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Christina Tarigan

Grants for branding & digitisation: What SMEs need to know

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 more comprehensive and up-to-date requirements for eligibility at the respective 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 take 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 S$300,000, 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 work Operational work
Develop social media strategy Marketing support for social media amplification
Develop brand strategy, including value proposition and market positioning Production 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 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 its 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 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 of 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.