CDG, MRA, PIC, Go Digital, and the list goes on. When it comes to branding and digitisation, the Singapore government offers many grants to SMEs like yours to finance strategic projects that you may lack the resources to carry out. Before you pen that proposal, read this guide to know what to expect and ascertain if the time is right.

Grants are excellent ways to grow your small business and we want to help you get there. However, as with any plan, it is important to know what you’re getting into and these tips will help pre-empt pitfalls and avoid unnecessary disappointment.

 

1. Are you really eligible?

First, grants are only eligible for Singapore SMEs. You can find a more comprehensive and up-to-date requirements for eligibility at the respect sites. However, these do not always cover considerations such as the intent behind the project.

For example, business owners in an earlier stage are sometimes disappointed to find that grants are rarely allocated for just ‘starting a business.’ Rather, grants more often seek to support a specific project or aim, e.g. upgrading your workflow process through automation.

 

2. Grant processes takes longer than you think

The approval period for a grant ranges from 4 to 10 weeks, during which the government officer may come back to you with clarifications. This is on top of the time you need to spend speaking to agencies, shortlisting one to work with, and briefing them for a proposal.

Can you afford to sacrifice this time? Account for the legwork and waiting time when you make a plan to develop your business. Pro-tip: if it is crunch time right now for your company, it might be better to plan for a window.

 

3. Prepare to foot at least 30% of the project fees

Are you willing to do this? The grants for branding and digital marketing do not sponsor your project amount in full. With projects costing up to SGD 300,000, the 30 percent can be a small price to pay to grow your business strategically and at a heavily subsidised rate.

 

4. Is the work you want to do supportable by the grants?

Grants support strategic work specifically and not the typical marketing operational work. Is this what you are seeking to do? Know the difference:

Strategic workOperational work
Develop social media strategyMarketing support for social media amplification
Develop brand strategy, including value proposition and market positioningProduction of marketing collateral

 

Often in discussion with the agency, small business owners realise that creating a marketing plan and template may be a worthwhile effort instead of just designing of marketing collateral. While changing your scope of work isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if this is your main priority, a grant may not be your best bet.

Grant allocation for Singaporean SMEs favours strategic work that invests in the long term. Here’s a quick summary of the type of work supported by some common grants for branding and digitisation:

 

1. Capability Development Grant (CDG)

The CDG offered by Spring Singapore covers 10 areas that help SMEs to scale up their business capabilities and ensure business sustainability. Under Branding and Marketing, the grant typically supports strategic work that can raise your company’s profile, emphasise your unique selling proposition, and take your brand global. More information about the grant here.

Bestofire rebranding stationery using grants - CDG

As part of a CDG grant, we used Branding, Research, and Strategy to help Bestofire forge an identity and transform their brand using print, film, video, digital and environmental media. Read more on the Bestofire case study.

 

2. Market Readiness Assistance (MRA)

If you are an SME looking to expand internationally, this grant offered by IE Singapore supports activities to help get you set up, identify business partners, and market overseas. These include marketing and PR activities both brick-and-mortar execution e.g. road shows and pop-up stores, as well as online, e.g. SEM, SEO, and social media marketing campaigns. More information about the grant here.

One example of the type of work the MRA supports is the work we did for Her Velvet Vase. Our PR strategies helped homegrown brand Her Velvet Vase to make their debut in the US market and scored key wins by securing ink in titles like Glamour, US Weekly, and Instyle.com. Read more on the Her Velvet Vase case study.

Her Velvet Vase PR launch in New York US using grants - MRA

 

3. Product and Innovation Credit Scheme (PIC)

This scheme aims to help SMEs defray the costs of transforming their business. If you are thinking of doing Research & Development, it’s a sign that your needs are beyond operational requirements and the PIC can help with that. More information here.

 

4. SMEs Go Digital

Announced at Budget 2017, This programme is designed to assist SMEs to build stronger digital capabilities and deploy digital technologies based on the SME’s level of digital readiness. Advanced solutions include advice in areas data analytics, cybersecurity, and business transformation. More information here.

In our experience, the best areas for grant work are:

  • Branding and design
    • Research
    • Strategy
    • Identity
  • PR
    • Strategy
    • Corporate communications
    • Media relations

For a full list of our services, click here.

We hope we haven’t scared you off a grant! If you’re not dissuaded and you think you can take your business to the next level through branding or digitisation then maybe we can help. Enquire with us on how you can leverage government grants.

“Hi, my name is Christina.” That’s how I typically introduce myself. If I were to tell you I’m “Smiling-Woman-Christina”, you’d probably look at me strangely (at best) or think I’m insulting you (duh, you mean I can’t tell with my own eyes that you are a woman smiling at me?).

Which is why I struggle when companies insist on having their brand names do the multitasking job of describing what their business do and their brand personality. There’s a reason why we no longer have Apple Computer and McDonald’s Fast Food Restaurant; their customers know what they are about from the other communications.

How then should we approach the naming process? Start with your brand strategy. (Have you read our free eBook “8 steps to building your brand on the right foundation”? It outlines the critical first steps to build a rock solid brand.) With your developed strategy to guide your naming process, you can then think about whether it needs to work with your current (and future) businesses, products or services.

There are a few options to creating a brand name. You can either:

  • Use the founder or inventor’s name (Louis Vuitton)
  • Describe what you do (Singapore Airlines)
  • Describe an experience or image (Yahoo!)
  • Take a word out of context (Apple)
  • Make up a word (Google)

With the list of potential names, check them against a set of evaluation criteria. While creating names is a creative process, you need to objectively decide on a name that meets your criteria.

 

The checklist

  1. Business vision and objectives: Does it reflect or hint at your vision? Does the name support your brand positioning? How do they relate to the brand compared to alternatives in the market? Does the brand name reinforce that experience?
  2. Target Audience: Does your name appeal to your target audience? Will they get the context? Does it conjure positive and favourable images with your brand? Will your TA find the name unique? Is the name memorable?
  3. Country sensitivity: Are there any negative connotations in your target country’s native language? Or culture?
  4. Ease of use: Is the name easy to pronounce and remember? Easy to spell?
  5. Flexibility/potential for growth: Would the name still fit if your company entered a new market or launched a new service?

 

Cover all bases

Before finalising your name, there’s 2 more aspects to consider:

  1. Legal: Do a trademark search to ensure your name is not registered by another company or strongly associated with another company in a similar trade in your target markets. Protect your name so that you can prevent future competitors from using it.
  2. Digital: Are the online assets still available? You can use a tool like www.namecheckr.com to check availability for a web domain and popular social media sites.

That said, remember that a brand name is not the be-all and end-all of a brand. Just like a person’s clothes and the way he or she speaks showcases who they are as a person, a brand still have its different touchpoints that make up the brand experience.

So we’ve heard it, a downturn is coming. People lose their jobs and are more wary about spending. Traffic to retail stores are dropping and businesses stress about ways to increase retail sales. While we may not technically be in a recession right now, we hear of layoffs and restructuring and there is plenty of uncertainty in the future. It’s not all dark clouds in the horizon though.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups can take advantage of a weaker economy and step up growth during this period. Beyond tightening up your purse strings and cutting costs, a bad economy is the perfect time for you to step up on your marketing efforts.

 

Here’s 5 things to remember about marketing in a downturn:

1. The big players are vulnerable

Giant corporations are likely looking to scale back during this period, and your toughest competition is in a vulnerable state. Since SMEs have lower overheads (and if you are a Singapore SME, you enjoy support from Singapore government grants), it will be easier for you to ride out the storm.

 

2. Know your customer

Market research is essential to strengthening your brand. How are your consumers redefining value and responding to the recession? Price elasticity curves are changing. Consumers take more time to research before buying and try to look for the best deals. They are more willing to compromise on what they want – what used to be a “must-have” feature becomes a “good-to-have” or “can-do-without”. Interest in new brands and new categories is likely to reduce but trusted brands can still launch new products.

 

3. Sell on the Internet

Are you selling online yet? If not, why not? If your sales are dropping, your business is slow and you still think that your customers don’t shop online, it’s time to look at the numbers again. Even when your customers buy in person or because of their personal relationship with you, they are likely to research online before making a decision on what to buy and from whom to buy it. If you are not online, you will be left out of this important purchasing conversation. Not sure where to start? Our eBook on branding in a digital age outlines a framework.

 

4. Adjust pricing tactics: People want to save money

Customers will be watching their wallets and looking for cheaper alternatives or better value, so it’s the perfect time to sell in and win them over. Keep them satisfied and you will keep them even when the economy recovers. You do not necessarily need to cut your retail prices, but you may want to offer temporary price promotions and have more attractive quantity or bundled discounts. During a recession, price cuts attract more consumer support than lucky draw prizes or contests.

 

5. Branding during recession: Focus on values and emotions for a stronger brand

When hard times loom, we tend to seek comfort in our home. Build and maintain a strong emotional connection with customers in your brand messages rather than focus on low prices and special offers (even if you are offering them). A bad economy prompts us to stay at home and be connected with family and friends, so scenes of warmth and connection will tend to appeal to consumers more during this tough period. Another example on how to have a brand-centric message with a price cut is to talk about how your company’s technology and innovation has resulted in customers spending less.

 

In hard times, a trusted brand can lose consumer confidence in a matter of months. Focusing on how your brand is different and how that difference results in value for your customer will increase consumer confidence in your brand. The best course of action in a recession is a proactive stance. Only then will you retain your customers and attract a new audience by taking market share from weaker brands.

When consumers trust you, they will buy from you even when times are bad. Do you agree?