Corporates don't know how to talk to small businesses... They don't even realise that small businesses have a separate language and a separate way of being from the world that the corporates live in.
It would be a mistake to smugly picture all those small businesses as proverbial low-hanging fruit, ripe for the plucking by even the laziest corporate sales team (after they've exhausted making the big sales to the big blue chips).
All my qualitative research shows that owners of small and medium-sized businesses feel ignored and sold to in an insulting manner.
Small businesses are not the same as big businesses and they do not make purchasing decisions in the same way (frogs are not the same as small crocodiles). Yet most corporates assume that a small business is just a little, big business. Wrong.
They do not have the same mindset. Small businesses are small by choice because they hate everything that goes with the big business (energy-sapping politics, systems, processes, controls, hypocrisy, shallowness...).
Most advertisements focusing on the small business market (banks, IT, software, HR services) are not really trying to communicate with small businesses – they are not creating (or even attempting to create) a relationship, or demonstrating values important to their target customers.
Most ads aimed at the small business are relatively ineffective because the ad agency fails to understand the needs and wants of their target.
Slick, glossy ads are being produced because that’s how it has always been done in the industry. And do these adverts work? I don’t think so. 76% of people think that big businesses lie in their adverts; 78% are more likely to buy on the recommendations of others; and still the corporates think that the route to market is about advertising spend.
Marketers who want to sell to small businesses need to recognise that:
- Small businesses need to be treated differently at different stages of their life cycle
- One of the best times to communicate may be in a life-stage transition (start-up, growing, consolidating, merging, selling)
- Being patronising, smug or insincere will not get you sales
- Trying to get people to aspire to unrealistic role models is futile
- Small businesses will pay more and spend more with a brand that acknowledges their lifestyle and treats them well