Bredin Report: Why You Should Be Talking to SMBs

When was the last time you spoke with an SMB? Not just any SMB, but one who fits your target profile?

If you do, you may learn things like why your customers underutilize your product or service, what causes prospects to abandon transactions on your site, or how to motivate them to switch vendors. In-depth interviews (IDIs) are a powerful research tool to reveal these insights – and many more.

IDIs are one-on-one conversations, typically 30 to 45 minutes long, conducted by market researchers using a carefully crafted questionnaire. They are a uniquely useful way to dig deep into SMB motivations, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs. IDIs can be done in person, by phone or on a video call and a typical project includes between six and 20 or more interviews depending on objectives and budget.

IDIs are not a substitute for quantitative surveys, which provide projectable data on your target market. They also do not provide the interplay between participants that a focus group can deliver. What IDIs can generate is detailed insight into the preferences, experiences or priorities of one individual. That one person can be a customer, a prospect, a competitor’s customer, a purchase influencer, or any other specific type of SMB you want to understand.

With well-run IDIs your team can get actionable information to improve your site or app, your marketing messaging, the usability of your product – and many more valuable insights.

Here are three ways IDIs can improve your SMB acquisition and engagement efforts.

1) Make the most of your quantitative research efforts.

IDIs are a powerful complement to quantitative research. For example, we conducted SMB IDIs in a client’s priority industries recently to assess product feature preferences. We then used the learnings to create a quantitative survey that measured how those feature preferences varied by industry in key theaters worldwide. For another project we conducted IDIs to establish and delineate buyer personas to enhance a client’s SMB acquisition campaign.

IDIs also work well to gather sales claim data. IDIs that gather information from your customers and those of your competitors can test what claims your company can credibly make. You can quantify those benefits in a large-scale survey to obtain defensible sales claim numbers. You can also use IDIs after conducting quantitative research to dig deeper into the “why” of key findings, such as why purchase intent, brand preference and media utilization have changed.

2) Provide deep-dive exploration.

Each IDI is devoted to one participant, so a skilled interviewer can extensively probe the motivations and experiences that affect SMB decision-making. This creates a rare opportunity to burrow into the rationale for each answer. For example, you can assess the purchase process by asking how an SMB does a given task now, what their pain points are, what would motivate them to make a change, who is involved in the purchase process, how long it takes to make a purchase decision – and much more.

As an example, in a recent IDI project we uncovered the reasons that customers who applied for and received a loan didn’t accept the offer. In another, we assessed in detail how very small businesses market themselves, and their reactions to a client’s integrated marketing platform. IDIs are also a great way to assess visual stimuli ranging from a simple concept statement to copy or ad creative to the experience on your site or app.

3) Deliver SMB nuance.

IDIs and focus groups both provide insights into the emotions behind decision-making. However, a focus group involves several business owners “sharing the floor,” which can skew learnings toward a group consensus. Because IDIs are by definition one-on-one, participants are not influenced by other people’s statements and will not feel pressure, for example, to conform to a prevailing consensus. IDIs also free up your SMB interviewee to be forthright about potentially sensitive topics such as financial or security vulnerabilities. SMBs may be more willing to admit a lack of knowledge on certain topics, or mistakes they know they are making, during a private interview than among their peers in a focus group.

Let Bredin‘s SMB research experts help you uncover insights that can transform your go-to-market, product and user experience strategies.

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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.