Bredin Report: What SMBs Want in AI

Bredin’s recent SMB Pulse research uncovered that SMBs have very different priorities when assessing an AI solution, depending on their size.

Our survey of 500 U.S.-based SMB leaders also identified that business principals are the primary AI decision-makers – regardless of headcount. The only exception is among SMBs with 100 to 500 employees (midsized businesses, or MBs) where the head of IT also plays a significant role in AI selection and purchase decisions.

We also assessed how SMBs prioritize AI attributes.

For very small businesses (VSBs, with fewer than 20 employees), price is the most important purchase consideration — which is often the case with VSBs. It’s the third-most important attribute for small businesses (SBs, with 20 to 99 employees). MBs are not nearly as price sensitive.

For SBs and MBs, customer support is the most important aspect of an AI investment (it’s second for VSBs). They want assurance that their AI vendor will be available to provide training and support to help them get the most from their solution.

The second-most pressing purchase consideration for SBs is return on investment (ROI); they are concerned about getting a strong payback. For their part, MBs rank customization second. They want to feel confident that they can modify a solution to meet their specific needs. After that, they (like VSBs) are most interested in ease of use.

SMB AI Purchase Considerations, Ranked

SMBs AI Purchase Considerations, Ranked by company size

Drilling down into utility provides intriguing nuance for AI marketers. Customization, for instance, has low utility for VSBs — there’s no difference in the value of “not at all customizable” and “very customizable,” and even “highly customizable” only scores a 1 on a 0-7 scale. By contrast, higher customizability has higher utility for MBs, even if the highest utility is only 3.

Across the board, utility generally increases with better customer support and ROI. Increased ease of use has a less linear relationship with utility.

AI Attribute Utility

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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.