Marketers Turn Focus to Small Business Customers

Just 6 percent of marketers feel they are extremely effective at developing compelling messages and executing measurable campaigns for the SMB market.

Two out of three big business brands are planning to increase their focus and investment in engaging small to medium-size business (SMB) customers over the next 12 to 36 months, according to a study from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Penton, a business information services company.

While half of respondents said they have dedicated customer experience resources specifically for the SMB market, only 40 percent have a specialized department or team assigned to activating this critical market.

In addition, just 6 percent of marketers feel they are extremely effective at developing compelling messages and executing measurable campaigns for the SMB market.

"While brands are excelling at developing products, services and even offers that engage small business buyers, marketers are struggling to keep up with the data and intelligence needs of a dynamic, diverse and fragmented market," Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, said in a statement. "Organizations must look to new partnerships and intelligence sources to gain a deeper understanding of the vertical market segments of their SMB customers, including life-stage needs and behavioral shifts."

Just 5 percent of marketers surveyed said they believe that the SMB market has a very positive view of big business, even as one in four brands believes it has well established and trusted brand recognition. Nearly half believe they have a good rapport and growing relationship with their customers.

"Our research shows that brands who are able to learn more about the intricacies and nuances of individual markets are better able to reach and engage with their relevant segments and targets," Kate Spellman, senior vice president of marketing for Penton, said in a statement. "For example, identifying the right time of day to send critical information, provide insights, and market products and solutions is critical."

The survey indicated marketers are looking to internal resources to gain this understanding as 33 percent have worked with IT, sales and channel groups to learn more about their customers in the last six months.

Marketers are also turning to events and webcasts (43 percent), as well as experts in the SMB market (32 percent).

"The needs of the farm vertical are drastically different than those of the restaurant or manufacturing fields," Spellman continued. "However, many organizations make the mistake of approaching all SMB markets with the same formula and offerings. Intelligence and insights will be the key to SMB success."

Responses from more than 160 senior marketing executives selling to small businesses are included in the study, along with one-on-one interviews with six senior executives from leading brands targeting the SMB sector.

Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) of respondents represent organizations reaching more than $1 billion in annual revenue, and 60 percent allocate up to 40 percent of overall marketing expenditure on SMB-specific campaigns or programs.