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Marketing Services to Small and Medium Businesses

Posted on 8.02.2007

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are constantly coming and going, but there are so many of them that they can't be ignored. Consider them the "long tail" of the BtoB world. There are certain advantages, disadvantages and strategies to consider when working with and marketing to SMBs.

Pros:

  • Fast Decisions. SMBs make their decisions quickly. There is less red tape and decision makers are easy to get to, quick to respond and generally open to new ideas.
  • No In-House IT Politics. Usually, SMBs are very collaborative. This means that from the top down, the IT department is involved in the process of decision making and is reliant on supporting each other - not getting in each other's way.

Cons:

  • They are Diverse. The reason so many SMBs exist is that they are all trying to solve a different problem in a market they feel is neglected. This makes blanket marketing and services a difficult sell. They expect customization and original offerings.
  • High Initial Support Needs. Most SMBs and their employees wear many different hats. This means that when introduced to something new, the learning curve is usually steep. Be prepared for some serious hand-holding until they get a grasp on the new service, technology or product.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of SMBs are their small budgets. Therefore, it's important to give them some upfront value. Consider offering free trial accounts, starter accounts (with limited features or including your branding), free consultations, free support and training and free (ready-made) apps. It's also a good idea to provide some sort of user community, perhaps with a forum or corporate blog. This not only enhances your value to the customer, but can help customers help themselves and reduce your time spent on support. Finally, perhaps the most important aspect is your level of service. SMBs, once committed to your product or services expect a great deal of professionalism and personal service. They've just made a sizable investment - putting the future of their business partly in your hands. Return that trust and make sure all of their needs are taken care of quickly and correctly. Support needs generally drop off after about two months, but that doesn't mean they won't continue to need some help. Be sure to stay in touch with your clients and offer your help - especially when releasing new products or upgrades to existing products. By providing unparalleled support, you capitalize on another asset of SMBs - loyalty.

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