September 28, 2016

Targeting the Small Business Decision-Maker

Claire Tassin, a senior executive advisor at CEB, was a recent guest on our podcast, B2B Nation.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • The challenges of marketing to small businesses
  • How to target smaller buying groups and single decision-makers
  • What small business marketing will look like five years from now

Below are some of the highlights from our conversation.*

The Challenges of Marketing to Small Businesses

“Small businesses are extremely busy with their own customers and so many other tasks. For marketers to get the attention of small business owners, those owners have to divert their attention from their customers and from running their business. Marketers really have to earn that time with business owners due to limited availability. Small business owners are getting busier, and there’s an increasing amount of noise and competition in the market. We’re seeing our small business customer response rates to messaging and campaigns decline year after year, which makes breaking through even more of a challenge.

In the world of the small business owner, word-of-mouth is enormously important. Business owners have a lot of skepticism because when you’re making big decisions on your own, it’s a high-stakes game. For a large enterprise, some of these purchases seem trivial; but for small businesses, these are make or break decisions. A lot of smaller companies are not going to buy without getting advice from a peer, other owners, or others in their network. Tapping into the world of small business influence for organic recommendations is really tough, but it’s something that content really helps with. Getting the correct message in front of small businesses during these purchasing decision moments is critical.”

How can marketers target smaller buying groups and single decision-makers?

“In a small business, more often than not, you’re dealing with a single decision maker. For businesses that are a little bigger, it may be the owner and one other person who wears a lot of hats in the organization. We’re starting to see companies target specific employees within a small business other than the owner. That has had some recent success. We’re seeing more sophisticated strategies to be able to target key specific individuals within a small business. We’re also seeing better persona development. This is driven from having a better understanding of not just what the customer looks like, but what their motivations are.

ALSO READ: How B2B Buying Groups Make Decisions

“Marketers are starting to ask why companies are purchasing something in the first place. Marketers who have that understanding of their customer’s motivations built into their personas are doing a fantastic job demonstrating the pain points and needs of potential small business customers and positioning their solution accordingly.

“The last thing to note is that marketers are acknowledging how busy small business owners are. When small businesses need something, they tend to need it as soon as possible. Vendors who are winning with small businesses right now win because they help owners self-discover information before the purchase. We’re seeing marketers respect the independent research that happens outside of standard business hours and traditional sales channels. Marketers need to offer resources, expertise, and support to help build the confidence of the buyer in their purchase decision. These tools and pieces of content will grow the relationship between small businesses and your brand.”

Small Business Marketing Forecast: 5 Years from Now

“We’re seeing better technology that can support customer data and enable personalization. I have received a lot more questions about personalization lately, as companies are considering martech investments and what the requirements are for a more customized view.

“Personalization means different things to different marketers. As we’re seeing the technology evolve and offer a more tailored experience, we can get much better at putting the right message in front of the right customer at the right time. It’s hard, because the data integration challenge is massive, but we’re starting to see some forward-thinking companies get there. This trend will benefit marketers and (most importantly) business owners who encounter uniquely applicable messages.”

*

B2B Nation is a podcast for B2B sales and marketing professionals, featuring expert opinions and advice on the most important topics in the industry. Check out our other episodes on iTunes, or follow us on Twitter: @Technology_Adv.

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*Some excerpts have been paraphrased to enhance readability.  

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