Stephen Smyth is director of member strategy for the Corporate Executive Board's Enterprise Council on Small Business, an organization that provides research and events for companies marketing to small-business executives. BtoB recently spoke to Smyth about trends and best practices in reaching this audience.
BtoB: How are small businesses weathering the slow economic recovery?
Smyth: The biggest trend we've seen in the past couple of years is that small-business owners have reverted back to survival mode. So where they may have been enjoying some growth phases prior to the downtown—they may have had the luxury of working on their business as opposed to working purely in it—[they are now] performing the kinds of tasks that are required to assure their basic survival. They've gotten back to basics. It's affected their capital spend. It's affected their hiring. It's affected really all aspects of their business, but has [had a particular impact on] both spending and hiring.
BtoB: In what areas are small businesses still spending?
Smyth: As a general statement, they seem to be spending still on things that will help them to sell. Finding new leads and finding new sales are their largest pain points right now. The areas they still seem to be still willing to spend money on are [products] or initiatives that will help lessen that pain point.
BtoB: How are marketers currently targeting small-business owners?
Smyth: We just did a study [and found that] marketers have recognized the need to shift their approach. We've seen an increase in pain-point messaging, and we've seen an increase in targeting to nonowners. In the past, a lot of messages were targeted directly to the small-business owners themselves. Now marketers seem to be taking a more broad approach in that they're now recognizing the value and the benefit of marketing to what we refer to as the “insiders”—those who can help to make a recommendation for a product or service that will help the small business.