMEs play in the UAE’s economy.
Currently, 94% of all companies in the UAE are SMEs – around 350,000 in all. In Dubai alone, they employ 42% of the workforce and contribute 40% of GDP.
But there’s more to successful startups than just ecosystems. From getting your marketing right to creating agile enterprises, founders must focus on specific strategies to ensure growth. So what can your startup do to become part of the UAE’s SME success story?
1. Focus on your marketing plan
Your product or service could be the best thing since the wheel, but nobody will buy from you if nobody’s heard of you. So it’s essential to grow your profile, which will come down to good marketing.
How Content Marketing Can Help
Content marketing aims to talk to prospects from a position of trust. By offering something for nothing, e.g. in the form of advice or insights, you can grow your company profile without the turn-off of a hard sell or the mistrust of advertising.
Collect prospects’ e-mail addresses with a newsletter sign-up on your website, create your audience and build your profile. But make sure you use it to deliver varied, non-commercial content like articles, infographics or videos.
Prospects want to be engaged by marketing and expect to take away some value. Give them what they want, and they’re more likely to convert into customers. Write a blog that demonstrates expertise and drives visitors to your website. SMEs that blog regularly and often see a 126% higher lead generation than those that don’t.
In addition to your media (website), distribute your content through social media, in-person sponsored events and paid search advertising to maximise your reach.
2. Stay Relevant, Versatile And Open To Change
Being flexible is key to growing your startup past a certain point. Versatility means you can adapt your products and services quickly when required. If you can react to changes fast, you’ll be able to grow.
Disruptors are everywhere. Nobody can predict the future, but founders need to be able to pivot or adapt if emerging trends come out of the blue.
How To Keep Your Company Agile
While a long-term vision can be useful for some things, such as recruitment or brand identity, your business strategy should be planned half-yearly or yearly. It would be best if you were ready to pivot regularly.
Some startups execute a business plan, whereas agile, lean startups look for one. Startups looking for a business model that works for them, rather than sticking to an existing one, give themselves the breathing space and flexibility to do more than adjust their products; they can make substantive changes if something isn’t going according to plan and then pivot successfully.
Many successful startups bounce from one failure to another in their first few months, innovating and adapting as they go. Crucially, they discover that business plans don’t develop as part of any grand scheme.
3. Concentrate On What Works And Sells – Don’t Try To Fix What Doesn’t
One of the most complex challenges of growing a small business is listening to the market and accepting when to stop trying to sell products or services for which there is no demand. Every second spent trying to correct or improve a failing offer is time that should be spent maximising a successful one.
How To Maximise Your Successes
Get inside your customer’s mind. Talk to them, listen to their needs, and ask what they like and don’t like and how they would improve it. Potential customers are more likely to focus on what’s wrong with your offering and why it won’t solve their problems than they are to praise its benefits. But don’t worry; that will also give you an accurate picture of what’s working and what will sell, even if it’s by elimination.
Being agile means implementing an iterative product development process – going back to your customer for constant adjustments and improvements. From this, you’ll get your product out sooner, while the demand is still strong, and you’ll gain insights that wouldn’t be available if you adopted a more linear approach.
4. Encourage A Learning Environment
This principle is crucial for attracting the right fit employee for your startup culture and future growth. It would help if you had your staff be at the top of their game in an ever-changing environment.
Without implementing a learning environment, you are unlikely to be able to attract the best candidates. Career growth and development opportunities rank high on the priority list for millennials, with nearly 90% believing a learning environment is essential. The same is true for 70% of non-millennials. It’s also one of the biggest influences on retention.
How To Establish A Learning Environment
This may sound counterintuitive, but it helps to encourage failure. Failures provide valuable lessons for all, and encouraging failure emboldens employees to innovate and create. By framing failure as a learning opportunity, you will be helping to put in place the right people with the right attitude to drive your company forward.
Focus less on rewarding achievements and more on celebrating effort and learning. Recognising effort, improvement and growth tend to motivate employees and vastly improve their willingness to tackle complex tasks, find solutions and accept new challenges.
In part, your startup’s future growth depends on how you develop these strategies. So, get noticed quickly, understand what sells, stay agile and relevant and learn as you go.