Estimated read time: 9 minutes
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we posted 11 ideas for how B2SMB brands could keep customers amid the crisis. If you haven’t read this, it is worth eight minutes of your time as the ideas are as relevant today as they were in March.
Even so, now here we are in early June, and restrictions are being eased all over the country. Where do B2SMB brands go from here?
First, understand where they’re at
It’s important to understand what SMBs are doing right now—which is different from what they were doing just a couple months ago.
Early in the crisis, they scrambled to assess their situation, adapt to state orders requiring employees to work from home, cut costs and retain customers. Now, though, it’s safe to assume that most SMBs are looking to the future.
For businesses that were forced to mostly shut down, that means figuring out how to ramp back up (often with hefty new social distancing and other requirements in place). For businesses that didn’t see much of a slowdown, it’s more like pressing the gas pedal again.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had dozens of conversations with business owners, and here are some of their plans:
- Fully developing new online-based services that were launched quickly in March out of necessity, while also restarting their in-person services
- Launching new marketing initiatives to capitalize on sluggish competitors
- Figuring out how to create safe conditions as employees return to the workplace (while allowing workers to work from home if they prefer)
- Considering potential acquisitions
- Capitalizing on new talent that is available due to recent layoffs and a generally more favorable hiring environment
- Positioning the company for a sale (which typically involves a big push for growing revenue and profits while reducing reliance on the owner)
They’re all over the map
It’s also critical to keep in mind that SMBs are all over the place in terms of how the crisis has affected them. Here are a few drivers behind the differences:
Some industries were impacted by COVID-19 far more than others. While restaurants and retailers were largely shut down and have started to spring back to life—albeit with many distancing-related rules—many B2B companies have seen only a slight disruption and decrease in revenue.
Regions like the New York City area and some of the West Coast still have significant restrictions in place, while others, such as some in the South, have lifted most of their restrictions. So the stage a business is at will hinge in part on its location.
- Owner Mindset
While business owners are generally resilient as a whole, some are more resilient than others. Some business owners are growth-minded and see opportunity during even the toughest business climate; others are more “deer in the headlights” when it comes to dealing with crises and figuring out how to navigate them.
If a B2SMB segments its messaging based on these types of differences—which is generally a good idea—it’s important to keep these differences in mind. But if you’re not segmenting, the following sections offer a general approach for successfully engaging SMBs right now.
6 topics for engaging SMBs right now
Given that most SMBs are planning for the future, your marketing and content should reflect that. This means largely going back to what SMBs have always been interested in, but with some timely twists. Here are six topic areas—though certainly not the only ones—worth incorporating into your messaging and content right now:
- Growing the business
From ramping up their marketing to strategies for selling in the current environment, SMBs are looking for ideas for how to grow in the new environment.
- Product development
SMBs are considering how to adapt existing products and services to reflect this “new normal,” as well as developing out new product and service ideas that address current needs and trends.
- Improving culture
As businesses reopen, they need help navigating how to create and maintain a safe workplace with social distancing. Moreover, as more businesses look to allow employees to work from home on a more permanent basis, they need ideas for how to build and maintain camaraderie.
- Adapting and improving the customer experience
The crisis has affected customer expectations and preferences, and SMBs will need to incorporate those trends into their business. Just one example: Customers will be less interested in in-person interactions and looking for businesses to offer greater video, phone and digital interactions.
- Other growth opportunities
Savvy owners look for opportunities amid the tough environment, such as looking for newly available talent due to the improved hiring environment. They may also be looking to acquire less-financially stable competitors or partners.
- Cash flow management
Given this new normal, all companies need to re-project their revenue and profits and the effect they will have on their cash flow.
What not to do
While there’s a great opportunity to engage SMBs right now, there are also some things B2SMBs should steer clear of:
Veering too far out of your lane
- We saw many non-finance B2SMB companies talking about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) soon after the government announced it. We don’t encourage everyone to jump on that bandwagon. Why? SMBs are hearing plenty about PPP from the media, their bank and other financial companies that can provide the details. Plus, we saw some (quite reputable) companies share information that wasn’t correct. As with any content, you should always focus on topics where you can add value, change the POV and tell the SMB something they didn’t know.
Pretending like it’s back to “business as usual”
- The crisis has affected how businesses operate both in the short and long term, and the economic challenges it unleashed could last for a very long time. Just one example: Many SMBs will continue to allow their employees to work remotely, some even downsizing their office space. It’s essential that your content and messaging isn’t tone deaf; it needs to acknowledge this “new normal.”
The toughest part of the crisis may be over (as we hope), but SMBs still need more help than ever to navigate these uncharted waters. Remember that it is critical to share ideas and solutions from your top internal experts, as content that doesn’t actually help the SMB will, at best, be ignored and, at worst, negatively impact your brand.