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9 Rules of Small and Midsize Business Marketing

With the launch of InformationWeek SMB last week, we thought it was a good time to share some of our SMB marketing best practices. We have 9 of them.

Small and Midsize Businesses (SMBs) constitute more than 99% of all U.S. businesses and employ more than half the U.S. workforce. Chances are, you work for one. And, while the individual companies may be small, the market is huge, with estimates of worldwide SMB IT spending approaching $675 billion in 2013. Even more impressive, IDC estimated that 2009 worldwide SMB technology spending grew 6 times as fast as enterprise technology investments.

So, how do you tap into this market?  Here are nine things to think about when building an SMB marketing plan.

  1. Choose the Target: Don’t have an SMB marketing strategy? Think again. With signs of economic recovery emerging, small and midsized businesses are once again focusing on purchasing technology to scale their businesses. Those investments are growing because SMBs share many of the same technology challenges and opportunities that enterprises do, only with more limited resources and expertise – and more upside. Less constrained by legacy infrastructure, investments, and processes, SMBs are free to take full, fast advantage of technology innovations from cloud computing to social networking to go beyond leveling the playing field to actually create competitive advantage against larger firms.
  2. Define Your Market: Having been in the B2B Tech market for well over a dozen years, I’ve heard every definition of SMB on the planet. 1 to 500 company size. 500 to 2,500 company size. Every vendor takes a different approach, because it’s all about your individual business. If fact, many marketers refer to SMB as SMEs (small and midsize enterprises). Fair enough. But to make matters worse, individuals within organizations often classify SMBs differently. Here’s a good starting point: Develop a standard company size – or branch / remote office size – and get buy-in from the entire marketing, sales and executive team. We define SMBs as 100 to 1,000 company size. Any smaller and your just an SB (small business). Any bigger, well, you’re an E (enterprise).
  3. Define Your Audience Profile: SMBs purchase technology much differently than Enterprises. In an Enterprise, you find layers of IT admins, managers & executives; multiple groups & divisions; steering committees; etc. With SMBs, the equation becomes much more simplified. On the smaller end of the SMB, the business owner generally makes purchase decisions and it’s often with his/her own money! Value is paramount. At slightly larger SMB, there may be a channel partner or other trusted advisor involved. At the higher-end of the SMB, yes, it’s the IT professional. But there’s fewer of them and they are generally, well, generalists.
  4. Help Your Customers Innovate Their Business: I mentioned value earlier. Everything is a value deal in this market. But SMBs also want to know how your technology or service offering is going to innovate their business – create new customer streams, increase efficiency, gain a competitive advantage, etc. If you’re not solving a problem or creating an edge, good luck getting their attention – let alone translating your marketing dollars into sales.
  5. Don’t Treat Them Like Consumers or, uh, SMBs: Many marketers have so much trouble targeting SMBs that they just end-up giving them the consumer marketing treatment. Wrong move. An SMB is a business. Not a teenager to gadget freak just looking for the coolest Droid application. Also, they don’t want to be talked to like their small. Business is their life, livelihood and passion. Treat them seriously. For example, you need to deliver the same customer service to an SMB that you do a large enterprise.
  6. Social Media Techniques: The right social media techniques can work very well with SMBs. Think about how you can tap into their existing social media outlets. Think community. Think LinkedIn. Think mobile. Think Twitter. While it’s hard to measure the impact and results that social media delivers, you better be playing in this game. In fact, we’re such big believers in this that we’re about to launch a product that connects social media outlets with demand-gen. I am, of course, happy to tell you more.
  7. Show Don’t Tell: We know from experience, that SMBs like it when you cut to the chase. Many times, buying and running technology is not a full-time gig. They want answers and they want them fast. Demonstrate your product/service offering. Deliver solid advice on how to get started quickly. The buying cycle is much shorter within the SMB than within the Enterprise. Give them payoff versus pontification.
  8. Leverage the Internet: Duh. Right. Sounds like a no brainer. But here’s the point: Your sales team doesn’t have the time or the means to visit or cold call every potential SMB customer. You need to do things that are repeatable. Automate your processes. You can’t afford to send a sales person to every potential customer. And you better make sure your website delivers easy-to-find information targeted to SMBs. Hand feed them. Don’t make them search.
  9. Relationships: When SMBs do eventually buy from you, chances are they will buy again. The old adage is no different here. It’s much easier to keep existing customers than to create new ones. Once a relationship is started, find ways to keep pouring on the love. Send them useful tips. Keep them updated on technology trends. Send them flowers. Whatever it takes. Keep that relationship going!

Oh, and now for the shameless plug. Find a good media partner!! That’s a tall order these days in the SMB space. Fortune Small Business recently closed its doors in print. Bloomberg / BusinessWeek SmallBiz folded its print brand and is incorporating SMB coverage into its BusinessWeek site. Times are tough for SMBs pubs out there. With our move to re-launch bMighty as InformationWeek SMB, we’re actually investing more into our brand. bMighty’s theme was “small is the new large.” That couldn’t be more true of InformationWeek SMB as well. Our traffic and newsletter subscribers continue to grow. We’re offering more innovative programs than ever before – from awareness and demand-gen to social media. And we remain one of the only sites that exists – lives and breathes -- to help SMBs cut through challenges of technology-buying decisions to drive their businesses. Give us a call any time.