Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are the primary source of jobs and innovation in both the US and abroad today, yet they are consistently underserved by technology companies. This has long been the situation, with smaller businesses left to use watered down enterprise tools that don’t meet their needs. But SMBs represent an incredible market opportunity.
And increasingly, SMBs are proactively searching for technology solutions that will help them:
- Adapt to changing business models
- Serve more exacting clients
- Grow effectively across all channels of business
Technology companies have an opportunity to provide value to small and medium businesses, but in order to serve the SMB sector effectively, tech companies have to consider SMB needs in their approach to delivery. With an understanding of the SMB segment and a genuine approach to solving problems and delivering value, technology companies can gain traction in a whole new market segment.
3 Tips for Serving Small Businesses
Here are three tips for companies looking to better serve the SMB sector:
1. Lead with support
Over-investing in customer support can help a new tech company build loyalty and advocacy quickly. It can also help large, established software companies significantly expand their marketplace by building a loyal customer base. If you're making a tradeoff decision between investing more in support to get your SMB product up and running and investing more in marketing, choose support. You can deliver support through a platform that helps SMB customers drive sales, reach out to their customers and deliver products and services on an automated basis. Just make sure you back up automated support with traditional human customer support resources too.
SMB entrepreneurs and employees are a passionate audience. If they become users and advocates of your product, they will become your marketing engine. But SMBs don’t have a lot of time and patience for learning curves, especially when what they were already doing appeared to work. To get around this, remove the barriers to usage and adoption. Not only are you reducing the "innovation risk" burden that prohibits SMBs from trying new software, but because you invested in them, they will return it back to you in the form of positive word-of-mouth marketing.
2. Understand SMB complexity
One reason tech companies tend to shy away from supporting SMBs is that the business models and needs of smaller companies are so diverse. They could be a two-person team running a rapidly growing business through Shopify, or a team of physical therapists with an online blog and three locations.
These two companies have different-sized teams, different sales models and different engagement patterns. But many B2B software providers will sell those two businesses the same exact product. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely solves all the problems, and SMBs end up with sunk costs in overloaded enterprise “light” products that still don’t meet their needs.
By creating a product that connects across a business’s existing toolsets, smaller companies have the services they need when they need them and can scale up at their own pace.
To solve this issue, tech companies must recognize that “small business” doesn’t equal “simple business” and invest as much time and energy in building for SMBs as they do for larger segments. It’s not enough to scale down the enterprise product. By creating a product that connects across a business’s existing toolsets, smaller companies have the services they need when they need them and can scale up at their own pace. This approach is something that more tech companies should emulate. It would be beneficial for companies at both ends of the size spectrum.
3. Solve big problems for a big payoff
From my own experience as a tech entrepreneur, I’ve learned that smart, strategic business moves don’t always have to make sense on paper. SMBs appreciate service more, need it more and rely on the handshake and personal connections more, so going above and beyond solves their resourcing problems. They don’t have a lot of time to invest in learning how to use new technology solutions. They need something intuitive and flexible that they can use without having to learn a ton of new things, and tech companies should make it easy for them.
Sometimes, providing unscalable experiences for customers not only drives growth, it delivers a “wow” factor that keeps paying off after the sale. Impressing small business customers can build organic excitement that can’t be bought, not even with a huge marketing budget. This is always true, but it’s especially critical in uncertain times.
As SMBs transform and entrepreneurs step up to create new startups, the need for Customer Experience Automation is growing. At inflection points in the past, tech companies that focus on enterprises either missed the SMB market opportunity altogether or offered scaled-down products that weren’t thoughtfully designed to meet SMBs’ unique needs.
SMBs are demanding best-in-class solutions, and technology companies have an amazing opportunity to serve and work with SMBs to meet that demand and take a larger market share. Those that do so will help SMBs thrive and contribute to a growing economy and more prosperous future.