Different SMB mindsets can signal different motivations.
Mindset matters. SMB-Minded is a series where we get inside the heads of SMB owners to derive useful insights for B2SMB marketers. The insights we uncover are based on years of experience, but also extensive personal observation. I have many friends who are business owners in a variety of industries, and they share things with me that a vendor would rarely hear.
Among the most striking revelations are the different approaches SMBs take to running their businesses. These flow from differences in temperament and business acumen, as well as from their overall goals and objectives. Understanding these differences among business owners is key to being able to market to them.
To see why, let’s segment business owners into two groups: seekers and sustainers. One segment is oriented toward growing their businesses; for example, making long-range plans and investments, adding customers and capacity, increasing market share. The challenge for them is to create and deploy effective strategies and tactics for getting there. Some are better at this than others. You can earn their business by helping them do so.
The other cohort is more in maintenance mode. Their businesses are more mature; their markets also may be. They tend to skew older. Perhaps the owners are nearing retirement. Their goals are to hold on to what they have and to sustain their businesses through careful management of existing resources. They are more likely to respond to messages about cost savings and efficiency than about taking their business to “the next level.”
Here are some other differences between these groups:
|How they spend their time||Leading/nurturing||Doing|
|How they spend money||Investments in the business||Expenses|
|How they approach technology (e.g., marketing automation)||Leverage it for advantage (not necessarily early adopters)||Late adopters; as needed|
|Their thoughts on human resources||Hire for growth||Minimize headcount|
|Dealing with change||Recognize it and act on it||Slow to react and act on it|
Of course, it’s not always this black-and-white. There are also many business owners who want to grow their businesses but are struggling to do so. This could be due to a lack of marketing savvy, inability to build a good team, leadership style, or similar. Like seekers, they are ambitious, but they may also exhibit some characteristics of sustainers. For example, they may respond initially to growth-oriented messaging, but be reluctant to make the required investment.
How can you know whom you’re dealing with? Much of this information is behavioral, as opposed to demographic. For starters, getting this type of information for marketing is not easy at scale. But it is getting easier, with technology that allows you to track content consumption, and partners who share customer purchasing information. Direct salespeople selling higher ticket items can collect this data from sources like LinkedIn, and of course, you can learn it by speaking with their customers themselves.
Behavior Can Signal Intent
Your prospect’s attitude and behavior can signal how likely they are to purchase your product or service. How? In two ways:
- Qualifying: Signals like these can tell you if an SMB is a good prospect for your offering. Of course, this also depends on the product. If the product is a necessary commodity (like office supplies), these signals will not be of much help in determining if a particular business is a good prospect, since all SMBs are good prospects. However, if you are selling marketing automation, the seekers are more likely prospects.
- Messaging: As you can imagine, depending on your product, the messaging for these two segments may need to be different to be successful. For example, growth-oriented SMBs are generally open-minded about making an investment, once they understand how it will help them achieve their goals. On the other hand, the sustainers are more likely to respond positively to messages about reducing costs.
There are, of course, many ways to segment small businesses, and doing so is essential for effective marketing. On the demographic side, there is size and industry, among others. On the behavioral side, there are also infinite ways to segment. We have been saying for some time that behavioral or psychographic criteria often provide the greatest insight. This information can be difficult to gather, but a good place to start is by understanding the mindset, style and core motivations of the business owner.