Experts at the B2SMBI Leader’s Forum Agree – Marketing to SMBs has changed forever.
The setting was perfect and the message was clear. Last week, well over one hundred B2SMB professionals gathered in San Francisco at the B2SMB Institute’s Leaders Forum. These are people whose companies exist to serve small and midsize businesses, gathering to discover the state of the art in marketing and selling to SMBs. Two stimulating days of presentations and dialog revealed an overarching theme. If you are not evolving your SMB marketing strategies to reflect new realities, you will be left behind and sooner than you think.
Speaker after speaker reinforced the same point. Marketing programs simply geared toward selling SMBs more stuff are obsolete and perhaps counter-productive. Instead, in the words of Carrie Jacobsen, VP, Tech & Services for Office Depot:
“If you, as a marketer, are not thinking about helping small businesses, you will fail in this space.”
Along the way, the assembled presenters offered other valuable insights as well. Here’s a quick summary of some of the more interesting things I heard, many of which echo things we’ve been saying at RSL Media for a long time.
- LegalZoom’s Laura Goldberg said her company has been successfully helping SMBs by identifying “trigger points,” common events where many SMBs need legal advice (for example, signing a lease), and making sure that they reach out to their audience at the right time. She also spoke about metrics. She stressed that while her marketing managers are doing their best to measure individual tactics, full attribution is still challenging, and it is important to look at your overall media mix and overall results.
- I was thrilled to hear several speakers talking about retention and long-term value (LTV). Too many B2SMB companies have a myopic focus on new business while existing relationships are falling out of the strainer. Dan Slagen from Alignable demonstrated how companies with a higher net promoter score (NPS) had significantly better stock performance. Remember, you don’t need to give up today’s revenue to improve retention. In fact, I would argue that efforts to improve retention will result in greater sales from referrals and better reviews.
- I was also happy to hear that more companies
are looking at behavioral signals over demographics. (I have been telling our clients this for 10 +years.) Clate Mask, CEO of Infusionsoft, described the early days at his company when his first customers, the early adopters, realized the power of automation. Early adoption is a good example of a behavior which can’t easily be determined by demographics.
- Jill Nelson from Ruby Receptionists captivated the audience with her own story, with many of the highs and lows, of starting out as an SMB and then becoming the dominant provider in their space. I can’t stress enough how important it is for your marketing, service and sales people to regularly speak with and listen to actual business owners so they clearly understand the mindset.
- Carrie Jacobsen from Office Depot described their current transformation to a full-service business services company, including their acquisition of CompuCom and efforts to upgrade the stores and cross-train customer-facing teams. The goal: to ensure that the customer experience is top notch and consistent across the different platforms.
- Laura Messerschmitt from GoDaddy talked about
how she rallies her team around helping small businesses run better.“Isn’t this more inspiring than ‘let’s sell more stuff to SMBs’?” she asked. Laura also shared that customers with high NPS scores spend 30% more than detractors, and that there were similar metrics with cost of sales (detractors cost more), and churn.
- On the panel that I moderated (on attracting and retaining busy SMBs), Iris Hickenbottom from Dell said that Dell has seen stronger growth as they have started more grassroots marketing (events) and featuring their customers in their marketing. Dan Gliatta from Cargo had a great example of how looking at your smaller resellers as SMBs themselves, as they did in their work with 3Ms resellers, creates opportunities to keep your brand top-of-mind. Jenn Allen from Cisco talked about the importance of messaging to millennials (cloud natives, as she calls them), who are increasingly making more decisions at SMBs.
- Robin Stennet of ADT highlighted the need to get C-Suite involvement in making the shift to becoming more customer centric.
- Christal Bemont from Concur underscored themes heard from so many of the speakers about helping SMBs with their businesses: “We go beyond the sale. We help our client grow/scale and reduce risk.”
As I alluded to in a recent post, too many brands are still on cruise control with their approach to SMBs, and the clear message from SF was that the old ways are history.
So much was packed into this event I can’t include it all here. If you’d like to learn more about what companies on the cutting edge of SMB marketing are doing, get in touch. I’ll be happy to share more.