Getting Bigger Response from Small Businesses

The business owners who make up the $3.9 trillion small-business market behave differently from consumer shoppers and corporate buyers, says Stephen Diorio, a partner in Westport, CT-based marketing company Profitable Channels. They generally don’t have time for sales presentations and don’t have wide access to vendors, thereby relying heavily on trusted partners and friends. “As a consequence,” Diorio says, “most organizations still do not know as much as they need to about small business needs or behavior to be effective.”

Profitable Channels, along with the DMA, recently conducted an executive management session with more than 40 small-business marketers to examine the growth problems and how to solve them.

One dilemma, says Diorio, is that small-business segmentation and targeting tend to be weak. The solution is to build better inhouse lists, profiles, and intelligence about small-business owners. Many marketers are making a point of investing to learn more about the most attractive segments to target and the ones to avoid. Some companies, for instance, have found that restaurants and bars aren’t profitable segments, no doubt because of their high failure rates. On the other hand, women-owned businesses, home startups, and FIRE (financial services, insurance, and real estate) companies are considered desirable market segments.

“Every organization has a wealth of opportunity to deepen small-business profiles,” Diorio says. “Warranty cards, logging inbound callers who do not close on the first call, getting Web responders to provide profile data, and compiling third-party lists to supplement in-house lists all work.” Another opportunity is to find proprietary sources of critical life stage data than can trigger response, such as moving office locations.

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