Bredin Report: What motivates SMBs to buy?

SMB purchase motivators

Each month, Bredin surveys 500 U.S. SMB principals in our shared-client survey the SMB Pulse. Recently, we asked SMBs about the relative importance of a wide range of product and service benefits. While not all of the benefits we surveyed may be relevant to your offerings, the results may still be useful in your SMB marketing efforts.

SMBs say the most important product or service benefit is…

Excellent customer service. On a weighted basis, 44% of respondents rated that extremely important, and another 30% rated it very important. The takeaway? Reassure your prospects (for example through testimonials or case studies) that you’ll be there to support them in the use of your offering.

However, SMBs differ by size in what motivates them to buy. Very small businesses (VSBs – under 20 employees) rate ‘excellent customer service’ most important (44% rate it extremely important) while small businesses (SBs – 20-99 employees) rate both ‘excellent customer service’ and ‘saves time / boosts productivity’ most important (tied at 47%). Meanwhile, mid-sized businesses (MBs, 100-500 employees) rate ‘helps us provide better customer service’ the most important benefit (57%).

What sells VSBs:

After ‘excellent customer service,’ VSBs are most receptive to ‘lowers your costs / expenses’ messaging (39% rate that extremely important), followed by ‘helps us get new customers’ (36%), and ‘saves time / boosts productivity’ and ‘helps us provide better customer service’ (tied at 36%). Least compelling? ‘Integrated suite;’ only 16% rate that extremely important.

Meanwhile, SBs are most receptive to…

After ‘excellent customer service’ and ‘saves time / boosts productivity’, SBs are most receptive to a message of ‘helps us get new customers’ and ‘helps us provide better customer service’ (tied at 45%), followed closely by ‘lowers your costs / expenses’ (44%). Like VSBs, SBs are least motivated by ‘integrated suite;’ only 25% rate that extremely important.

And MBs respond best to…

After ‘helps us provide better customer service,’ MBs respond best to ‘excellent customer service’ and ‘saves time / boosts productivity’ (tied at 54%), ‘excellent ratings and reviews’ (53%), and ‘gives us better insight into our business performance’ (52%). MBs are least motivated by a low-cost pitch; only 41% rate ‘lowest cost in its category’ extremely important.

SMBs vary by industry too…

While all SMBs rate ‘excellent customer service’ the most compelling benefit regardless of industry, Professional Services firms rate ‘saves time / boosts productivity’ second most important (37%); Retail / Wholesale businesses and Manufacturers rate ‘lowers your costs’ second (44% and 51%, respectively), and other SMBs (composed mostly of personal services) rate ‘helps us provide better customer service’ second (34%).

The takeaways

  • Know your prospects. SMBs vary significantly in why they buy. Understand what’s important to them through customer interviews or prospect research; and target your message by company size, industry, role or other persona.
  • Prioritize your message. While it’s tempting to provide a laundry list of benefits in awareness initiatives, be sure you present one clear, distinctive benefit for busy SMBs to latch on to. You can support that with mid-funnel content that elaborates on ancillary features and benefits.

Want to learn more? Get the full list of how SMBs rate 16 different product / service benefits by company size, growth outlook, respondent age and industry group.

About Bredin

Bredin was founded in 1991 by America's foremost small business expert, author and syndicated columnist Alice Bredin. From its beginning, Bredin was designed to be a breed apart: 50% research consultancy, 50% creative agency, 100% focused on SMB. Based in Somerville, Mass., Bredin helps Fortune 500 companies understand, reach and retain SMB customers through timely, targeted research and award-winning marketing programs.