7 Top Takeaways from B2SMBi Leaders Forum

A lot of us are betting on cloud-based services – aided by AI, marketing automation and location marketing — to boost SMB marketing and management. That’s the operating premise behind B2SMB, which is about enterprise companies selling services to SMBs.

Executives from key players investing heavily in the space — Google, Dell, Office Depot, Square, GoDaddy, Microsoft, Cisco, Infusionsoft, et al — participated in The B2SMB Leaders Forum in San Francisco last week. The event was a followup to last fall’s B2SMB Summit in Chicago (which I co-chaired).

Here are seven takeaways:

1. $37 Billion Spent By SMBs on Core B2SMB Functions
Today’s core B2SMB market consists of $5 billion (CRM), $12 Billion (Marketing) and $20 Billion+ (services.) That adds up to $37 Billion+, per research cited by Infusionsoft CEO Clate Mask. The total B2SMB Market would probably also include IT ($170 Billion in 2016, per Office Depot) and Advertising.

2. Best Lead Sources: Other SMB Owners + IT Pros
56% of SMBs say they get leads from “other SMB owners”; 53% gets leads from “other IT pros”; 30% get leads from “on demand tech experts”; 28% gets leads from salespersons visiting a business; and 19% get leads from in person information at a retail store (Office Depot Research).

3. Too Many Features Confuse Customers; Its All About ‘The Cloud Managed Portal’
SMBs are being inundated with feature after feature. They’re valuable in practice, but ultimately, customers will focus on the cloud managed portal. Nothing else matters nearly as much, suggested Cisco Go to Market SMB Lead Jenn Allen.

4. Best Way to Market to SMBs: Focus on Their Needs
Dell found out the hard way that talking about how “fantastic” its services were did not help it engage with SMBs or grow the community. Dell Enterprise Lead Iris Hickenbottom said that Dell’s marketing has evolved to having SMBs talk about their needs.

5. A Brand’s Broader Image Beats Incremental Features
A platform’s brand is more important than focusing on individual features. GoDaddy has zeroed in on “Change The Global Economy,” and the importance of SMBs to worldwide change. ‘It is a lot more exciting than thinking about the next $5 (of income),” noted GoDaddy VP of Customer Experience Laura Messerschmitt.

6. Don’t Roll Out Endless New Brands to Reinvent Yourself
New Branding can highlight new features, but often confuse customers and obfuscate messaging. That’s what Office Depot learned when it rolled out ambitious branding campaigns for its “Tech Zone” and “BizBox” services. “Companies give themselves too many brands in the process of reinventing themselves,” noted VP Carrie Jacobson. “Now we have one brand for all services.”

7. Millennials Are B2SMB’s Future; Play to Their Short Attention Spans
Millennials will soon own the majority of SMBs. They are also “cloud natives.” If you are going to market to them, play to the fact that they are “cloud natives” and that short form “moment” media will have the greatest impact. Old fashioned direct selling may still be the norm, but its impact is nothing compared to a 15-second video. In fact, Cisco’s Jenn Allen noted that one of the company’s 15-second videos attracted three million views