7 truths to understand when working with small businesses

// November 27 2018

Trade events are almost always useful in some way. Even if you don’t necessarily learn something new, you can always gain a fresh perspective that reinforces or reframes something in a different light. 

Here at Agendize, we recently attended the Tech Adoption Summit, an event put on by the Local Search Association. In particular, there was one panel of five small business owners including an accountant, a financier, a plumber, a pest control specialist, and a dentist. It reminded us of just how difficult it is to run a small or medium-sized business (SMB), where a single person sometimes runs many aspects of that business.


Given that we at Agendize are a technology and tools provider, it was particularly insightful to hear about these business owners’ biggest pain points with finding and using technology to run their businesses. Here are seven truths that digital agencies and technology providers that serve SMBs need to understand:

Nobody really wants to talk to a “salesperson”

Today’s buyer does a lot more research than ever before — long before they’re willing to get on the phone with a salesperson. In 2015, a Salesforce blog post suggested it took 6-8 marketing touches to turn an inbound lead into a legitimate prospect. A speaker at another recent event we attended suggested it took a buyer 10 touch points before making a purchase decision.

The key takeaways: A company’s digital presence is more important than ever. Regardless of what a business is selling, its website and social media need to be clear and approachable. And even small businesses need great martech tools in place to help manage the relationship with leads until they are ready to hop on the phone with sales. Last, when SMB owners are ready to get on the phone with sales, don’t be too salesy. No one really likes talking to salespeople -- they want to talk to experts who can help them solve their problems.

Salespeople need to be prepared, but not creepy

If you’re an agency or software provider and your SMB prospect is ready to talk, you should do enough research to understand your prospect’s business, industry and competitors. But there’s a fine line between knowing the business and becoming too invasive with your online research. Don’t be creepy and talk about what you might have surfaced from your prospect’s Facebook or Instagram feeds, or from Google Images. And don’t mention the year they graduated from college or any personal details from their LinkedIn profile unless they bring it up first. Stick to topics relating to the industry (e.g. “I saw that you recently announced a big partnership -- is that impacting your job?”).

Don’t just talk. Listen

Once you’re on the phone with your prospect, understand that they’ve probably already done a lot of homework. So don’t come out and start spit-firing a list of features. Take a minute to ask a few questions — and then listen. Winning a sale isn’t just a matter persuasion; it’s understanding and empathizing. Start your conversation by understanding the problem(s) your prospect is trying to solve. Ask details about their business practices and past experiences with other solutions that may have addressed those particular pain points. Be an active listener. That’s the starting point for an authentic, two-way conversation. Once you understand why the prospect wanted to talk to you, then you can explain how your product or service can help. A bulleted list of features can be shared later.

Shopping locally is personal — even in business

There’s a reason why many local businesses are still thriving in this digital age: service. Many consumers shop locally because they believe they’ll receive a more personalized customer experience. The same can be true in business. Business owners may choose local vendors to partner with because they expect a similar more personalized experience. So, whether you’re an agency or a service provider, you need to be available — physically, in the same room — when possible. There’s no better way to establish and build trust than through in-person meetings. And if you’re not local, you should still try to be as “present” as possible by having regular real-time communication via video conferencing and phone calls.

Time is more valuable than money for SMB owners

SMB owners have many daily responsibilities. They certainly don’t have a great deal of time to research the many martech solutions that can help their business. In fact, this year’s “MarTech 5000” from chiefmartech.com includes 6,829 companies in the martech space. If you spent five minutes researching each of the vendors in the MarTech 5000, it would take you 569 hours — the equivalent of 14 40-hour work weeks. What business owner has time for that?

As we explore in our recent ebook Merging Tactics and Tech, SMBs are becoming more reliant on their marketing agencies to not just run the programs -- but to provide the technology. Because in many ways, an SMB owner’s time is simply more valuable than money.

Tech services need to play well together

This should go without saying, but for SMBs, tech services need to be able to integrate with other commonly used technology. There are still too many examples of software and niche solutions that don’t function as advertised once implemented as a part of a technology stack. So, for digital agencies that are providing technology on behalf of their clients, it’s crucial to look for solutions that include APIs and can easily plug into a variety of systems.

Don’t hide behind a web form

Many companies are using digital tools as we offer here at Agendize — such as web forms, appointment booking, and online chat — to help optimize lead flow and increase online business. Some companies are also using web forms as a means to manage customer service. All that technology can be great for both the business and the buyer -- but it shouldn’t completely replace the phone. Some people may prefer to start a relationship with you via a phone call instead of a form. And others that typically prefer digital communication may need a phone number to get a quick answer or customer support. So don’t just hide behind a web form -- make sure your business phone number is easy to find.

 

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