Evolving marketing strategies for Swiss ICT SMEs : a marketing strategy canvas in the light of digital transformation
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It is crucial that small and medium sized businesses in the ICT sector adopt strategies to enable them to exploit, capitalise upon, and respond to the digital transformation. SMEs will need to undergo profound and continuous changes, developing more strategic focused marketing thinking and business models to enable or find new markets while attaining and retaining competitive advantage. SMEs have to fulfil the same marketing tasks as large companies, but under conditions characterised by smaller sales volumes and small market niches. The major difference for SMEs relates to the lower availability of resources, especially financial and human resources. This constraint makes it even more important to define an appropriate marketing strategy. SMEs need to adopt marketing strategies that build on their main advantages such as close proximity to customers, operational flexibility, flat hierarchies, short decision-making paths and rapid reaction times. The researcher addresses the research question: ‘How should Swiss SMEs in the ICT sector define their marketing strategy to benefit from digitalisation?’ by adopting a constructivist philosophy utilising a qualitative approach. Although this has been generally researched for large enterprises, SMEs with their specific characteristics should also be accounted for. A conceptual framework was formulated to inform the development of a marketing strategy for SMEs in the digital context. The research employed a mono methodological research design involving 14 case studies, conducted across businesses that have successfully transformed for the digital age. One marketing expert and two marketing agencies were additionally considered to strengthen the credibility and plausibility of the case studies. The findings indicate that changes in the market situation and the rapid evolution of various modern media channels require new levels of personalisation and targeted campaigns that drive engagement and brand loyalty. The study contributes to the existing theoretical body by arguing that the current view of marketing strategy in the digital era needs to be reformed to emphasise on the customer journey and to add data-driven elements to the mix using key digital marketing metrics. Further, the study suggests that ICT SMEs can improve customer experience and gain competitive advantage by designing new customer touchpoints through content. The study makes a practical contribution by proposing a marketing strategy canvas with eleven dimensions as a tool to help SMEs strategise digitisation and marketing strategy.