Demand for digital marketing services spikes among SMEs

Innity head of influencer marketing Carliff Rizmal Carleel

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Innity Sdn Bhd, an online advertising solutions provider and one of the 42 technology service providers (TSPs) appointed by the Government in Budget 2020, to help SMEs move into the digital space, is encouraging them to take advantage of the SME Business Digitalisation Grant offered under this programme to move into digital marketing.

Its head of influencer marketing Carliff Rizmal Carleel pointed out that business not previously digitally-ready are rushing to digitalise their operations, so the company is getting more requests for its services, although the budgets for these companies have shrunk compared to pre-crisis days.

But that can be addressed if they participate in the digitalisation grant that was announced in the Budget, even before the pandemic broke out. Under the SME Business Digitalisation Grant, the Government will provide a 50% matching grant for participating SMEs, or a maximum of RM5,000 per company towards the total invoice amount. This grant, however, is limited to the first 100,000 applicants.

"SMEs that are actively marketing, or are looking to move into digital advertising can utilise this grant, which will help them reduce their marketing costs and engage with consumers digitally."

Carliff says Innity will set up a designated team to deal with the wave of inquiries from the SMEs. "The original intention of the grant when it was announced during Budget 2020 was to help SMEs move into the digital space. But now, seeing how the situation is unfolding with the whole crisis and pandemic, it couldn't have come at a better time.”

However, Carliff points out that SMEs have faced difficulty utilising this grant efficiently due to the long processing time it requires of up to a month.

"Once the SME comes to us and expresses their interest, if they are quick to submit all their forms, it takes on average of three days to start processing. But the majority of the SMEs that we have engaged with took longer than a week, because of the time it takes to get all the forms together – all the relevant SSM (Companies Commission of Malaysia) documents, financial statements, the grant application form and more," says Carliff.

"On top of that, you add another 15 days for the banks to process and approve the transaction, and another week for the SMEs to release their payments even before the campaign is executed."

Carliff explains that many of the inquiries have come during the Ramadan season, but the SMEs did not expect the turnaround time to be this long. Hence, many SMEs have missed the entire Ramadan campaign season, and are now planning on utilising the grants for other seasons instead.

"We are trying to get the word out there as much as possible because we know that the grant is something that SMEs can truly benefit from, especially during this time. So the best advice that I have for SMEs is to plan ahead. At least give yourself one month or more before the campaign actually starts," says Carliff.

To supplement the grant, Innity has also created a set of marketing packages exclusive for SMEs, which can offer savings of up to 50%. Carliff stresses that these packages are strictly for SMEs that fall under the definition given by the  SSM, and are unavailable for larger clients.

He adds that these packages aim to provide savings for smaller companies beyond the grant. Through both the value packages and the SME grant, smaller companies can get more than double the number of deliverables with the same price, says Carliff.

Innity launched a new live streaming service during the first week of the Movement Control Order (MCO). Carliff says that Innity will provide end-to-end support for this service, from influencer-prospecting to the production of the live stream itself.

"More live streaming content is popping up, and it has proven to be an effective way for brands to engage with their consumers online. Live streaming has taken a huge leap during this whole pandemic, as brands rush to reach and engage with their consumers. This trend is likely to continue and may develop even further," says Carliff.

"Live streaming gives a space for brands to engage with their consumers directly in life, being able to have a conversation and address customer sentiment. So a lot of consumers actually prefer live streaming, and this is why you see a lot of e-commerce platforms adopting live streaming as well."

Carliff stresses that it is important for brands and SMEs to stay in touch and engage with their consumers online throughout the COVID-19 crisis. He says this is because digital advertising will be the primary marketing channel moving forward, as consumers are less likely to travel outside their homes.

"Businesses have to ask themselves whether engaging with consumers and being on top of their minds is important. If the answer is yes, then digital advertising is quite frankly, the only option right now. Plus, digital advertising is very metrics-driven, very calculated, and very targeted as well," says Carliff.

Those who want to apply for the grant can do so at https://smegrant.innity.com/

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