SMB Purchase Intent and Contact Preferences

What do small and midsized businesses (SMBs) plan to purchase, or to do, this year and next? What would they do with extra cash? How long does the purchase process take for different product categories? How do SMBs want marketers like you to contact them to make a sale?

To answer these questions – and many more – we recently surveyed 493 U.S. SMB principals. The results are instructive; there are some great learnings on what SMBs plan to buy in the near term, how long it takes them to make a purchase decision, how they want to be contacted by vendors like you, and how they feel about the brands of leading marketers.

Business outlook: Positive

SMBs are optimistic about 2017 – and their optimism increases with company size. 49% of businesses with fewer than 20 employees expect to grow this year (28% by double digits). 79% of companies with 20 to 99 employees expect to grow (42% by double digits), and fully 85% of companies with 100 to 500 employees expect to grow (54% by double digits).

Purchase intent: Shipping, printing now; cellphones in 2018

In 2017, SMBs are most likely to ship a package overnight, get something printed, and pay down debt. In 2018, SMBs are most likely to buy new cellphones for themselves or their team.

What would you do with an extra $10K?

If SMBs were given an extra $10K, they would use it to pay down debt (18%), buy inventory / raw materials (17%) or buy new computers (12%). They would be least likely to buy office supplies (2%).

Purchase timeframe

SMBs require the least time to make a purchase decision about Internet access; 32% make a decision in a week. The next shortest purchase cycles are for office printers (31%), a business checking account (30%) and cellphone handsets (28%). Retirement plans take the longest to buy; 74% of SMBs take more than a month to decide on a retirement plan.

Contact preferences

SMBs prefer to be contacted first by vendors with a phone call (37%); their second choice for a first contact is an email with an offer or promotion (36%) or an email with a link to marketing content (33%). If they don’t respond to the first outreach, they prefer a phone call (44%), an email with an offer (39%), or an email with a link to marketing content (26%). If they don’t respond to that second touch, they prefer no further contact (39%), a phone call (35%), or a promotional email (21%) as a third attempt.

Conversion tactics

SMBs report that the most impactful materials to help them make a final purchase decision are an email with a special offer (58%), product / service information on your site (46%), or an email newsletter (42%). The best way to accelerate a sale? A promotional email (59%), followed by a recommendation from a peer (58%).

Effect of content marketing

Content marketing can have a powerful impact on SMB site traffic and purchase behavior. 42% are more likely to think favorably of a vendor whose site provides business management tips and advice, 41% are more likely to explore that site, 39% are more likely to buy from that vendor, and 38% are more likely to visit that site..

…and the winner is: PayPal

SMBs rate PayPal the highest in terms of brand favorability, at a 66% top-two box score. The runners-up are UPS (64%), Google (61%), Microsoft (61%) and FedEx (59%).

About Stu Richards

Stu is responsible for setting Bredin strategy, as well as day-to-day management of company operations including marketing and business development, partnerships and alliances, product development, finance, operations and HR. A frequent speaker on marketing to SMBs, Stu has more than a decade of technology sales and brand marketing experience at IBM and Nabisco Brands. Stu holds an MBA from the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College.