From special promotions to raise brand awareness to creating online resource centers for the small-business segment, marketers are creating new opportunities for this segment.
Visa USA, for example, has aggressively been targeting the small-business sector over the last few years with a series of campaigns, promotions and Web programs.
"Small business is very important to Visa," said Howard DeBow, VP-promotion and loyalty marketing at Visa. "We put a lot of resources behind small business marketing."
$5 trillion in SMB spending
According to a Visa study conducted last year, small businesses spent nearly $5 trillion on nonpayroll expenditures in 2006.
In October, Visa launched a Web site at www.bizbreakthrough.com featuring advice from small-business experts, online video clips profiling small-business owners, a contest for small businesses, articles and tips.
And in May, the company rolled out a promotion for small businesses called "Visa Business Package," with a grand prize of $250,000 in cash and other prizes including products from Microsoft Corp. and Dell.
Marketers are also partnering with media companies that have launched special sections or sites dedicated to small businesses.
CMP, for example, last year launched SmallBizResource.com, an information site and online community for businesses with one to 10 employees.
The site contains articles, tips, blogs, an e-newsletter, a public forum operated by Yahoo and free consulting advice from SCORE, a group of small-business consultants.
"We know that our clients have a challenge in reaching the small-business market," said Kate Spellman, publisher of SmallBizResource.com. "In the past, companies have targeted small businesses with enterprise solutions or consumer information, but there have not been many business and technology solutions for small businesses."
The site is designed as a resource for small business customers to get technology and business advice to help them grow their businesses.
Several b-to-b marketers, including AMD, CompUSA, Eastman-Kodak Co., Pitney Bowes and Symantec Inc., are running ads and promotions on SmallBizResource.com.
AMD, for example, has developed a shopping tool for the site that lets small-business customers compare different computer products and buy specially configured systems through online retail stores such as Circuit City, CompUSA and Dell.
"One of our key initiatives in 2006 was to reach the SOHO [small office/home office] market," said Grazia Ruskin, manager of online programs for worldwide consumer marketing programs at AMD. Her job also includes small business marketing.
"AMD's interest [in SmallBizResource.com] was to tie into the technology and IT issues that small-business owners are faced with—and make hardware and software technology easy to find and locate—as well as help them through the decision-making process," she said.
In addition to the product comparison tool on SmallBizResource.com, AMD also runs banner ads on the site and places ads in its e-newsletter.
It has also introduced its own microsites for small businesses (such as www.AMD.com/ homeoffice and www.AMD.com/helpmedecide), which are designed to address the business and technology needs of small-business owners.
Dell is another company interested in marketing to small businesses. Among its strategies is debuting microsites that show how it is helping small-business customers succeed.
Dell's Ironman microsite
For example, last year Dell launched www.dell.com/ironman, a microsite developed by Austin, Texas-based T3.
The site illustrates how Dell technology helped the 15-person World Triathlon Corp. put on the Ford Ironman World Championship, a competition in which 1,800 of the world's best athletes compete.
The site is a multimedia experience showcasing online videos, music, interviews, an interactive course map and other features that bring the technology to life. Small businesses are encouraged to share their success stories on the site.
"Sometimes a large company can look like they're always trying to sell to you. This site talks about how Dell is helping small businesses and is focused more on the human side than the transactional side," said Gay Gaddis, president-CEO of T3.
T3 recently launched an agency service called Big that aids Fortune 500 companies in marketing to small businesses.
T3 has also developed Dell customer microsites for CHF International (Community, Habitat and Finance), Curb Records, E Solutions and Gearbox Software.
New services and communities
Other media properties are introducing new services and communities aimed at small businesses as well.
Business.com, a business search engine, in October debuted Work.com, a resource for small businesses that offers how-to guides on topics such as hiring employees and accounting. It also features advice from experts and links to small business resources.
"We found that small-business people were really struggling to find information," said Todd Sims, VP-corporate development at Business.com.
"They were finding that either their search results were not really tailored to their specific needs or the articles were not really actionable."
"The how-to guides take the best elements of wikis, blogs and collaborative directories to help small businesspeople understand a problem and find the best resources on the Net to solve that problem."