Creating Meaningful Relationships with Small Business

Creating Meaningful Relationships with Small Business

This post, originally entitled B2-SmallB: APerspective, was written by Judy Rudolph Begehr, Senior Vice President of Account Planning for Gyro, and was featured in our June/July 2012 issue of Connect Magazine.

B2-SmallB : A Perspective

As a member of the Enterprise Council on Small Business(ECSB) for the last three years, Gyro has access to a wealth of proprietary research and has developed substantial institutional knowledge on the art and science of creating meaningful engagement with the SMB (small and medium sized businesses). In general terms, the following insights reflect common attitudes and behaviors of the SMB decision maker.

The entrepreneur’s go-to location for information on products and services is the seller’s website, followed closely by word-of-mouth from other business owners. To deliver a positive online media experience, marketers should focus on the elements of experience that matter – not only to drive purchases but also positive word-of-mouth. According to recent research by ECSB, two tiers of elements in the online experience matter most.

The “tier 1” elements that matter include: being efficient (responds quickly, anticipates my needs, provides backup communication options), and being customer oriented (understanding my business and respecting my time). The “tier 2” elements provide greater specificity around building a good online experience.

In general, the SMB is a loyal group that identifies most with other owners in their industry, suggesting that vertical segmentation is an ideal approach to targeting small businesses. But market shifts can reverse the small business owner’s predisposition to loyalty, causing him to re-evaluate established vendor relationships, often in favor of local suppliers.

An important insight into the small business owner psyche was uncovered by ECSB around the desire to buy local. Seems it’s less about an affinity for local providers, and more about an aversion for national providers. Behind this predisposition are two critical drivers: convenience and relationship. Messaging to the small business owner will have greater impact if it’s crafted to directly address these drivers. It should clearly demonstrate how your offering provides positive business impact, while providing assurance of prompt, readily available service by an organization that not only knows their industry but also understands their business.

Most small business owners are worried about holding on to their own customers and keeping their businesses afloat. Business-to-business purchase decisions often are propelled on an emotional level by risk avoidance. It’s important to gather insights on your audiences’ specific pain points and, particularly, their fears. It’s emotional selling 101.

According to ECSB, solving the small business owner’s fears drives trust. Trust can lead to a sense of control. The greatest source of power in building trust is reliably delivering on your brand promise and providing an experience that makes the small business owner feel certain that you understand what they need and that you’ll deliver what they need fast.

Because budgets are smaller, there’s greater scrutiny over every expense. The SMB owner makes purchase decisions through the goggles of an internal “success filter” – if they see the product or service will help them succeed, they’re more likely to make the purchase. Audience insights should be used to communicate with SMB audiences in ways that clearly, and, if possible, tangibly demonstrate the value of your offering based on their business needs.

According to ECSB research, at the highest level, many small business owners measure their success based on mastery of their trade. Beneath this level, small business owners cluster by their success driver, each with unique profiles and messaging hot buttons.

ECSB research suggests that additional things can be done through messaging to enhance the perception of value and to expand relationships with local small business customers. These include: personalize your communications, highlight length of relationships (example: American Express’s “Member Since”) and your historical quality, and tailor your messaging to resonate not only with the persona, but also the geographic region.

It is critical to nurture and protect all existing relationships to leverage the small business owner’s tendency to stick with those they trust. Shore up your loyal local customers, reinforce their decision to work with your brand and, as ECSB says, “make your customers your local presence by mobilizing your local advocates.”

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