Small and Medium business marketing

We don’t know about you, but we are constantly hearing the phrase ‘There are plenty more fish in the sea’, generally they aren’t talking about marketing but that’s a discussion for another day! The thing is, people are always chasing the big fish. Moby Dick had his whale, Martin Brody had Jaws (or Bruce) … ok ok, and in the real-world fishermen weigh their catches, and trawler men chase massive tuna paydays. Minnows and pilot fish are ignored in favour of bigger game, despite the fact their biomass as a whole is many, many times that of all the whales and sharks combined! In the past the same could be said of marketers. Everyone chased the big clients pushing for superiority, only relatively recently has it become a great choice to pursue small and medium businesses, SMB’s. They don’t play by the same rules as the big hitters though, so let’s take a look at how you can maximise your connectivity with small and medium business marketing


The complications


In broad stokes, no one is fixed on what makes a company small, medium or large. There is no universal agreement on how to measure the size of a company; some people use staffing, some profits, some revenue, others still square footage! Obviously this muddies the waters a bit when even discussing SMB’s. All we can say is, you’ll know what companies are small or medium to your company when you meet them.


They don’t appear to be small outwardly, you have to dig below the surface on a backend level to determine the true size of a business. Most don’t want to be self-titled as small, and especially don’t want to be targeted by marketing as small. That means using lots of common tropes associated with companies that size or doing more homework to correctly assess their size.


In most of the developed world more than 99% of businesses are considered to be small or medium, so in reality the massive scope is far more the problematic than finding companies to market to in the first place. How do you appeal to as many as possible but retain relevancy?


Grouping companies based on number of employees or size/number of premises is rarely appropriate. Sometimes ‘small’ companies can have as much or more efficacy than a ‘larger’ business assessed by the same metric. Maybe the business with more employees just has more connections, more money coming in, a better/longer start, or even just have similar but differing numbers of staff (say 200 vs. 250) that are not lumped together as far as strategy goes but are very similar in real terms. It’s also wrong to NOT group based on similarity in other areas rather than size. Marketing to a small tech start up is much more like marketing to a medium web design firm than marketing to a small construction company. The type of company is frequently more important than the size when it comes to advertising.


SMB’s don’t have purchasing teams or marketing departments often, so the link between decision maker and buyer is much shorter and a lot tighter, frequently meaning more precise knowledge of what they want, good, but this also leads to more indecision as mistakes are not easily tolerable and a lack of multiple committee style choices causes decision paralysis.


So why go after them?


Mostly because they’re so various. The number of niches that need filling is astronomical. The creation of the idea of a USP means all businesses see themselves as having unique properties and needs, meaning more gaps in the market to fill with diverse marketing. They are frequently less contested contracts or more open to the concept of fresh ideas than larger businesses, who have set processes and times to review relationships.


How to do it right


The first section of this blog may make it seem like marketing to SMB’s could be a nightmare, ‘we’re going after 99% of all companies that span almost every type, style and specific niche going??’ The best way to make sense of the deluge of opportunities is to be very specific about who you are directing each campaign towards.


You should: target key issues the industries have, make the most of those issues that affect small business specifically rather than all businesses; try and be more precise about what sort of small businesses you are targeting, make your materials better for small start-ups, small family-run legacies or small but growing firms; don’t just target a specific industry with ALL of your marketing, but do create both generic content and some specific ideas towards one or two key industries.


Make yourself as available as possible. Taking note of the fact that purchasing for SMB’s is so much more tightly controlled than larger businesses, make sure whatever you are selling is as available to them as possible. Trials, demonstrations, personal contact with other users or reps as well as detailed reporting and added value resources are all great ways to enhance the clients experience on a personal level. This makes it easier to entice them to use your product or create repeat orders. But be careful, if you are trying to market to large numbers of SMB’s the more you entice the more time and money will be used in these strategies.


Show them they aren’t alone. Back to the USP, while all companies want to be individuals, most aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. They see themselves in a segment of a larger landscape of their particular industry. Being part of their industry is the true barrier from other companies their size, they acknowledge the similarities between themselves and their competitors. Consequently, when they go out to buy a product or service, they feel far more reassured to know the company they are using is a veteran of campaigns with other companies in their sector. This is frequently more important than the intricacies of the product itself. To achieve this aim, and cover as many bases as possible, websites and literature should contain testimonials and case studies from the target trades.


Aside from that the only real thing to remember is to treat every person you meet, as well as each company as a whole as an individual. Most people in smaller companies are there for a reason. It could be they really believe in the product, or they are inexperienced, or they like to have a feeling of impact on the running of the business, maybe they just like to have more social interaction. Whatever it is it’s likely they see themselves as the representative of the company far less than people from large corporations, the best way to get on their side is to talk to them like openly and honestly, free of agenda and without the infamous ‘hard-sell’.

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