Resource centers – like the American Express OPEN Forum, the FedEx Small Business Center, the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Resource Center and the Microsoft U.S. SMB blog – are powerful tools to attract and engage small and midsized businesses (SMBs). They can also represent a significant investment in content development and promotion.
With the competition out there – dozens of resource centers target SMBs – and the expense of a resource center, what should you be doing to maximize the payback on your SMB resource center? If you don’t have one, should you, and how should you optimize it?
The role of resource centers in the sales cycle
We asked SMBs to rate 35 different sources of information they might use to first learn about, conduct research on, and then make a final purchase decision for products and services for their business. Out of all of those, SMBs rate resource centers fourth for awareness, and eighth for research and sixth when making a purchase decision. Resource centers can play a very important role across the whole SMB sales cycle.
Visit frequency and duration
SMBs invest significant time per resource center visit – almost 9 in 10 spend more than 10 minutes per visit. 38% spend 10 to 30 minutes per visit, 32% spend 30 minutes to an hour, and 17% spend more than an hour. 35% engage with two or three content elements (e.g. an article, video, blog post, quiz) per visit; 38% engage with four or five.
The net? A resource center can be an outstanding way to capture the undivided attention of busy SMBs.
Preferred topics and formats
SMBs are most likely to visit a resource center for information on their industry (77%), followed by financial planning and money management, and technology (tied at 76%). They are next-most interested in business development / sales and marketing, and law and taxes (tied at 75%).
SMBs look to their vendors for advice on topics relevant to their brand. They look to banks, for example, for advice on financial management; tech companies for advice on technology; and marketing services firms for advice on customer acquisition and retention.
In terms of formats, SMBs are most interested in checklists and worksheets (76%); followed by analyst and research reports (tied at 73%); and articles, eBooks or guides, and video (tied at 72%).
Who SMBs want resource centers from
SMBs most want a resource center from credit card companies (68%), technology hardware manufacturers (67%) and software companies (66%), followed by cellphone service providers, national/regional banks, and local/community banks (tied at 64%).
SMBs interact with resource centers in different ways. The plurality, 41%, have several “favorite” resource centers that they visit regularly. 18% visit one favorite resource center regularly, and 17% are “interrupt-driven,” i.e. they only visit a resource center when prompted by an email newsletter or other referral. 12% only visit a resource center based on a search.
When do SMBs visit a resource center? Two causes bring them most often: When they have a specific business challenge or problem, such as finding new customers, and also when they’re evaluating a company’s products and services (76%). After that, they visit when prompted by a colleague (73%), when following a link from an email newsletter (67%), or based on a banner ad (63%).
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