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15 Experts Share Their Best Practices for Marketing to Small Businesses

Published on by Adam Bluemner

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If your company is a small business looking to market effectively, the web has some ideas for you. Lots of ideas, in fact!

But what if you’re a B2B seller and you’re more interested in figuring out best practices for marketing to small businesses?

Go ahead and attempt to Google some ideas on that. Not so easy, huh? Try some exact match Google kung-fu with “marketing to small businesses” as your keyword string. You’ll still get a first page link to this: “Kim Kardashian Teaches Marketing to Small Businesses.” Perhaps momentarily tempting in that “wait, what?” kind of way, but not exactly what you’re looking for!

Well, we’ve got good news. You’ve already found a better answer. Below you’ll find best practice advice from 15 authorities on how to effectively market to small businesses.

B2B Marketing: Targeting Small Businesses

As our recent “What’s a Small Business?” study revealed, pinning down a “small business” audience can be tricky. We even discovered quite a bit of difference in what people think the terms means.

But there are definite do’s and don’ts when it comes to successfully pitching services and products to a “small business” market. In order to share the most reliable suggestions, we rounded up 15 experts in a range of marketing disciplines including: social media, content marketing, SEM, SEO, video marketing, business development, and sales strategy. They were gracious enough to share with me—and now you—their insights on the following questions:

  • How can you appeal to the unique buying motivations of small businesses?
  • How do you effectively target small businesses without scaring away larger firms?
  • Which channel approaches are best for connecting with small businesses?

How can you appeal to the unique buying motivations of small businesses?

  • Target time savers

    Small businesses are often resource strapped. While that can sound like code for “no money,” it’s time that’s really the bandit. If you focus on solutions that save them time, you’ll motivate them.

  • Understand the stakes

    Small business owners aren’t working for a paycheck.  They’re working for their lives. The lines between business and life are thinner than anywhere else. Successfully marketing to small business takes that into account–-in your content, in your messaging, and in your product strategy. Running a small business is both exciting and terrifying. It’s an entirely different mindset. Take that approach and you’ll immediately differentiate yourself.

  • Focus on business sustainability

    The motivation for small businesses is about sustainability. Staying in business is a key driver. No matter how successful they may be, there is a sense of vulnerability. Thus, small business owners will look at how a purchase decision will affect a business as a whole.

  • Don’t overrate the differences

    I actually don’t think small business motivations are that unique. Sure, small businesses may not have as much money as a large company, but their buying motivations are the same as any sized company. We all want to grow our organizations, add value, and develop relationships with our customers.

  • Offer proven winners

    The motivations for small businesses comes down to getting the most from each and every one of their dollars. Small businesses don’t have the advertising and marketing budgets, when compared to big time retailers or chain businesses. With that said, small businesses don’t have time to experiment with multiple marketing avenues.

  • Respect personal money

    Small business owners are much closer to their bottom line than the executives at larger companies. Most of the time, that bottom line is also directly correlated with a small business owner’s personal income. It’s important to understand that profitability and efficiency have a much stronger emotional connection with a small business owner than someone who just has annual goals of reaching numbers for the company.

  • Justify the value of out of pocket expenditures

    With most small businesses I deal with I’m speaking directly to the owner. That means the ‘company’ money is money coming directly out of his or her pocket. While that usually requires me to work a bit harder to justify the value of our fee and services, it also lets me appeal to them as a fellow small business owner who can empathize with small business challenges.

How do you effectively target small businesses without scaring away larger firms?

  • Let the numbers talk

    Numbers always speak louder than words. Larger firms need to be confident they aren’t getting the same work at twice the price point so you need to be transparent in showing them the differences. It wouldn’t hurt to show them a case study for your smaller clients as compared to a bigger client. If you’re trying to serve small businesses and larger firms you need to have a diverse offering with obvious differences between your your price points and compelling explanations for the value behind all of them.

  • Focus on results; avoid small business language

    We now steer clear of all “small business” language and instead focus on results that small, medium and large business decision makers all value. Any size business needs to establish credibility and build brand recognition through an effective tactical marketing plan. It’s important to focus on industry niches instead of size.

  • Use landing pages to focus messaging

    Talking to everyone is like talking to no one, you have to be specific in order to capture the right audience. Use landing pages wisely. Create one page that speaks directly to larger firms. Create another that focuses on small business owners. Neither group wants to wade through information in order to “kind of” figure out what will help them. Just send your audience to the right place on your website and start speaking their language. You do have to target, but your website strategy can give you options in how to do it.

  • Avoid one-size fits all approaches

    It’s funny, many of our clients are some of the largest corporations in the world. They are actively pursuing customers who are SMB organizations—-they never ask themselves this question or are concerned with it. If we are to be successful in selling to any organization, we have to make sure we are relevant and can create value for those organizations. We become “pigeon hole” if we apply a “one size fits all,” approach in our marketing and sales activities.

Which channel approaches are best for connecting with small businesses?

  • Offer online demos, trials, pricing, reviews, and testimonials

    Online is by far the best way to reach small business buyers. Focus on your website. Show pricing options where possible. Provide demos or trials, and make it easy for to find customer reviews or testimonials. For complex solutions, you will want to work with a channel partner who can do some of the work for your small business customer and help them make the right choice.

  • Optimize your web presence

    Bigger business are more likely to use referrals and networking to source vendors. Small business are more likely to go straight to the web to start the research process. So to reach small businesses, content marketing is critical. Start by following best practices for lead gen websites, then plan your content strategy starting with topics and frequency. The company that creates the most content and enthusiasm around a topic will win the attention of that audience.

  • Leverage pull marketing

    The best channels to connect with small companies are pull marketing based. Pull marketing makes yourself visible to prospects when they are already looking for what you are selling. Examples include your website, social media and public relations. Content marketing is also crucial because it shortens the sales cycle and helps you compete effectively against larger competitors. Instead of pushing your offer at them, you allow prospects to self-discover and self-qualify.

  • Syndicate relevant, niche content and seek speaking opportunities

    Leveraging the syndication of relevant, niche publications and authoring expert, thought leadership-type content is a great way to get in front of small businesses and generate services leads. Speaking opportunities are also a great lead channel. If you can’t crack the conference circuit, you can sign up to speak at local meetups (again, positioning yourself as a thought leader/topic expert) to reach SMBs.

Adam Bluemner

is a Managing Editor at Find Accounting Software. He's been helping software buyers make informed investments in business software for over a decade.

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