SMBs are feeling pretty optimistic – and that translates into plans to buy technology. Whether it is to improve data security or upgrade dated equipment, SMBs have significant tech investment plans, especially for PCs, printers and smartphones.
To find out how you can take advantage of this opportunity, we recently surveyed over 300 U.S. SMB principals. The findings are instructive; there are some great learnings on how SMBs learn about, research and make tech purchase decisions; their purchase intent and timing; preferred purchase channel; perceptions and trust of leading tech brands; and how tech vendors can improve the sales process.
Purchase intent and timing
SMBs are most likely (14%) to buy new (or upgrade) cellphones this year, followed by printers and PCs (tied at 13%). 24% will buy new PCs in 2017, followed by cellphones (23%) and printers (19%).
Even better for vendors in these three categories, they have the shortest purchase cycle. 28% of SMBs decide on a specific printer within one week, as do 26% for cellphones and 24% for PCs.
On the software side, SMB are most likely to invest this year in inventory management, marketing automation and survey administration (tied at 8%). In 2017, SMBs are most likely to invest in website analytics (8%), followed by mobile payments and marketing automation (tied at 7%).
Connecting with SMBs
How can you connect with these potential buyers? SMBs are most likely to first learn about new technology solutions from fellow business owners – 35% of respondents are likely or very likely to use their peers, followed by events and trade shows (27%), an email newsletter (26%), newspapers and magazines (23%) and the resources (as opposed to the product) section of your website.
To conduct research, SMBs are most likely to use search (32%), ask peers (31%), and attend events (27%). To make an actual purchase decision, they rely on peers first (27%), then search (26%), events (21%), the product section of your site (21%) and the resources section of your site (17%).
What are you doing to capitalize on the trust SMBs have in their peers? At a minimum, providing a range of case studies and testimonials allows your prospects to see how businesses like theirs benefit from your offerings.
Tech purchase drivers
SMBs are most likely to invest in tech in order to improve data security. 51% rate that as important, followed by improving performance / business processes (46%), taking advantage of growth opportunities (40%), and keeping up with changes in their customers’ use of tech (39%).
SMBs are most likely to buy printers directly from the manufacturer, and most likely to buy servers and storage from a tech consultant. In general, the more complex the solution, the more likely an SMB is to buy it from a consultant.
That said, most SMBs don’t have a tech consultant. Among those that do, however, a Managed Service Provider (MSP, 22%) is most common, followed by a full-service hardware / software consultant (14%).
SMBs’ trust in their consultants varies; 92% trust their “break / fix” hardware repair consultant, while 86% trust their full-service consultant. 76% trust their phone system consultant, and 71% trust their MSP.
Brand awareness and trust
As you might imagine, SMB awareness of various tech brands varies widely. 78% are aware of very aware of Google and Amazon, followed closely by Microsoft (76%), PayPal (72%) and HP (71%). However trust in tech brands does not exactly correlate with awareness; Amazon is most trusted (62%), followed by Microsoft and Intel (tied at 60%), and IBM and PayPal (tied at 58%).
Boosting trust – and sales
What can you do to increase trust in your brand – and thus SMB sales? Well, start by making your pricing simple and all-inclusive. 61% of SMBs rate that as an important aspect of purchasing technology, just ahead of low lifetime cost (60%), easy to set up / implement and proven technology (tied at 58%), and easy to learn / use (57%).
How well do tech vendors in general actually perform on these aspects? The biggest difference is in low lifetime cost – 60% say it is important, but only 36% rate their vendors well on
this dimension. Likewise 56% say low initial cost is important, while only 38% are satisfied with tech vendors in this area.
Despite the pricing perception mismatch, though, most SMBs are satisfied with technology; 54% agree that their tech investments have been positive overall.
The role of content in selling tech to SMBs
While many aspects of selling technology to SMBs are difficult for a marketing department to change, content is a relatively easy and inexpensive tactic to boost SMB traffic, trust and transactions. 67% of SMBs agree that business management advice makes them think more favorably of the vendor that provided it; 61% agree that content makes them more likely to buy from that vendor and 65% agree that it makes them more likely to remain a customer.
The content SMBs want from you
Unsurprisingly, SMBs want advice on technology from technology companies. They are also interested in tips on operations and financial planning and management. Ultimately, they look to you for advice on how to be more productive, effective and profitable.
In terms of formats, SMBs most want an email newsletter from tech companies, followed by printed booklets or guides, research reports, white papers, articles and case studies.