Posted June 6, 2011 9:14 am by with 2 comments

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As you know, I write about the SMB space on occasion. Why do I do it? It’s because while big brands and the Internet are important and interesting, life happens at the local level. As a result, the little guys should be important. Plenty is written about but the SMB space is an elusive one to catch regarding the Internet. Even Google is finding that it takes quite a bit of effort to get and maintain the SMB’s attention which, in turn, leads to them spending money with you.

Some data for the SMB space comes from Pitney Bowes and is reported by eMarketer. It shows that social media is making its move on e-mail in importance to the SMB.

A couple of things come to mind here. Pitney Bowes is best known for making those dinosaurs called postal metering machines. You remember snail mail right? It’s that thing that costs the USPS billions of dollars in losses annually and makes you wonder when they will close shop. So putting a dent in snail mail is one angle for this. The other is the recognition that they may need to be in another business to survive.

Another that jumps out is the exclusion of search marketing from this list. I can’t believe that this is some simple oversight because most SMB’s are involved in some kind of search whether it’s at an accidental level or an advanced one.

Something I appreciate from the survey is that while “ease of use” is a bit of a misnomer (social media is not easy) at least there is no indication that the “It’s free!” mantra is surviving. Instead the use of the term “cost effectiveness” makes much more sense and tells a story that can be much closer to reality.

Let’s not overlook, however, that despite ease and cost, SMB’s need to be sold on the effectiveness of social media. Good for them because too often business people swallow the hype hook, line and sinker which ends up hurting everyone.

The next chart indicates that the SMB space sees straight advertising and mobile marketing as ‘new’ marketing tactics. That says a lot about just how unsophisticated the SMB market can be with its marketing savvy. This is something that is often overlooked by the industry when the dangerous assumption is rolled out that the small business world just ‘gets’ the online space.

Do you deal with SMB’s in your business? Do you sell to SMB’s in your business? Do SMB’s distribute your product?

How about this. Would you agree that EVERY business, no matter how big or how tiny is a local business? Tell us why or why not.

  • Working with an SMB can be tricky, because sometimes the owner is the whole company. Not everyone can be a marketing professional, business owners, IT guy and so on all at the same time. Working with SMBs sometimes requires a little hand holding when it comes to online marketing.

  • I like your analysis of Pitney Bowes’ survey – as a company in the postal metering service they would definitely slant the survey to find what they need to know to stay in business or adopt a new direction.

    We design, implement and run Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation systems, or what we call Inbound Marketing Automation systems (IMA) on behalf of SMBs. We focus our efforts on SMBs in the $20 – $50 million/year space, so perhaps I should call our prospects the “larger” SMBs.

    Within this space, we find that the company’s views on Internet Marketing vary depending on the SMB, and more specifically, depending on the industry the SMB is involved in. A company which makes physical widgets in a plant is probably going to be less informed of the Internet’s potential than a company who design and builds custom software, right?

    And although it is dangerous to generalize, I will say that we often find an SMB is more cost conscious than an F500 when it comes to making decisions regarding new directions or experiments in marketing. When the owner of the business is the person evaluating a new technique, he or she wants to prove their assumptions carefully before embarking on any project. Whereas an employee in a large company working within an approved budget for marketing/advertising makes that decision a little less carefully. If you can provide the “proof” that the new technique works (and this kind of survey helps), SMBs will buy and use new approaches.