It’s Nothing Personal…Unless it’s Small Business

Author: Carrie Holmes
9 / 15 / 2015
B2B marketing strategy small business Lenati

We’ve all heard the old adage “it’s just business,” but to a small business owner, it’s actually so much more. More often than not they’ve invested countless hours caring for, nurturing, squeezing every ounce of productivity out of their resources to help their business grow. Because of the time, energy and commitment they invest in their business, they see themselves distinctly different from other small businesses and worlds apart from big enterprise.

For those B2B marketers targeting small businesses, consider that your small business audience could convert to big business for you if you keep these facts in mind:

It’s a big group. Did you know that 60 million Americans own or work for small businesses? According to the 2015 Small Business Profiles from the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are 28M small businesses in the U.S. with 49% of the private sector workforce employed by small business. Most of these small businesses are very small – 5.7M  of them have less than 20 employees. According to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, small businesses tend to concentrate in construction, retail, professional, scientific and technical services, or healthcare/social assistance.

Small businesses are diverse.  15% of small businesses in the U.S. are minority-owned and over 10% are Hispanic-owned. It’s important to keep this in mind when building your value proposition, outreach strategy and offers. There’s no one size fits all approach and you may have a better chance breaking through with a hyper-targeted, hyper-local approach. Do you know what role community plays in their decision making process? If not, find out. It could mean the difference between getting in the door or falling flat.

It’s still a business. If you’ve ever mapped a buyer journey for small business you quickly see the similarities to the purchasing habits of consumer buyers.  However, don’t make the mistake of treating a small business like a consumer. Small business owners may buy through retail or online channels, but they expect to be courted with offers and solutions tailored for a business customer with business needs.

11 start-ups are born every minute in the U.S. In years where we’ve seen a tough job market, there has been an uptick in small business start-ups. But even in easier times, there is a steady stream of entrepreneurship. According to the SBA, there are roughly half a million new businesses that start up every month, and 7 out of 10 of those start-ups survive two years or more.

Timing is everything. According to Corporate Executive Board (CEB) Research, 80% of first purchases made by small businesses happen in the first year of business. Once these small businesses have chosen their suppliers getting them to switch is as impossible as Sisyphus rolling his boulder uphill. In fact, once they are up and running, 68% of all small business owners report never switching suppliers at all. Look for business indicators like business tenure focusing specifically on those that have been in business less than one year. Financing, raising capital and hiring are also indicators that small businesses may be in consideration mode for solutions and services.

Don’t throw caution to the wind. Small business marketing is a volume play, but unless your marketing pockets are deep, you need to find a way to uncover the small businesses with the highest propensity to purchase. Using predictive analytics from companies like 6Sense or Leadspace, and syndicated data from firms like NielsonIpsos, or Mintel to help fill in the gaps and identify likely prospects can help with this effort. Being smart about your small business targeting will help you transition from a “spray and pray” approach to a much more effective surgical strike – spending your precious marketing dollars only on the small business prospects who are most likely to convert.

Connection into retail. Your small business customers may purchase through retail or online. Be sure to understand how your prospects tend to purchase and work with your owned retail channel or your retail partners to determine how to track these small business prospects through point-of-sale.

Mobile matters. Wireless is central to business and small businesses are no different. According to a poll of small businesses conducted by AT&T, 66% of small businesses report that wireless is vital for their business operations (and not just smartphones). Tablets are increasingly becoming a core business tool to small businesses that need the flexibility for taking the office on the go. If you aren’t considering mobile as a primary channel to connect with small business customers, you are missing a huge opportunity.

Knowing your small business audience and what makes them tick is the secret to unlocking potential sales. Time your engagement, make it personal, and don’t ignore mobile as a significant channel to attract, court, and win your prospects.

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About the Author

Author: Carrie Holmes | Customer Acquisition
Carrie Holmes has over 20 years’ experience in developing communication strategies and integrated marketing campaigns that have boosted sales, awareness, and market share for B2B and consumer brands. Carrie has a proven track record for creating acquisition and retention strategies, audience personas, mapping customer-centric buyer journeys, and building messaging and content that put customers in the driver’s seat.

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