In our business, we focus on helping enterprise-level companies sell and market to small and midsize businesses. SMBs are a large, varied and attractive segment for agencies as well as most other sectors that sell products or services to business customers. With this in mind, I thought I’d share what I know about how to engage with this highly sought-after but hard-to-reach audience.
Effective marketing to SMBs requires dedicated strategies and tactics. It’s not enough to slim down an enterprise product or scale up a product designed for consumers. As with any audience, you need to understand how SMBs are different from other segments and create product or service offerings and content expressly for them. Here are some rules to follow to make sure you get this right.
Learn Who They Are
SMB owners are busy, pulled a bunch of different ways and preoccupied with the day-to-day activities of running their businesses. They’re not professional buyers. They don’t have procurement departments or necessarily defined processes. While they may be subject matter experts in their own field, they’re unlikely to be an expert in yours. They may not even have a functional specialist in your area, be it marketing, finance, benefits, IT or something else.
Help Them Run Their Business
This is the most important point in this post. It should probably be at the top, but I wanted to set the stage first. SMBs need ideas and solutions to the challenges and opportunities they face in running their business. This is especially true today because almost every part of their business is being disrupted by new competitors, new technologies and changing buyer behavior. Reorient your marketing and sales teams to prioritize helping them overcome these challenges and you will earn their trust and the right to stay in touch with them. Ultimately, you will likely have an opportunity to show how your product or service is part of the solution.
You should think about your product as the end of their journey, not the beginning, and focus your content on helping customers instead of closing sales. This may require you to completely reinvent your marketing strategy, but an increasing number of marketing experts are discovering that this is key.
Teach Them Something They Don’t Know
How can your content help SMB owners run their business? By becoming a resource for actionable information they can learn from and use. There is a ton of content out there directed toward them already. Little of it is new or of much value. Break through the clutter with insights, best practices and how-to content from genuine experts — either SMEs from within your organization or recognized external leaders in the field.
Nurture Tomorrow’s Buyer
The main reason for focusing on helping customers instead of making sales is that only a small fraction of your audience is ready to buy today. The rest may become customers in the future, and you want to make sure that when that time comes you’re at the top of their list. This is much more likely if you build credibility with them and earn their trust upfront.
Like all marketing, you need to understand the SMB buyer’s journey. It’s important to create content for every stage of the purchase funnel because you never know at what point they’ll first encounter your brand. Guide them through their journey with strategic calls to action that lead them through a series of logical steps to your product or service at the end.
At the top of the funnel, your goal is to engage the audience and build trust by addressing a wide range of topics related to your mission. This could include business solutions (related to your product’s benefits) that inform and educate the buyer, including ideas, best practices and customer stories — real-world examples of what others are doing and the positive results achieved.
At the middle of the funnel, the goals are to nurture prospects and accelerate their journey toward the close. Your content can become increasingly product-aligned, and you can begin to focus more on specific features and benefits, FAQs, competitive advantages and so on.
The goal at the bottom of the funnel is to get people over the finish line — dealing with objections and questions that come up at the end. Most salespeople will tell you that the same four to five objections come up most of the time. Each one of those objections can be addressed with corresponding content.
For example, a bank could create an article about tips to negotiate better payment terms for SMBs at the top of the funnel. Middle-of-the-funnel content might be a post on the basics of bank account controls, and your bottom funnel content could be something more actionable and specific, like “3 Steps To Switching Banks Painlessly.”
SMBs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are growing rapidly. Some are stable, others are struggling. At any given time, they’re focused on a wide range of issues. If, and only if, you can help them with these issues, you will have a shot at getting their attention. Don’t intrude on them with obvious information or offer them products or services they don’t know they need. Help them with the hard things — the things they need that you’re expert at and they’re not, the things that will help them be successful long-term that they don’t have time to think about. They will reward you with their business when the time is right for them.