The business world is evolving fast, and what owners of small and midsize businesses need out of the companies that serve them is changing along with it.
How is the SMB buying journey changing? It hasn’t been linear for some time, but with so much information and various channels for engaging with companies, it’s less linear than ever. And yet, business owners are more time-strapped, so they don’t want to waste precious efforts dealing with marketing or sales processes that aren’t giving them the information they need to make a decision.
B2SMB brands must ensure they’re engaging with SMBs in ways that align with today’s buying journey—and most aren’t. Here are six common mistakes brands make as they try to engage SMBs—and how to fix them:
Mistake #1: Giving product demos
Product demos—where a company just demonstrates how its product works—don’t win over SMBs. Business owners want help navigating their buying journey, which means they want the brands to help them solve a problem. A demo doesn’t explain how the product will address the business’ specific challenges or needs.
What to do: Rather than give demos or product overviews, approach the sales process in a more consultative way. Your sales reps should ask questions to determine what the SMB owner or employee is looking for in a product or service like yours—and then explain how your company can address those needs. Of course, if a prospect has a specific question and wants to “look under the hood,” by all means show them what they need to see.
And remember, sometimes your product or service may not be a good fit for them, and it’s much better to tell them that than to spend time supporting the wrong customer.
Mistake #2: Having a buying experience with lots of friction
Because SMB owners are so time-restrained, they want to make buying decisions as efficiently as possible and on their own time—not yours. That means they don’t want to wait around for someone to call or email them back, and they do want important information such as pricing and product details at their fingertips.
What to do: Offer ways for them to “self-serve,” such as providing product features and pricing details on your website, letting them book appointments directly on your calendar, or allowing them to sign up or buy from you directly online. Having a chatbot that can answer questions on your website 24/7 is another helpful tool, but make sure it’s designed well and mimics an authentic human conversation, so your site visitors like interacting with it. Anything you can do to “get out of the way” and let your SMB customers do their own research and buying will work in your favor.
Mistake #3: Assuming SMBs always want the cheapest option
Some B2SMB brands make the mistake of assuming SMBs can’t afford or wouldn’t want anything more than their lowest-priced offering—so they compete on price .
It’s important to recognize that there are two types of SMBs: growth-minded and expense-minded. Expense-minded SMBs will be more price sensitive as they are always looking to contain costs, but growth-minded SMBs are focused on making decisions that will propel and facilitate growth. Those owners will see the value of choosing the right product and service offerings that can provide them with the features and scalability to take their business to the next level.
So, by targeting your lowest-priced offering to SMBs, you’re not only leaving money on the table, but you also might be signaling that you don’t have the premium product that growth-minded SMBs want.
What to do: Assume that you are serving both growth- and expense-minded SMBs and offer different tiers and options—so they can select the most appropriate ones. Don’t automatically assume SMBs will want the lowest-priced option.
Mistake #4: Promoting “free trials”
“Free” trials may seem like a great way to entice business owners to try out products and services, and hopefully stick around as paying customers. But they don’t always work. With products or services that require a lot of set-up—either by the company providing them or the customer doing it themselves—free trials are actually quite expensive from a time perspective. SMB owners realize they can waste a lot of time and effort testing out products that ultimately won’t work for them.
Keep in mind that free trials are different from “freemiums”—offering a free version of your product or service with the opportunity to upgrade to a paid version later on. Those can be a more effective way to get business owners interested and trying out your product without the same level of set-up that free trials often require. (Case in point: Mailchimp, which recently sold for $12 billion, built its brand by enticing companies with a free version of its software.)
What to do: If you have a product or service that does require a lot of upfront set-up, consider other ways to generate interest. This could include offering a free limited version with the ability to upgrade later on, but it can also mean educating SMBs about your product or service during their buying journey so they can determine it’s the right fit without needing to test it out. This can involve producing content that explains how you help businesses like theirs and training your sales reps to provide SMB prospects with the information to know your product or service will serve their needs.
Mistake #5: Not leveraging peer-to-peer (P2P) content
Now, more than ever, SMBs are very interested in what their peers—other business owners—are doing and how they’re addressing challenges. So you can give them what they’re looking for by producing peer-to-peer content.
There are different types. You can produce customer stories (not case studies) in which an SMB customer explains how your product or service helped them solve a particular challenge or improved their business. You can also feature business owners that have solved other problems, or you can do compilations (aka roundups) where you collect best practices or advice from several different business owners.
What to do: Figure out what kind of P2P content your leads would be most interested in and start building a pipeline of customers or other business owners willing to share their stories with your audience. You might be surprised at how many are eager to share their stories, as it’s usually great publicity for them as well.
Mistake #6: Not having a nurturing program
Only 3% of business owners are ready to buy today—the other 97% are just exploring their options. B2SMB brands that don’t have a nurture program are going to lose these potential future leads. You need to continue to nurture these SMBs until they are ready to buy.
What to do: A nurture program or newsletter is a natural opportunity. You can keep them connected to your company on a regular basis and send them relevant content that, among other things, helps them see how your product or service can help them. This helps you stay front of mind, builds trust (assuming your content is great – LINK???), and can accelerate the sales cycle.
Bonus mistake: There are no small business owners
How you address SMBs in your marketing and conversations is critical to engaging them. For example, don’t use the term “SMB” when speaking to an SMB, as most do not use or recognize that term. Also, most small business owners don’t relate to the term “small business owners,” so just use “business owners.”
Meeting SMBs Where They’re At
As the SMB buying journey gets more complex, it’s important that B2SMB brands understand how to provide SMBs the right information at the right time and place. RSL Media specializes in helping B2SMB brands do that. Contact me if you want to discuss.
Get insights and tips for marketing to small and midsize businesses from the people who speak SMB.