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Top tips for selling to small businesses

Small to medium-sized businesses are innovative, hardworking and creative. As professionals and people, they are great to work with… provided you get it right! That means marketing effectively and, more importantly, it means a whole-company approach to marketing, sales and service. If you put a little effort in at the beginning, you’ll be rewarded with loyal, passionate clients for many years to come.
Female pottery artist wearing a brown apron and white t-shirt is placing her latest creations on her shop shelves

Small to medium-sized businesses are innovative, hardworking and creative. As professionals and people, they are great to work with… provided you get it right! That means marketing effectively and, more importantly, it means a whole-company approach to marketing, sales and service. If you put a little effort in at the beginning, you’ll be rewarded with loyal, passionate clients for many years to come. And with the World Bank estimating that 90% of the world’s businesses are SMEs, forging positive working relationships with small companies is not an opportunity to pass lightly.

Here’s how to make the most of marketing aimed at small businesses…

Create buyer personas

It’s vital to know who your customers are! Buyer personas help you understand the needs, pains and goals of your customers. Small businesses differ to their larger counterparts; the things that keep them up at night aren’t the same as for corporations. Speak to existing customers and take the time to do your research. That way, you’ll know how best to help.

Be aware too that buyer personas aren’t only for marketing! Make sure everyone in the small business division has access to the personas you create. Circulate them through marketing, sales and service. Everyone will then have a clear understanding of what SMBs expect, and the customer experience will be seamless.

Highlight the benefits, don’t sell features

The people that head up SMBs are not your typical CEO. They rarely wear sharp suits and have a big office. They are the people who founded, run and make decisions about the company day in, day out. You won’t often get that kind of access to a founder in any other business. Their hands-on nature means that decisions aren’t only commercial, they’re personal.

Speak to people’s emotions when you’re selling to SMBs. Show them what your product or service can do to benefit them, their business and their employees. A long list of tech specifications that appeal to the head isn’t going to cut it. In fact, research by Nielsen shows that ads which generated the best emotional response resulted in a 23% uplift in sales.

Build a relationship

Big organisations have lots of staff – some you’ll never meet! Big companies are like a city: they’re busy, full of people and many different things are happening. If large companies are a city, small businesses are a village. Everyone knows everyone in a village. There are fewer people, although they work together closely. On the surface, things look quiet, but the community gets things done.

If you’re going to trade effectively with a small business, you need to adopt the village mindset. Treat your SMB customers like people, not sales stats. Work with them, not against them: whey they succeed, everyone benefits.

If you can do that successfully, you’ll build loyalty, fans and advocates. Treat SMBs badly and you’ll alienate a valuable client. Hello, customer churn… goodbye, loyal brand advocates.

Add value: support, support, support

Be helpful to SMBs. Let them know that they’re valued and go out of your way to make their lives easier. Yes, every business needs to turn a profit – that’s a given. But financially-driven forecasts and hard-hitting sales figures alone aren’t enough. Small businesses get by on a fraction of the resources that large organisations have at their disposal. Anything that can make life easier, improve the quality of the service they offer, or save them some time or cash are good places to start when you’re selling to SMBs.

The best thing organisations can do to market and sell successfully to small businesses, is to provide a great experience. Make sure that support and value are delivered at all points on the customer journey – not only when you want to sell to them! For example:

  • Marketing: Educational content such as webinars provide practical support. Host Q&As on Facebook live, write articles, share customer success stories and tips, create actionable FAQs – the list is endless!
  • Sales: What about your after-sale process? Onboard SMBs thoroughly and check in to ensure they have what they need. Don’t let a small problem become something huge because you didn’t check in. Think of it as the waiter asking if your food is ok!
  • Service: Treat customers like people – that’s what they are! Get them back up and running when there’s a problem. Even if there’s not a quick-fix, taking ownership of the problem and recognising that something has gone wrong goes a long way.

Remember, they are SMALL businesses

Selling to small business means you need to get into their mindset. They don’t have the resources, the people power or the levels of bureaucracy that a large organisation does. Sometimes this can be a little frustrating, especially from a sales point of view. Perhaps you can see how things could be improved, and how your products or service could help. Smaller resources can be a stumbling block.

On the flip side, this makes SMBs some of the most exciting clients to work with! A smaller budget means that they are often more creative in their outlook to problem solving. Small teams mean that you’ll get to know and work alongside staff in a diverse range of roles. And the lack of bureaucracy means that small businesses tend to be very agile; they can react quickly to events that take larger businesses a while to respond to. And when they make decisions, that’s it! No waiting around for layers of approval – they’re good to go.

Would you like to know more about selling to SMBs?

For over ten years, we’ve been supporting organisations as they sell to small businesses; we’d be happy to do the same for you. Get in touch, one of our team would be delighted to speak with you. Email partners@basekit.com to arrange a call.

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