Starting up your own SME has never been a plain-sailing operation and none more so in today’s climate where competition is fiercer than ever. As well as the headache of financing your dream, there are always the little things that crop up long after you created your business plan.

Whilst many of the challenges faced by start-ups and SMEs apply to every type of business, there are the more industry specific issues that are often the source of the biggest headaches. At Conference Genie, we recently carried out some in-depth research into this subject, and produced a bookshelf of white papers which highlighted the problems faced by SMEs, which also offer some potential solutions and useful resources to overcome these challenges.

Social media woes
Although there has been something of a digital marketing boom in the last few years, with large firms assigning a significant amount of their budget to making their brand more prominent, many SMEs have struggled in this area. Facebook in particular has been the biggest issue for many industries; 42% of SMEs in the travel sector found it to be the most challenging social media channel.

The retail industry found Facebook even more problematic, with 49% of respondents voting the popular platform as a problem for their company. Although social media is a relatively cheap way to publicise your brand online, companies are also open to severely damaging, negative comments – it’s not hard to see why some are reluctant to join in.

Virgin Holidays are a great example of how a Facebook campaign can really work. They make sure they update their page at least once a day, and use ideas that make for a more personable, user-engaged experience, as opposed to simply broadcasting their offers and hoping for the best.

Their recent #ShowOff campaign encouraged their followers to post holiday selfies on their page, and the results were impressive, resulting in around 70,000 Facebook likes, with many users sharing the images online with friends.

Staffing Issues
Ensuring that you have a talented workforce for your firm is another huge challenge for SMEs and none more so than in the retail industry. The survey revealed that 31% of respondents from this sector agreed that staff turnover and hiring talented workers were their biggest, reoccurring HR issues.

In addition, 24% of retailers admitted that the best way to boost morale and hang onto employees was to set realistic goals and workloads. SMEs in the travel sector on the other hand, felt that staff training was their biggest HR problem, with 35% agreeing.

Word of mouth
Hospitality is a notoriously challenging industry, with many SMEs in this sector struggling to maintain a loyal, happy customer base as well as motivated staff. The hotel and restaurant industry has never had it as tough as in this day and age, where Trip Advisor and social media can make or break your reputation.

The Town Hall Tavern in Leeds is a good example of how to build a good name for yourself in an extremely competitive industry. When the current owners took over the business in 2011, the pub had been around a long time and didn’t have an especially strong reputation.

Armed with a team of enthusiastic staff, they went about promoting their new menu with an attractive Groupon deal that few could refuse. They ensured the quality of the food was not compromised and delivered great service, and slowly but surely, they began receiving custom from all over the city, eventually garnering excellent reviews on Trip Advisor.

Before long, they were in the top 20, and business has been booming ever since. They also ensured they responded to each and every review, good or bad, which told their customers they cared and encouraged repeat business. Regular team nights out and incentives helped boost the morale of staff which, in turn, has proved beneficial to their customer base.

Staff performance
Whilst attracting and maintaining a strong workforce is a problem faced by many industries, it was widely agreed in the survey that analysing performance was the best way to boost productivity, with 29% of respondents in the retail industry agreeing. Furthermore, a massive 42% of travel SMEs also considered this to be vital in getting the most from your staff.

Respondents from both retail and travel SMEs also put marketing high on the agenda of their business plan for the next 12 months, vowing to dedicate a significantly higher budget into this than in previous years.

For more information, check out the full set industry whitepapers here.

Simon Prince HeadshotSimon Prince
Simon Prince joined Conference Genie in April 2013 from IPC Media, where he was a Senior Manager in their digital team. Simon has over 10 years’ experience across Telecoms, Publishing and Gaming sectors. He’s passionate about strategy, digital and customer marketing and is always looking to learn new skills which may help improve his work and also those in the wider team.

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