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The art and science of reaching small businesses with your marketing

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Eighty percent of U.S. companies have fewer than nine employees, and with 23 million small businesses in the U.S. alone, marketers are spending considerable time and money trying to reach this massive group. Gaining traction with small businesses means marketers can't simply rely on methods such as programmatic buying and billboard ads. Now more than ever, they need a well-rounded strategy, from actionable data to thoughtful content that focuses on helping small businesses succeed. The social media explosion is one reason for this shift. SMBs have evolved from embracing social media as a tool for building personal relationships to leveraging it as a trusted resource for building their businesses. For marketers, this is an opportunity to deliver insight and best practices that help small businesses grow. It's not just any content that will work, however. To be successful, marketers should:
  • Provide a helping hand. Building relationships with small businesses doesn't necessarily begin in a traditional manner anymore. Now, influence can come through advice offered in e-newsletters or blog posts. The key to success is not showcasing products and services, but providing guidance to help small businesses. Offering concrete tips on how to expand a business based on real experiences and including easy-to-follow financial directions positions marketers as thought leaders. Consistently adding fresh, relevant content on topics such as customer engagement or the latest marketing strategies helps foster trust and a mutually beneficial relationship with small businesses.
  • Do a data dive. How do marketers ensure they distribute information that resonates with small businesses to keep them engaged? One of the best practices is to gather data relevant to the SMB audience and deliver great insights No fancy tools are required; simple surveys conducted through online forums can provide snapshots of sales trends and identify small businesses' pain points. Armed with the newest data, marketers are better positioned to offer solutions, brainstorming sessions and technical advice.
  • Give them a test run. Once thought leadership is established, marketers can focus on taking the relationship to the next level so that small businesses become advocates for companies and products that are helping them grow. By introducing free trials and services, companies can build loyalty among the small-business community while at the same time gaining valuable feedback on the products and services they are providing.
Marketers need to remember that regarding small businesses, those that adapt by establishing direct relationships with SMBs, engaging in new, more meaningful ways, will reap tremendous benefits. Joe Lesniak is VP-strategic sales at Manta, which operates an online community focused on small businesses. He can be reached at jlesniak@manta.com.
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