Author: Rob Levin is the CEO and Chief SMB Officer of content development firm RSL Media, nationally recognized for his small business journalism and leadership. As Chief SMB Officer of RSL Media, he oversees each strategic engagement and is passionate about helping enterprise companies while helping their SMB customers.
You can argue that there has never been a better time to sell software or apps to small and midsize businesses (SMBs). SMBs are facing ever-increasing disruption in every aspect of their business – sales, marketing, HR, IT, etc. Technology is driving much of this disruption, and new software can not only help SMBs deal with disruption but even capitalize on it. In addition, software that may once have been too expensive or designed for the enterprise market is now optimized for and priced within reach of most SMBs.
So why is it not easier to sell software to SMBs today? Two reasons: 1) SMBs often don’t know what the possibilities are, let alone what solutions are available, and 2) they worry that they won’t be able to use the software. The latter issue is one that many companies are addressing with a combination of how-to guides and resellers. The former is the bigger challenge, but also an opportunity. It comes down to the fact that most software marketers are focused on hawking their products, whereas at the beginning of the software buying journey, that’s not what SMBs are looking for. I’ll explain.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ve probably noticed at least three recurring themes:
- SMBs are often looking to solve pressing business problems before exploring a purchase.
- Your product often is relevant only at the end of the sales cycle, as a solution to their problem.
- Only a small percentage of your market is ready to buy at any given time.
This has major implications for how software companies market and sell to SMBs today. It suggests that a singular focus on making sales today leaves potential business on the table. Instead, the way to deal with the above is to publish content on how SMBs can fix their problems and capitalize on opportunities related to the benefits of your products. By doing this, you not only demonstrate that you are a source of ideas to help them with their business, but you also connect the SMB’s opportunities and challenges to your product. And, you are generating demand by showing them what is possible. A good example of this is the Zapier blog.
Many companies are doing this to some extent but aren’t seeing the results. In general, here is what marketers need to do to get more out of their content:
- Avoid mentioning your product in every piece of content. When you don’t include your product, you are demonstrating that you are putting the needs of the customer first.
- Publish regularly.
- Create content that changes the reader’s point-of-view (POV). See this recent post for more on how POV-changing content can supercharge SMB engagement.
Of course, there is still a place for product-oriented content and immediate purchase incentives. It’s just that this comes only in the later stages of the buying journey. Even then, it is essential to link what is important to your customers with how your product(s) can help. Focus more on benefits and less on features. The final steps of the journey are your opportunity to answer common objections, provide comparisons and offer other information that will ultimately lead to a sale.
Boiling all this down suggests a change of mindset. Software companies need to transition from touting features and benefits to helping SMBs solve their pressing business problems. The key is to provide engaging content across channels for every stage of the buying journey, beginning long before your SMB prospects realize they are “in the market” for a particular software product or package.