Marketing tips SMB IT managersEarlier this year, help desk software vendor and online community Spiceworks threw four Boston-area IT managers from small and medium businesses to the wolves – or, more specifically, to an audience of about 50 marketing and sales people.

The audience was actually well-fed with appetizers (and watered with drinks) but they were fairly itching to ask these real-life would-be customers what works and what didn’t in selling them IT products and services.

These four guys all came from different industries, ranging from legal to financial services and academic, and of course had somewhat individual preferences. But they were all down to earth, intensely pragmatic and surprisingly savvy about the tips and tricks we use to identify when they’re ready to buy.

They’re wicked busy. (I can use the word “wicked” since we were in Boston.) Their days are relentlessly busy and unpredictable. They don’t have a lot of time to waste on anything, and interruptions and nagging from vendors are huge turnoffs. One said any salesperson should assume they are always – always – doing something else on their computer while they’re on the phone.

Some tips these SMB buyers offered the marketers in the audience:

  • Just because they bailed in the middle of a Webinar doesn’t mean they’re not interested. They were probably called away on an emergency. Provide a link so they can see it as their leisure.
  • If they make time to talk to a salesperson they want it to be scheduled. Don’t just call and expect them to sit still for chit-chat.
  • Make all marketing content short and sweet. Keep white papers under four pages. Consider adding a spec sheet to a white paper so the customer has all the info in one place. (Most of my clients would hate to be so “salesley” but customers favor convenience over such stylistic fine points. If the white paper itself is informative and not hype, why not make it easy for the prospect to see a product data sheet as well?)
  • They don’t have time to be led down the garden path with something they can’t afford. Disclose the price early.
  • Their formal titles or roles are far less important than their pain. “I don’t care about whether I fit your profile” of a customer, one said. “I care about whether you can solve my problem.” Optimize your content for searches around problems, not around target titles.
  • Free trials rock. They’re a great, low-risk way to see if your software does what it says, when it’s convenient for the customer. 

None of these tips has anything to do with highfalutin’ theories about content funnels or prospect personas.  But they are intensely practical and a reflection of how busy SMB customers are, and the need to keep it short, clear and to the point when pitching them.

Have you –or would you – be so bold as to add a lowly product data sheet to your lofty thought leadership white papers? If so, how did it work?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

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Filed under: Content Marketing For IT VendorsPR/Marketing Trends

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