Bredin Report: How SMBs Research Your Offerings, by Industry and Age

One of the questions we get most often is which resources small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) use to learn about products and services for their business. Our clients want data-driven recommendations on where they should be promoting themselves at the consideration stage of the sales cycle. To find out, we recently fielded an SMB Pulse survey of 500 principals of U.S. companies with up to 500 employees.

Although the top three resources are similar across industries, there are interesting differences in research resource preferences by industry group. Search is the most popular overall, and among professional services, retail/wholesale companies, and manufacturers. Word of mouth is second overall, although first for personal services and education firms. And Facebook is third, regardless of industry – although professional services firms are equally likely to rely on YouTube.

This begs the question, of course, how you are implementing your product information to best support search, word of mouth and Facebook. For word of mouth in particular, SMBs will ask their peers about the sales and implementation process, customer support, the user experience and cost/value. Be sure you understand what’s important to SMBs in the adoption and use of your product or service so that you can optimize their experience and motivate them to become your evangelists.

Research Resource Preference by Industry

How likely are you to use each of these specific information sources to research and/or assess products or services for your business?

How likely are you to use each of these specific information sources to research and, or assess products or services for your business by industry (PERCENT VERY LIKELY)

% very likely (N=500)

  • Professional Services (PS): Advertising/Consulting/Design/Marketing Services, Architect/Engineering, Banking/Insurance/Mortgage, Computer Services/Consulting, Computer Software/Internet, Financial Services/Accounting/Bookkeeping, Legal, Medical/Dental, Publishing/Printing/Media
  • Retail/Wholesale (RW): Entertainment/Recreation, Food/Beverage/Restaurants, Real Estate, Retail, Travel/Hotel/Hospitality, Wholesale
  • Manufacturing (M): Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing/Mining, Automotive, Computer Hardware/Electronic Equipment, Construction/Contracting/Electrical/Landscape/Plumbing/etc., Energy/Utilities, Manufacturing, Pharmaceutical/Medical Devices/Biotechnology, Telecommunications, Transportation and Warehousing
  • Personal Services/Education (PE): Personal Services, Education/Training

We also looked at how research resource preferences vary by respondent age – which we defined as Gen Z/Millennial (ages 18-38), Gen X (39-54), and Boomer/Silent Generation (55+). As with the industry groups, search and word of mouth are first and second for all three groups, although Gen X and Boomers slightly favor word of mouth. Facebook is third for Millennials and Gen X; Boomers prefer the product section of your web site, or general business and news web sites.

It’s interesting how research activity decreases with age. Gen Z/Millennials are more likely to use every resource we surveyed than their older peers, with the exceptions of word of mouth, the product section of your site, LinkedIn, email newsletters, webinars, rating or review sites, and one-off emails (all of which are used equally, or slightly more, by Gen X). As a result, your media options to reach Millennials (and to a lesser degree Gen X) are varied, while Boomers are best reached via only a relatively few media.

Research Resource Preference by Generation

How likely are you to use each of these specific information sources to research and/or assess products or services for your business?

How likely are you to use each of these specific information sources to research and, or assess products or services for your business by generation (PERCENT VERY LIKELY)

% very likely (N=500)

Understanding the resources your audience prefers – whether you define them by size, industry or some other way – is essential to reaching them with the information they need to evaluate, and ultimately decide on, your solution to their business needs.

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.