Bredin Report: Who Researches Technology within SMBs?

One of the questions we are asked frequently is who within SMBs is responsible for researching technology. For example, is it best to target sales and marketing efforts on a principal such as the CEO, President or Owner; an IT decision-maker; or someone else?

To find out, we recently fielded an SMB Pulse survey of 500 principals of U.S. companies with up to 500 employees. We asked respondents to select which of 18 roles is primarily responsible for research in each of nine major tech categories. The responses highlight differences by company size, as well as by type of technology, that have significant implications for targeting.

Primary Researcher

Who is the primary person who researches and/or assesses products or services for your business, for each of these categories?

SMBs Researchers by product categories

All researchers totaling 5% or more (N=500)

The biggest takeaway is that at SMBs with fewer than 20 employees (very small businesses, or VSBs), the principal is the primary researcher. No fewer than 77% of principals identify themselves as the primary researcher across all nine of the categories we assessed, and as many as 86%. This means that at VSBs, your sales and marketing efforts should focus on the principal. Because VSB principals are so time-starved, it’s imperative that your communications be comprehensible and benefit- (as opposed to feature-) oriented; you need to avoid jargon and make it easy for them to understand how your solution will help them achieve their business goals.

The situation is a bit more complicated at SMBs with 20 to 99 employees (small businesses, or SBs). Roughly half of SB principals identify themselves as the primary researcher. Other significant roles include the head of IT (22% for security solutions, 12% for telecoms, 11% for office tech and 7% for videoconferencing); head of HR (19%) for HR apps; CPA (16%) for finance apps; and the head of marketing (13%) for marketing apps. This means that while targeting SB principals is important, it is also important to target relevant functional heads. SBs (and especially functional heads within SBs) will consume longer, more feature-oriented communications than VSBs will; be sure to give them the details they need around costs, implementation, integration, training, upgrade paths, etc.

Targeting the primary researcher is even more complicated among SMBs with 100 to 500 employees (midsized businesses, or MBs). Roughly two in five MB principals identify themselves as the primary researcher. Other significant roles include the head of HR (32%) for HR apps; head of IT (27% for security solutions, 20% for telecoms, 14% for office tech and 11% for videoconferencing); head of marketing (23%) for marketing apps; and the head of finance (20% for finance apps; 10% for payment solutions). So while the principal remains the best target at MBs, as with SBs, it is also important to target relevant functional heads with rich, relevant and comprehensible product information.

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 and social posts 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.