Bredin Report: What do SMBs want in your content?

Each month, we survey 500 SMB principals to keep track of their evolving needs and priorities. We recently asked what they want in content from vendors like you. The results are intriguing:

  • Overall, SMBs most want your content to be easy to understand. It’s the single most important content attribute across all respondents, although preference varies slightly by company size: 66% of very small businesses (VSBs, <20 employees), 61% of small businesses (SBs, 20 to 99 employees) and 68% of mid-sized businesses (MBs, 100 to 500 employees) rate content comprehensibility very important. Making your content easy to understand really means taking the perspective of your audience: don’t use jargon or terminology they might not understand, and don’t assume that they are familiar with your product category or the topic at hand. That said, be sure you don’t talk down to your audience; any small business that has survived the Great Recession and now COVID-19 is has a lot on the ball; they just might not be an expert in the topic of your content.
  • After comprehensibility, SMBs, regardless of size, want your content to explain clearly the benefits of your offerings: 61% of VSBs, 55% of SBs and 68% of MBs rate this very important. This means not only being clear about what your offerings are (while avoiding jargon) and how they differ from each other, but who specifically they are for and how much a customer will benefit. To the degree that you can provide specific numbers or a range, helping your prospects understand how much money or time they will save, for example, or how many new customers they might obtain, or how much more secure their data will be, will make your case much more motivating. Providing examples of customers in their industry, or an interactive tool that lets them calculate specific benefits for their company, can make your benefits much more relevant and compelling.
  • The third-most important content attribute is well-written: 56% of VSBs, 53% of SBs and 61% of MBs rate this very important. Be sure your writers use good basic writing skills like varying sentence length and structure, and avoiding passive voice.

How important are each of these aspects of vendor content, including both their product information and their business management tips and advice? (% very important)

  • For VSBs, the fourth-most important content attribute is that the writer understands SMBs (51% rate this very important). Your content should provide practical, actionable advice that is feasible given their resource constraints, and ideally is tailored to their industry.
  • For SBs, the fourth-most important content attribute is a tie between doesn’t do a hard sell and well-designed/produced (49%). While your content is all ultimately in support of a sale (or retention), it should enable your audience to conclude on their own that your advice and offerings will help them achieve their business goals.
  • For MBs, in-depth advice is tied with well-written as the third-most important content attribute. MBs will take more time to engage with longer-form content than time-starved VSBs and SBs, so if you’re targeting larger SMBs, give them more detail in your content, or use longer-form elements such as reports and white papers.
  • The least-important content attribute? For VSBs and SBs, it is including photos of people who look like me (14% and 23%, respectively). Imagery can humanize your written content, and the good news is that individual SMBs aren’t too concerned that it reflects their age, race or gender. That said, be careful that your imagery for VSBs, for example, doesn’t look too corporate (and vice versa). For MBs, the least important content attribute is that it is written by a vendor employee (42%). While we generally like to use employee bylines as a way to demonstrate your knowledge of your audience’s concerns, content quality is much more important to SMBs than the author.

Need help engaging SMBs? Bredin can help you develop high-value content to boost SMB awareness, brand perception, leads, conversion and revenue. We can also conduct quick-turn, actionable market research to provide insight into your audience’s content preferences, or to generate data for use in high-value content and PR programs.

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.