Friday, October 28, 2011

Guest blog: Selling to a Small Business: The Best and Worst of B2B and B2C

By: Kristin Dziadul
Led by: Randy Parker

Small businesses today make up a majority of the businesses and hiring bodies in America today. While they are lucrative in talent and new ideas, they are not so lucrative in incentives to buy.
You can sell to small businesses all day but chances are you will not make a sale until they are ready to either make a switch in products they use or recognize a new need they have. The key, as discussed during this intimate panel of eight, is to be there when they are ready to buy. This may seem both obvious and a bit silly since it seems to defeat the purpose of marketing to prospects, however the point is that there are ways to easily capture sales-ready leads.

There are several ways to do this:

1 - Use affiliate programs
Affiliates excel the awareness of a product or service to a buyer when they are ready to buy. While this will cost you a pretty penny, it is worth it to reach right into sales-ready pipelines via affiliates to get instant sales without a lengthy nurturing program.

2 - Use hard proof that your service works
By telling a person that a company such as Zappos uses your technology to improve x,y,z and demonstrating the clear advantages they've achieved by using the product, you are both building up credibility and exemplifying real success stories that are well known.

3 - Optimize your SEO program
When businesses are ready to buy, chances are they will visit Google, Bing and the like to determine which is the best solution for them. If you can be there both organically and with paid ads, chances are much higher that your company site will be clicked on than if you were not optimized. It’s all about being up front and center to the buyer at all times.

4 - Trusted referrals can go a long way.
Empower your best customers to be your best product champions. Encourage them to suggest the product to their friends and colleagues. Chances are, if they really believe in your product, this will be easy to obtain. While not scalable since there will probably only be a select few diehard fans of yours, this powerful word-of-mouth can go a long way via a few good customers.

5 - Go to local events.
Josh Bob of Texturant explained that they co-hosted a local event with Where and Constant Contact. This event opened the doors to a tight-knit group of people with whom these companies could develop close relationships with and have one-on-one conversations.

6 - Use cross-industry referrals
An example was given that local restaurants can refer their customers to a great hair salon next door. This does not defer any current restaurant customers away from their business -- it simply helps promote local synergy, benefiting both parties.

While exciting and sensible as these ideas seem, there are, of course, challenges to marketing to small businesses.

First, keep in mind that small businesses don't consider themselves small businesses. Instead of making a 'small business' a target market person, hone in on who within that small business market is your actual target. You can segment small businesses by verticals, industries, positions within the company, etc. Think deeper than just 'small business' because you may not reach the real decision makers and the ones with the actual pain point and need if you are marketing at that high of a level.

Second, many companies today find it hard to sell to their Board of Directors or investors the idea of selling to small businesses. Most see this as a very tough sell and, many times, a waste of time and money. They understand these companies are tight on budgets and sometimes can have drawn out sales processes due to not being sales-ready at the time. While focusing on their business goals and sustaining a profitable business model, you are then forcing them to make a decision to buy something they may not have thought about before.

Understanding the right ways to reach these people is the key to get both investor and board buy-in and to actually obtaining a profitable market segment.

If you are currently selling to a small business, what are your challenges and opportunities? How have you or others overcome them?

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