Taking a walk in an SMB’s shoes: Five tips for marketing to SMBs

For more than a decade, the IT channel has coveted the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market. We’re told they’re the largest and most profitable market. We know the lion’s share of vendor products, pricing and marketing programs focus on this market. And the vendor industry has loudly declared SMB to be the true, uncontested channel play.

In our channel industry, many “get it” and are doing the right things to sell and market to the SMB customer. For example, partners excel at customer relationship management. They understand their regional or vertical SMB demographics. They have an identified and targeted SMB customer install base they work from.

Understanding how this market behaves and taking a walk in your SMB customers’ shoes may be the best time spent in your next marketing strategy meeting.

Knowing who your customers are and how they behave is a critical component to your marketing process and one that is often overlooked. Customers change, their needs change, and the marketplace, technology and the competition are constantly changing. So before digging into your tactical marketing plans, begin by profiling your SMB customer’s behaviour.

Below is a sample list of a few observed SMB behaviours, with the corresponding marketing messages and strategies.

1. SMB Behaviour: The smaller the organization the more consumer-like the buying behavior. The reasons vary, but they often lack the time, knowledge or inclination to devote to IT buying decisions.
Marketing Tip: Deliver IT solutions that are understandable, without jargon, and highlight the customer’s business benefit, such as performance improvement, freedom of mobility, and getting a competitive edge through innovation. Make doing business with you easy, always bring extra value to the table and make responsiveness your number one priority.

2. SMB Behaviour: Less formal, faster and more frequent buying habits.
Marketing Tip: Stay top-of-mind by sending consistent and relevant marketing messages, use e-newsletters, make quoting and ordering quick and painless. Consider an e-commerce, online quoting solution.

3. SMB Behaviour: Company size does not necessarily dictate the level of IT complexity and investment.
Marketing Tip: Cross-reference your demographics, for example by number of employees AND vertical, when analyzing SMB buying potential for marketing campaigns.

4. SMB Behaviour: Expect fair and straightforward pricing.
Marketing Tip: Keep pricing consistent and predictable whenever possible, regularly communicate promotions and limited-time special pricing opportunities.

5. SMB Behaviour: SMBs network less with IT peers and rely on advice from their IT guy. SMBs want to buy from real people.
Marketing Tip: Grass-roots marketing should let your customer get to know you. Include pictures and send personal recommendations – know and explain why you have chosen to endorse a particular solution. However, watch out for customers that just want free IT consulting.

Just as customers change, so too will their behaviours. Staying on top of customer trends will give you the selling and marketing success to grow your business and always stay one step ahead of the competition.

Kellie Stewart is a partner advocate who has developed a sharp eye for best-in-class partner marketing that works. She is dedicated to helping IT resellers retool for a more profitable, strategically focused organization. Learn more at www.pivotpartnerservices.ca.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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