Succeeding in selling to SMBs amid the complexity

DEC 02 2015

Marketing a small business online is getting increasingly complex with new channels entering the scene daily and competition growing with every new website, social media profile, banner ad, and company blog created. In other words, SMBs are experiencing an online market growing in complexity and size and customers who are becoming more and more digital. Understanding what SMBs are going through and how their customers’ online behavior has changed is key to helping them grow their online business. 

From the YST conference in Copenhagen to the BIA Kelsey SMB conference in Denver to the SIINDA conference in Prague, this fall all major, international conferences invited global players to tackle the topic and offer their take. In this post we will discuss some of these insights and give our own take on how to start tackling and finding success amongst growing complexity in the SMB space.

Understanding changing and challenging conditions for SMBs

SMBs are spending more and more ad dollars on online marketing. In fact, BIA Kelsey estimates online advertising will add up to over $146 billion in 2016 in the US alone.  Moving more dollars into online marketing arguably correlates with the growing array of options for acquiring, nurturing and growing their customers across a vast diversity of marketing channels.

With more money and more channels, the matrix of options makes for increasing complexity and SMBs are getting frustrated with the struggle to develop the right marketing approach at the same time service providers are struggling to help them define the right approach. SMBs need guidance on how to spend their marketing dollars properly and make the right decisions about their online presence. To do this effectively, understanding what SMBs are facing is key to their and our business. 

Once we understand SMBs and their customers, we can help them purchase the right product with the right expectations. However, an important point to make here is, that SMBs are like snowflakes - no two are alike. They all face different markets, target groups, competitors and doing it with different business models, cost structures, experiences etc. This only further expands the complexity in tailoring online solutions that match SMB needs. We need to start somewhere, though. Perhaps this is an argument for further verticalization but we think it’s still doable in the wider SMB space. It starts by listening to your customers and understanding their businesses inside out. Then you need to ensure you have the right products in your arsenal to customize an offer specific to their needs while still keeping it, you guessed it, simple. 

How can you keep it simple? Start simple. Ease your SMBs into a relationship by getting their immediate needs (e.g. a website) and foundations in place. Then start introducing additional products and services at the rate in which ROI can be proved and the SMB can begin to understand its value. Unfortunately, you can’t even open this door before you have a grasp of their baseline understanding of technology.

How familiar are your SMBs with technology?

"You need to understand where [SMBs] are, where their technology learning is before you start to devise solutions for them” - Raj Mukherjee, SVP of Product at GoDaddy while speaking at BIA Kelsey SMB conference in Denver, CO this past September.

Not only should we understand the conditions SMBs are facing but also where they stand in in terms of understanding and familiarity with technology. They likely have assumptions, some warranted and others completely off, but it’s your job to find out where these assumptions lie and in some cases, find ways to change their perspective. 

Recent worldwide research from GoDaddy provides data from small SMBs with 5 or less employees and puts things things in perspective:

  • 64% have fewer than 100 customers 
  • 39% have existed for 3 years or less. 
  • 59% don’t own a website (!)
  • 20% don’t have any form of online business.
  • 55% intend to create a website within the next two years

The website market for SMBs is still, at the end of 2015, widely open and prime for the taking. But how can that be? How is it that so many SMBs still don’t have a website? The report goes on to ask the same question and the answers are both alarming and full of opportunity. 

  • 35% think their business is too small to warrant a website
  • 24% don’t think it will help drive more business
  • 20% think their lack of technical expertise is an issue 

We know all of the above is absolutely untrue. As resellers of online presence solutions, it is therefore our job to help SMBs understand the value of a website and an online presence. This is not always an easy feat because understanding value likely requires you educate your customers first. 

Educating SMBs: The digital evolution 

There is a great business opportunity in proving to SMBs that their assumptions are wrong and there is plenty of business they’re missing out on today by not having or engaging with an online presence. It’s also a fine balance because no one likes being told they’re wrong or feeling insecure because they have no idea what you’re talking about. 

The summary of the 2015 Street Fight Local Merchant report reiterates that the vendors or suppliers that are most likely to have success going forward are going to have to focus on helping SMBs to understand their solutions better. “Simply putting advanced hyperlocal technology out there isn’t enough. If vendors want their platforms to be successful, they need to come up with effective educational components and onboarding strategies designed for the least technology- savvy business owners.”

The key to educating SMBs? Start from where you consider their baseline understanding of technology to be and take it in small steps while focusing on areas that are most likely to drive success for their line of business. Any way you can relate your solutions to their pain points is going crate a much easier discussion and open them up for learning more.

Simplicity and service above all

On stage with at a recent conference, Abid Chaudhry, Sr. Director for Industry Strategy & Insight at BIA Kelsey, commented on survey findings. "The smaller the small business the less likely they are going to engage, unless it is plain, simple, stupid simple.”

While blunt, Abid captures it well. We can all identify with this yet we continue to bang our heads against the wall, or rather pound complex product packages against the heads of SMBs. This needs to stop and we need to start listening and educating first. Then and only then we can focus on sales in the simplest of forms.

What these small business owners need, are simple, tailored solutions that quickly and easily can get their business online and begin driving value to their business. Furthermore, they need a service behind the product, a real solution if you will, that makes them feel well-informed and secure about their investment. This is the key to selling online solutions to SMBs and also to keeping them as customers in the long term.

Technology that supports simple yet powerful SMB online presence 

What this post hasn’t focused much on, but is as equally important for online presence providers, is the actual technology behind creating simple, yet tailored and powerful online presence solutions. Technology that is scalable across the different needs of a customer journey is crucial. This allows you to expand relationships without ever having to reinvent the wheel. 

Mono specializes in exactly this flexibility by offering a web presence platform that scales from all ends of the delivery model spectrum as well as integrations with other best-in-class SMB services platforms for a 360 degree offering. If you’d like to learn more about how Mono can help you be more successful in selling to SMBs please just reach out to us at or request a demo below.


Jillian Als

Global Marketing Manager

Mono Solutions