Making the Most of an SMB Resource Center

Many marketers to the small to mid-sized business (SMB) segment – probably including you – have some kind of resource center. Typically, a resource center includes articles, blog posts and other content formats that provide business management tips and advice, and may link to the product and e-commerce site sections.

Resource centers are often used to support search marketing, in order to bring traffic to a site. But new Bredin research shows that they play a surprisingly important role in helping SMBs research your offerings and make a final purchase decision. In fact, out of 35 marketing tactics we asked about, SMBs rate resource centers sixth most useful for product research and decision-making. When asked where a resource center is most useful in the sales cycle, 23% selected Awareness, 58% selected Research, and 19% selected Purchase. An effective resource center can explain to SMBs how they can benefit from the kinds of offerings you provide.

If you have a resource center, how can you make sure SMBs get the most from it, across the whole sales cycle? These tips can help:

Choose your topics carefully

When asked what their biggest business challenge is, SMBs consistently say “finding new customers.” However, that doesn’t convert to content interest; they are most interested in learning about technology, followed by news about their industry. Sales and marketing content comes in third. That said, the content you provide should reflect your brand and offerings. For example, if you provide marketing services, then customer acquisition and retention should be the focus of your content.

…and your formats, too

Our most recent research found that SMBs rate forums or peer-to-peer exchanges highest for business management advice – followed by email newsletters, print materials and articles. This is a big change from just last fall, when peer-to-peer exchanges came in eighth. However, SMBs’ preference for advice from their peers on forums is very consistent with other Bredin research, which has found that SMBs rate peers the single most useful source of information for product awareness, research and purchase decision-making.

The #1 rule of content: keep it simple

54% of SMBs rate the business management advice that vendors provide as effective or very effective. That means, of course, that almost half of SMBs find little or no value in vendors’ marketing content. How can you improve that? Keep it simple, for starters. SMBs’ single most important criteria for content is that it is easy to understand. That means using plain language, and avoiding jargon and acronyms. It also means making content easy to comprehend through design, for example by using clean layouts, legible font sizes and plenty of white space.

…and relevant

SMBs also want content that is written for someone in their industry, which is how they self-define – much more than they want content for companies of their size. To the degree that you can, tailor your content to your key verticals. Be sure your content provides practical and actionable advice, too. Readers should be able to put this advice to work right away in their business.

…and short

Time-starved SMBs, especially at smaller businesses, want content to be quick to consume. For example, articles should be 400 to 500 words; case studies should be one page; white papers should be two or three pages; and webcasts should be 15 minutes. The easier you make your content to be read, the more it will be.

The payoff: traffic, trust and transactions

What’s the benefit of developing an effective resource center? Increased sales, for one. 31% of SMBs are more likely to visit and explore a site that has marketing content; 33% are more likely to think favorably of a vendor that provides marketing content; and 35% are more likely to do business with a vendor that provides marketing content.

And the winner is… Microsoft

Of the 36 resource centers we asked SMBs about, Microsoft For Your Business rated the highest; 22% rated it useful or very useful. The Intuit QuickBooks Business Center was second, at 20%; followed by the American Express OPEN Forum and the HP Small and Medium Business Center, tied at 17%.

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.