Bredin Report: Selling SaaS to SMBs, Part 2

Last time, we discussed what applications SMBs use in the cloud, their cloud adoption plans, and the key drivers of cloud adoption. Our survey of 500 SMB principals via the Bredin SMB Pulse yielded many additional insights on selling SaaS to SMBs, though, including how they learn about, research and decide on SaaS solutions, what they want from SaaS vendors, and how to utilize content to move a SaaS sale forward.

The results can provide useful direction for your (or your partners’) SMB SaaS marketing activity.

Information sources

We asked SMBs to rate the sources of information they use at the awareness, research and purchase stages of the SaaS solution sales cycle. Across the board, search is most important tool; it’s extremely important to ensure that your content – or the content that you provide your partners – is search-optimized. Companies with fewer than 20 employees (very small businesses, or VSBs) like 1:1 connections as a way to learn about new SaaS solutions; after search, they are most likely to rely on their network, friends and family, and events and trade shows.

Companies with 100 to 500 employees (mid-sized businesses, or MBs) are different. Instead of search, they are most likely to become aware of SaaS solutions via YouTube. At the research stage, they are most likely to use an IT consultant. And they are most likely to use YouTube to make a purchase decision – for example by watching a demo, testimonial, review or case study.

Here’s how the stages break down, by company size:

  • Awareness: VSBs and companies with 20 to 99 employees (small businesses, or SBs) are most likely to use search to first learn about SaaS solutions, followed by their network/other business owners. MBs are much heavier users of social media; after YouTube, they are most likely to learn about SaaS solutions via Twitter and Instagram.
  • Research: As at the awareness stage, search and peers are the top two information sources for VSBs and SBs. MBs are most likely to ask an IT consultant, followed by using Facebook and Instagram.
  • Purchase: As with awareness and research, search is the leading source of information to make a purchase decision for VSBs and SBs. However, SBs are equally likely to consult with their IT staff. MBs are most likely to use YouTube, followed by their IT staff and an IT consultant.

Cloud adoption drivers

VSBs and SBs rate “integrates with your other applications” the most important aspect of a SaaS solution, while MBs rate “high ratings or positive reviews” most important. MBs rate almost every attribute significantly more important than VSBs do, reflecting the importance of SaaS solutions to larger SMBs.

Channel preference

Four in five SMBs prefer to buy cloud solutions direct from a vendor, as opposed to from an IT reseller, partner or managed service provider. There is no real difference in channel preference by company size. If you sell SaaS software directly to SMBs, it’s essential to make the purchase process simple. If you sell via partners, it’s critical to help them communicate the value they bring in selecting, implementing and supporting SaaS solutions.
Vendor preferences

In general, SMBs want cloud vendors to help them get the most from their solution. That means educating them post-purchase on how all users can benefit from your solution – whether that is from content on your site or in-app tutorials. It also means ensuring, pre-purchase, that your prospects understand you’ll be there to help them once they’ve selected your solution.

However, SBs and MBs most want business management advice from their SaaS vendor – meaning, for example, not just how to use your email marketing solution, but how to write an effective email or develop a great email marketing list.

The role of content

In terms of presenting that advice, SMBs most want it via an email newsletter. While that may seem old school, email still works remarkably well as a way to engage SMBs, especially VSBs and SBs. After email, VSBs like articles, YouTube and research reports, while SBs prefer webcasts and YouTube. For their part, MBs most prefer YouTube, followed by Twitter and white papers. The net? It’s critical to understand you audience’s content preferences so you can reach them effectively.

What do SMBs want advice on? It depends on their company size. VSBs most want advice on sales and marketing, while SBs want advice on technology, and MBs want financial planning and management tips. However, the content you should provide also depends on the kind of solution you provide. Other Bredin research has shown that SMBs look to you for expertise within your brand domain – so focus on tips and advice that are relevant to your offering.

Need help understanding and/or engaging SMBs? Bredin can keep you up to date on evolving SMB needs and challenges through quick-turn, actionable market research. We can also help you develop high-value content to boost SMB awareness, brand perception, leads, conversion and revenue.

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.