Archive for August, 2009

Marketing To Small Businesses: Challenges and Solutions

August 23, 2009

Based on focus group and individual interviews involving hundreds of small business buyers, there are seven common factors that should be considered by marketers to this sector. While these lessons may apply to larger companies, they are specific suggestions for marketing to the 50-employee and under marketplace.

1. Does the product/service fit the marketplace? While on the surface, any offering may be adaptable to small business usage; this is not always the case. Products/services intended for larger corporate clients are often not adaptable to the small business environment. Small business buyers look for products that best fit their needs and not “hand-me-downs” from larger corporate offerings.
2. Has the product/service been tested/vetted by other small business users? Small business leaders are not pioneers when it comes to adapting new technologies and offerings. They want to know that others, preferably peers, have bought and used the offering. Testimonials by big corporate leaders or movie stars are not what they want to hear. Rather, specific case studies of other small businesses, including problems and solutions.
3. Is the total cost and return on investment (ROI) clearly shown or calculable? Knowing what the total cost of a new purchase, including any future charges, is key to a positive purchasing decision. Small business buyers evaluate cost as a major component in the purchasing process. They are especially wary of any hidden costs, interest or updating costs and the availability of support from the supplier. Another decision point is the availability of being able to charge on a credit card.
4. Does the new product/service mimic current workflow practices? Small businesses do not have the luxury of absorbing the dislocation inherent in workflow changes unless they are absolutely necessary and provide significant ROI to the firm. Most small businesses do not have excess resources to spend significant time integrating a new offering into the existing workflow. Extra staffing or obtaining specific expertise is not what a small business leader wants to do.
5. What are the demands on staff in adopting the offering? Individual staff members often have a hard time adjusting to change. The easier a product/service is to understand and use, the easier it is for the buyer to make a positive buying decision. Easily understood and complete information and workbooks are most desired and least provided to small business buyers.
6. When is the best time to sell to a small business buyer? Small business buyers make major decisions during off-hours. While recent studies show that a majority use the Internet to search for information, a more significant number 90+% said they rely on printed material with specific information during the final purchasing phase. Sales materials must feature the benefits to the buyer’s company, not the achievements of the selling company.
7. What are the best venues for selling to the small business buyer? Business associations (Rotary, Kiwanis, functional groups and others) are an under-utilized channel to the small business buyer. Trade magazines, particularly those serving a specific industry sector, are cost-effective venues to debut, explain, and gather sales leads. Radio talk shows, particularly those that appeal to small business owners offer a conducive environment in which to raise visibility and generate sales leads.
8. How does the offerings compare with other offerings? Showing a comparison on price, functionality, ease of use, support available for your offerings versus others in the marketplace will allow you to put your best foot forward while providing essential buying information to the small business buyer.

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Know Your Customer

August 23, 2009

Wal-Mart’s Vice Chairman, Eduardo Castro-Wright said recently that retailing is simple to execute –if you think like your customer.
Castro-Wright was referring specifically to consumers who are Wal-Mart’s current and potential customers.
His advice applies to any marketer selling into any sector.
In our experience, this is particularly true if a company wants to successfully sell to small business leaders. It is, after all, a marketplace larger than the economies of all but seven countries.
We have seen clients and other marketers assume, in many cases wrongly, that their target buyer operates in the same way they do.
Entering this market with a new product or service, firms of all sizes fail to realize that this is not the case.
Over the years, we have seen clients break their teeth in the small business marketplace trying to shoe-horn products and services into a pre-conceived sales process that is at variance with their buyers’ expectations and purchasing process.
To give one example, many smaller business owners prefer to make buy decisions after-hours, when they are not distracted by the need to get things done.
For this, the Internet extends the selling hours.
But, reliance on the Internet is a two-edged sword.
On the one hand it is inexpensive and efficient.
On the other hand, there are still more traditional channels the marketer must cover to be successful.
The Internet is not the only way small business buyers gather information.
Our studies and focus groups reveal that they like to have material in hand and they do keep paper information longer than Internet postings.
Keep this in mind when planning a small business marketing plan.

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August 23, 2009

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