This article was done in collaboration with Facebook.
Unsurprisingly, last year was one of the toughest years for many SMBs globally. According to a recent report by Facebook, SMBs worldwide continue to struggle with maintaining operations, with almost one quarter (24%) of SMBs surveyed reporting they were closed in February 2021.
One inspiring SMB which continued to push through despite the tough economic conditions here in Singapore was Tinkle Arts, founded in 2000 by Charlene Chan. Chan, who initially launched the company as a hobby to help less fortunate communities, believes in creating art with heart, and employs six individuals with special needs who produce beautiful clay art.
Before the pandemic, Tinkle Arts was growing in prominence having worked with brands such as Singapore Airlines and the National Heritage Board. Known for its clay art workshops for the public and for corporates, Tinkle Arts’ products are also been available in the Singapore National Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum, Malay Heritage Centre, Indian Heritage Centre, the Floral Fantasy Shop and Conservatory Shop in Gardens by The Bay, as well on Krisshop.com.
Nonetheless, last year, due to the pandemic, like many companies, Tinkle Arts’ event executions and product sales took a huge hit.
In an interview with Facebook, in collaboration with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Chan explained that due to the circuit breaker, overnight the company faced logistical challenges in delivering what was promised to attendees who signed up for Tinkle Arts’ events and classes. While over time as restrictions were eased, class sizes remained capped to a small number, and as such, the company had to turn to online platforms to conduct its sessions.
“It was a very uncertain time for us,” she said. With physical interactions down to a minimum, Chan and her team relied on Facebook and Instagram to enhance communication with its community. The silver lining was the ability to scale its services through the help of social and digital, she explained.
“We turned to Facebook and Instagram because of the ease of use. Most of our community members have Facebook and Instagram accounts and replying to their queries via these platforms was easy for us,” she said.
Our community was also able to find and communicate with us regularly because we post regularly through the platforms as well.
She added that for smaller businesses such as Tinkle Arts that do not have deep pockets, using Facebook platforms was also far more cost-effective as compared with traditional mediums.
“Advertising through social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram is pretty low cost compared to traditional advertising,” she said.
Through the experience of the pandemic, Chan also added that she now sees the vital role marketing plays in the survival of SMBs, not only for tactical guidance, but also in driving innovation and blue sky thinking.
Like Chan and her lean team, many SMBs often lack the time, manpower and resources to experiment with emerging cost-effective digital marketing solutions. Brand building and collaborations can also take a back seat and be easily forgotten in the daily grind.
Nonetheless, the tides are changing. Today, more and more SMBs are quickly learning that to ride the wave of digitisation, they need to quickly embrace the powers of digital marketing. In fact, according to the UOB SME Outlook study, in 2021, marketing emerged as a top priority for many SMBs.
The study found that today, SMBs place a greater emphasis on the need to use digital tools for marketing. SMBs, which are fast to embrace digital marketing, largely come from sectors such as consumer goods, professional services and real estate/hospitality.
Meanwhile, a study by Ministry of Manpower in 2020 showed that the uptake of digitisation in 2020 has resulted in firms of all sizes in Singapore looking for talent who can aid with digital marketing, data analytics and visualisation, as well as digital content strategy. Quite possibly, this surge in demand was attributed to more companies seeking to stand out among the growing number of competitors in the digital sphere.
“It has been a very turbulent time for us in Singapore and our company and even our families,” Charlene said. “But it has also brought the community closer together. Our customers have been very supportive and often come up with ideas to help boost our business. Individuals and corporates willing to help us also really uplifts our spirit and urges us to push on. I am very grateful the entire community has been so supportive.”
Learn more about tools and resources to help SMBs here.