While there may be differing ideas on how to classify small and midsize-sized businesses (SMB), there should be little argument that this market has very different challenges and needs compared to larger companies. Intuitively, SMBs are often less mature, faster moving and show greater differentiation in their behavior.
In most markets globally, SMBs make up over of 90% of all businesses: the U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that there are about 28 million small businesses in the U.S. alone. That’s a lot of ground to cover for any marketer.
What’s the best way to reach this important sector? Here are five proven tips for B2B marketers to keep in mind when targeting SMBs:
1. Build Shared Values and Strong Relationships: When it comes to their decision making, SMBs often act more impulsively than larger businesses. Their size and often their nature (e.g. a family-run business) means they are more likely to make decisions based on a sense of shared values with their supplier, or loyalty to that supplier. (Harvard Business Review says 64% of participants in a study cited “shared values” as the primary reason for maintaining a brand relationship.) SMBs often desire to purchase from local or long-term suppliers who they believe have their best interests at heart and for whom they are an important customer. Strong relationships are important to SMBs; it’s often how they survive against their richer competitors – and it’s what they expect from their vendors.
2. Be Sure Who the Buyer Is: The organizational makeup of SMBs can vary wildly, depending on which functions they view as crucial to their businesses. As such, it’s not uncommon to find owners or other senior employees wearing multiple hats as part of their roles, often, for example, combining Finance, IT and HR, or sales, partnerships and marketing. This makes it challenging for B2B marketers to determine who the buyer of their product or service might be, and underscores the importance of investing the time to get to know their B2B prospects individually.
3. Take a Consultative Approach: With individuals taking on multiple roles, SMB buyers often lack deep business discipline expertise. As such, they rely on vendors to educate them on the business case for a particular product or service, and will likely require more hand-holding with integration and/or post-sales support. This creates an opportunity for email marketers to tailor a more specific message to pique their interest, and a more advisory, consultative marketing approach. This might include, for example, a stronger emphasis on educational, non-branded online search results for a product or service category for vendors to ensure they are considered from the get-go.
4. Focus on More Immediate Gratification: SMBs likely have less capital, are more focused on the short-term, and need a quicker return on their investment, making it necessary for marketers to clearly communicate a strong ROI for their offering. Key drivers for SMB investment in a new product and service are the potential for increased sales, increased efficiencies or employee productivity, reduction of cost or improved customer service.
5. Help Them One-Up Their Competition: SMBs face a constant battle for survival, both against other similar-sized businesses and from larger competitors. To encourage SMB investment, a product or service will look more attractive being shown to offer a strong competitive advantage, and put them a few steps ahead of their rivals. Omitting this competitive aspect may make it more difficult to persuade SMBs to part with their valuable capital.
It’s vital for B2B marketers to have a clear understanding of their SMB prospects’ needs, values and buying behaviors, as well as how they approach purchase decisions. What are your best tips for successfully marketing to SMBs?
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