@LSA Cloud Summit: Cisco’s Insights into the SMB Channel

Cisco’s Jenn Allen at Cloud Adoption Summit

Giant enterprise tech firms like Cisco are well-equipped to provide SaaS services, such as Wi-Fi, access points, file share and business collaboration and managed security. In selling to SMBs, however, they have had to re-think the marketing approaches that have worked with larger customers.

Cisco is generally known for its enterprise router services, which can run in the millions of dollars in value. But it also provides a number of services that can be used by SMBs in growth mode, adding new locations and requiring new connectivity and security capabilities. At The LSA’s SMB Cloud Adoption Summit last week in San Francisco, Cisco’s SMB Go-to-Market Lead Jenn Allen toured attendees through some of the dos and don’t of selling to SMBs.

SMBs are primarily focused on “service availability, function and price,” Allen noted. They also want a clear explanation of services so that they can make decisions quickly. “Do not let your engineers get involved,” said Allen. Their overly technical explanations “won’t resonate with the SMB owner.”

Putting SaaS services into a bundled, one-stop platform is also a must. In a recent survey conducted by Cisco, 82 percent said they expect services to be bundled with other managed service offerings. If bundles aren’t made available, nearly three quarters of SMBs said they will likely switch providers.

Brand names are also increasingly important to SMBs. While on premise specialists in the past could work with SMBs to customize services, the switch to non-personalized sales –oten added on at the Point of Sale — means that SMBs want assurances that services will really work. “They will pay more for scalability and security,” said Allen.

The switch to non-personalized sales also means that many SMBs will be more involved in the discovery process for services that they may need. Online research is one of the biggest factors in the discovery process. It is depended on by 47% of SMBs.

Surprisingly, Podcasts are an even more important source are discovery information. Cisco’s research found that they are depended on by 58 percent of SMBs. Webinars and demos are similarly depended on by 35 percent; while blogs and social media are depended on by 32 percent.

Whether an SMB is worth targeting, however, depends on a number of factors, including their size, use and management of technology, and growth expectations. Cisco’s SMB division, for instance, is “hyper-focused on SMBs with 5-50 employees,” says Allen . Those with fewer than five employees may have more limited needs. If they have more than 50 employees, they are probably going to want a baby version of an enterprise solution, she says.

Another factor that makes an SMB a good candidate for SaaS bundles is their use and management of technology. Those that have several Web sites and IT managers that are enfranchised to make buying decsion s are probably their best bet. Forty-five percent, for instance, have 2-5 sites. Sixty-five percent have an IT manager or director.

This Post originally appeared in Streetfight on Dec. 13

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