Fresh Insights in Selling to SMBs
Despite the attention given to large enterprise marketing, it's small and medium businesses (SMB) where the bulk of marketing investments go. SMB is where there's enough volume to do plenty of testing. Plus, you've got a tighter decision-making unit and shorter sales cycles. And you've got a lot of company. Plenty of agencies, research firms, and other marketers are focused on SMB, and willing to share their insights. One new set comes from Bredin, Inc., a Boston-based agency that just published a new study on how SMBs buy today.
Kudos to Bredin for figuring out how to persuade 532 busy business owners to take a 15-minute survey online, in May 2014. Respondents were asked all kinds of questions about their buying, influences, media preferences, resources, the works. Here are the nuggets that were most revealing to me.
- These buyers trust their peers more than any other information source, across the spectrum from awareness to researching product details to the buying decision.
- They still rely on trade shows and events for product information. Second only to peers and colleagues.
- They like print materials, for brochures, checklists, handbooks, case studies. When it comes to tablets, they expect to see quotes, order confirmations, videos, interactive tools, and presentations.
- They want to hear from their vendors, regularly. Not just when they are ready to make a purchase. Encouraging, isn't it?
- They welcome email, phone and face-to-face contact from vendors in the period when they are researching, but not ready to buy-what we marketers call "nurturing." But the number of nurturing contacts they want varies widely, from weekly, to monthly, to every six months.
- Most of the time (74 percent), the business owner himself or herself is the person investigating the new products and solutions. And this is among businesses with up to 500 employees.
- The vendor website is a top resource when conducting product research and honing in on a purchase decision.
What should marketers take away from these observations?
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools around the world. She is past chair of the DMA Business-to-Business Council, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain's BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM and holds an MBA from Columbia University.