Marketing to small business heats up

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As the nation celebrated "Small Business Week" May 17â€"24, many b-to-b marketers launched products and campaigns aimed at the SMB (small-to-midsize business) market.

Among those advertisers debuting campaigns with SMB components were IBM Corp., Intel Corp. and Office Depot.

The SMB market spends more than $75 billion a year on technology, according to a study released in May by Yahoo! and Grey Worldwide, San Francisco.

The study found that SMB decision-makers spend more than five hours a day consuming information from various media, including print, online, radio and TV. They spend the most time with the Internet, according to the study.

When asked what factors are "very important" when making technology purchase decisions, 90% of SMBs listed "reliability," 83% cited "high quality" and 79% said they wanted the product to be "trustworthy." The research was conducted by IDC.

Expanding on the theme of Small Business Week, Office Depot launched a major integrated ad campaign designating the month of May "Small Business Month."

"We looked at Small Business Week as an opportunity to speak to small businesses and create some excitement in-store for the entire month," said David Abelman, VP-retail marketing at Office Depot.

The campaign was developed by BBDO New York and included TV, print, online, radio and in-store promotions. Print ads ran in publications including Fortune Small Business, Inc. and Business 2.0.

As part of the effort, Office Depot partnered with Hewlett-Packard Co. to offer customers special deals on HP products such as computers, digital cameras, printers, ink and toner.

The campaign also featured a contest called "Work Hard, Play Hard," which offered a free trip for two to Las Vegas.

The goal of the campaign was to drive small-business owners and technology buyers to Office Depot stores, and Abelman said the campaign far exceeded expectations. He declined to give exact numbers.

IBM goes after mid-market

Also last month, IBM Software Group launched a campaign targeting vertical segments, one of which is the SMB market.

The campaign was developed by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, and is an extension of the "Middleware Is Everywhere" campaign rolled out last year. It includes print, online and outdoor.

Ads targeting the SMB market promote IBM’s Express Portfolio of software for the mid-market.

"The SMB market is critical," said Ann Rubin, director of integrated marketing communications at IBM Software Group. "It is one of the fastest-growing segments for us and represents a fertile area for new customers."

IBM is also targeting the SMB market on its Web site, with case studies, resources and a "solution profiler" geared for small-to-midsize businesses.

Also in May, Intel Corp. launched an ad campaign aimed at enterprise technology buyers, with a strong component for the SMB market.

The campaign was developed by Euro RSCG MVBMS, New York, and promotes Intel Centrino mobile technology, Pentium 4, Xeon and Itanium 2 processors.

A series of ads targeted at small-business decision-makers is running in Fortune Small Business, Inc. and Business 2.0.

"The SMB market is extremely important to Intel," said Sean Connolly, worldwide advertising manager for the company. "It is a segment we do a lot of marketing to."

The small-business ads describe how Intel can solve specific business problems, such as improving worker productivity with Centrino mobile technology.

"We try to make sure they understand how Intel’s core technologies can be applied to their business, and we try to tailor our messages so they understand the short-term ROI," Connolly said.

As part of the campaign, Intel is partnering with Forbes on an editorial pullout section on Wi-Fi technology in the June 21 issue. The section will discuss how Wi-Fi serves as a central communications tool to make businesses and managers more productive.

Also last month, EMC entered the small-business market with a low-price storage product called the Clariion AX100, and PeopleSoft introduced PeopleSoft World Express, a suite of software and services for small businesses.

In other research released last month, Web services firm Interland reported the results of its "Spring 2004 Business Barometer of Online Activities," a nationwide survey of online usage by companies with Web sites.

Web sites top critical list

Topping the list of marketing tools that small-business owners consider "critical" to driving business was Web sites (69%), followed by search engine keywords (36%) and community relations (35%).

Other marketing tools considered "critical" by small businesses were e-mail marketing (24%), direct mail (22%) and the Yellow Pages (12%).

At the bottom of the list of critical marketing tools were newspaper advertising (5%), outdoor advertising (4%) and print coupons (2%), the survey found.

Respondents could select more than one marketing tool in their responses.

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