Selling to SMBs: One Size Does Not Fit All

We recently surveyed 318 SMBs to determine which sources of information they use first learn about, conduct research on and finally make a purchase decision on products and services for their business. While the similarities among SMBs are impressive – for example, peers rate high across the board – the differences between types of SMBs is at least as instructive. Our full report provides details; here are highlights:

Smaller companies lag

Businesses with fewer than 20 employees are less likely expect growth in 2016 than their larger peers. They are also significantly less likely to learn about new products and services, conduct research, and make a final purchase decision via every single one of the 35 sources of information we asked about – except peers. These time-starved very small business owners are also less interested in engaging with a salesperson – at any point in the sales cycle; and less interested in hearing from you on an ongoing basis, whether as a prospect or a customer. The larger the business, the more likely they are to rely on employees and external consultants for product investigation.

…as do no-growth companies

Perhaps not surprisingly, no-growth companies (those expecting that 2016 sales will be the same or less than 2015) are also much less likely to seek out, research and buy new products and services for their business than their peers – even via their peers. Like very small businesses, no-growth businesses are also less interested in engaging with a salesperson, and less interested in hearing from you on an ongoing basis. Their consistency with very small businesses is not surprising, given that many very small businesses have low growth expectations.

…and baby boomers

We divided respondents into Millennials (18-34), Gen X (35-49) and Baby Boomers (50+, for simplicity). Growth expectations decline with age: 47% of Millennials expect double-digit growth this year, versus 40% of Gen Xers and only 19% of boomers. The older the respondent is, the less likely they are to seek out, research and buy new products and services for their business; the less interested they are in engaging with a salesperson, and the less they want to hear from you on an ongoing basis.

This same pattern holds true with company age, by the way; the older the company, in general, the lower their growth expectations, and receptivity to or interest in all kinds of information sources.

Gender differences

Women business owners are more likely to use a wide range of media to learn about, research and make a purchase decision on products and services for their business. In particular, they are more likely than men to use analyst and research reports, direct mail, ebooks and social media at all stages of the sales cycle. They are also somewhat more receptive than men are to keeping in touch with vendors on an ongoing basis.

And the “cool brands” are…

Brand perception varies widely among respondents. For example, among companies with 100 to 500 employees, Adobe rates highest, with 65% rating it 4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale – followed by Verizon (62%), Google (61%), PayPal (60%) and Office Depot / OfficeMax (59%). Fast-growth companies also rate Adobe highest (66%), followed by PayPal, Google and UPS (tied at 62%), and FedEx (59%). Among Millennial business owners, however, Google and Microsoft tie for top-rated brand (at 91%); followed by PayPal and Sony (tied at 85%) and eBay (79%).

Get the details on your brand – and on how different kinds of SMBs can be engaged most effectively – with our detailed report on Selling to SMBs in 2016.

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.