How does marketing content affect small and mid-sized business (SMB) visits to your site, their likelihood to buy and their perception of your brand? What business challenges do SMBs seek help with? What topics are SMBs most interested in learning about? What content formats do they want from marketers? From whom do they most want content? Where are they most likely to find it? What do they like best (and least) about marketing content? What kind of content is most likely to generate a lead?
To answer these questions, we recently surveyed 315 U.S. SMB principals. The results are instructive; there are some great learnings on how you can enhance your SMB content marketing program.
Business outlook: Things are looking up
SMBs are feeling very positive about 2017. Almost two in three expect to grow this year: 38% by double digits, and 27% by single digits. 28% expect sales to be the same as 2016.
Business challenges: Acquisition, as always
SMBs rate ‘finding new customers’ their biggest business challenge, as has been the case for as long as we’ve asked this question. SMBs will beat a path to your door if you can help them grow their business. Their second biggest challenge is ‘managing costs,’ and the third is ‘retaining current customers.’ The lowest-ranked challenge? ‘Developing new products and services.’
Despite the challenge of new customer acquisition, SMBs are most interested in learning about their industry – which could mean updates on relevant technology, regulations and trends. After that, they are interested in technology – which makes sense, since technology has so many cost and productivity implications for their businesses. After technology, they are most interested in learning about sales and marketing.
That said, the content SMBs want depends who’s providing it. When asked specifically what topics they want from their bank, SMBs are most interested in financial planning and management, then technology, then law and taxes. SMBs look to you for advice in your brand domain.
In terms of how they want their content, SMBs most prefer forums. Forums enable SMBs to get tips and advice from their peers, who other Bredin research has shown are the most important source for SMBs to learn about, research and make a purchase decision on products and services for their business.
After forums, SMBs like email newsletters; print collateral (for example at meetings and events); and checklists or worksheets, which can help an entrepreneur develop tailored action plans or product selections.
Want your content to drive leads?
SMBs are most willing to provide contact information to sign up for a peer-to-peer forum (29%), followed by an email newsletter (27%), print collateral (25%) and a checklist or worksheet (22%). 50% of SMBs agree that they give the sponsoring company permission to contact them by providing contact information.
SMBs most want content from…
Their peers. 35% of SMBs want content from other SMB principals, compared to their CPA (32%), hardware and software companies (24%), and marketing services providers (21%).
What SMBs most want in content:
Clarity. 76% of SMBs say that “easy to understand” is a somewhat or extremely important aspect of marketing content, followed by “clearly describes the benefit of the product or service” (73%) and “provides information on a product or service I’m interested in” (69%). The least important aspect of marketing content? “It is in a new or unique format” (25%).
Effect of content marketing
Content marketing can have a powerful impact on SMB purchase propensity and brand perception. 34% feel more positively about a brand that provides marketing content, 29% are more likely to visit a vendors’ site if it has marketing content, and 23% are more likely to do business with a company that provides marketing content.