“Inside the box”? “Outside the box”? For SMBs, there is no box.
Small and midsize business owners can’t afford to be limited by boundaries. If you’re selling or marketing to small and mid-size businesses, it’s important to realize the mindset of the business owner and how it differs from that of even high-level managers within large enterprises. As a longtime business owner myself, most of my friends and professional associates are business owners too. I talk with them every day, and I’m continually impressed by the challenges they face and the creative solutions they come up with to persevere. In a previous edition of SMB-Minded, I wrote about challenges and opportunities involved in managing change. Here are a few more examples of things SMBs do to adapt to an ever-changing business climate in which there are no guardrails.
Finding good people today
Even in normal times, this is always a challenge. With unemployment low, the challenge grows. Many of my friends (myself included) say that finding good people is harder than finding clients, especially when there is no HR department. One friend who has a professional services firm in Manhattan and just went on his own has a problem that many would say is a “good problem to have.” His reputation is so good that new business comes to him. Short of good people, he is working 70-80-hour weeks. One of the things he is now considering is hiring professionals to work remotely, which is something he has not done before. They can be sourced from anywhere around the country, often at attractive rates in places where employment is not as tight. I have been doing this for some time, and it’s a growing trend.
Turning services into products
Business experts like John Warrillow point out that, all other things being equal, companies that sell products are more valuable than those that only perform services. Said another way, companies get sold for higher multiples when they are less-dependent on key people, especially the owner (who typically leaves after an earn-out or non-compete is completed). Several in my network are trying to figure out how they can create product-like offerings within their services-related business. Example: one friend in the HR space consults to companies all over the world, which keeps her with platinum status with her airline but away from her family. She is designing an application that essentially takes the knowledge she provides in delivering her services and packages it in product form. She is hoping this will enable her to earn money while she sleeps – more often in her own bed.
To service or not to service
In a similar vein, I have advised two companies recently who sell technology platforms and also provide related services. One, a fin-tech company, provides onboarding services to their clients and also provides ongoing support. In another (real estate tech), paid services are bundled with the product. In both cases, the principles have debated either outsourcing the services component or spinning off a services company. Why? Because they have the foresight to know that providing services slows scalability. However, both have decided against these options because they (wisely, in my view) wanted to continue to own the customer experience.
Can you help them?
As they strive to maintain and grow their businesses, SMB owners can never stop looking for innovative ways to overcome challenges like those above. Can your product or service help them do this? Can you make it easier for companies with remote employees to do business with you? Can you enhance their offering to their customers with your product as part of the package? Can you provide service or support that adds value to what they offer? Or, can you simply make their business run more simply. If so, be sure you demonstrate this with a combination of best practices and customer stories in your content. Your content marketing should focus first on the problems and challenges you can solve for your SMB customers, and on your product or service only after this has been established.