Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Playing to win in the SMB space demands specialized expertise.
At the B2SMB Institute Leaders’ Forum in Napa this past June, I commented to Institute founder Dave Walker that one of the most beneficial things the Institute is doing is helping to establish B2SMB as a unique sales and marketing discipline. Here’s why this is important. No doubt, general B2B skills are useful when marketing and selling to small and midsize businesses (SMBs). However, I have been working with B2SMB brands for over 15 years. I’ve seen firsthand that if you want to realize the full potential of the SMB market, it helps enormously to have expertise specifically for small businesses, and the passion that usually goes with it.
Companies targeting SMBs overlook this reality at their peril. Some companies try to go “down-market” by simply taking their enterprise offerings, stripping them down, and then trying to sell them to SMBs—typically using strategies developed with limited knowledge of the SMB marketplace. Others develop SMB-specific products or services, but then take them to market with teams that have no direct experience with SMBs. These approaches almost always fail due to a myopic overconfidence that it is just another market to tackle. It isn’t.
Not one audience, but many
Start with the fact that the SMB market is incredibly diverse. Stephanie Anderson, whose career includes delivering outsized results in the B2B and B2SMB spaces, including as the former CMO for Time Warner Cable Business Class says, “There are so many audiences, even within the SMB world, (with different) motivations and issues. It is important to understand their specific struggles and ideas of success.”
Companies that succeed with the SMB market typically have done so either by partnering with companies like us with specific knowledge and experience of the SMB space, or hiring staff with that expertise.
It starts with understanding SMBs
I’ve been working with and leading small businesses for over 25 years. In fact, I created a community of thousands of them in the NYC area. This has helped my team and me see things through SMBs’ eyes. Understanding SMBs involves much more than looking at aggregate data or speaking with an aunt who owns a business. It means getting to know the owners as individuals, speaking with them face-to-face, and listening to them speak with one another hundreds of times. It also comes from having executed dozens of successful projects, as well as having seen what others have done and understanding what has worked and what hasn’t. This is what it takes to consistently build successful programs to engage, nurture, and convert SMBs.
The B2SMB market is unique
While it shares some similarities with the broader B2B market, the SMB market is different in many ways. Here are a few:
- Depending on how you count, there are 27 million small and midsize businesses in the US. Those with 5 employees are very different from those with 105 employees or more.
- SMBs rarely have a formal buying process. The decision-maker, and the buying process, can vary with company size along with many other factors. It can also be completely different from one company to the next, even within the same industry.
- SMB behaviors can be much better signals than demographics. For example, some business owners are in business for lifestyle reasons, while others are aggressively growth-oriented. Of course, the challenge with measuring behavior is that behavioral data is harder to come by than demographics.
Gaining a solid understanding of SMBs takes time and effort. However, it’s a prerequisite to successfully marketing and selling to them.
Peter Hutto, chief strategy & revenue officer at the B2SMB Institute, says, “Working with SMBs is very different than working with enterprise customers, and very different from working with consumers. This difference extends to marketing, sales, product development, fulfillment, and support.”
Whether you have direct experience working with SMBs or have others on your team who do, it’s important to recognize that B2SMB is a unique discipline. Maximizing your success with SMBs is achieved with an SMB-savvy staff that understands this diverse market and knows how to engage small business owners and retain relationships with them over time.
Looking for time-tested B2SMB expertise to drive strong results? Let’s chat.