Helping SMBs Find New Paths to Growth
When you check out the business news, it’s always the big names you see – the Apples, Amazons and Facebooks.
Maybe it’s only natural that when we think of the business world, we think big. Yet the giants are only part of the picture.
At the start of 2018, a whopping 99.9 percent of all UK private sector firms were classed as small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs) by the government.1 The combined annual turnover of these SMBs was £2.0 trillion – that’s over half of all private sector turnover.2
This ‘backbone of our economy’ is obviously a huge engine for growth. And it’s no surprise to learn that SMBs are hungry for innovative, cost-efficient ideas to help them do more with less.
We believe this opportunity for partners is huge – and our new ‘Do more of what you love’ campaign is designed to help you make the most of it. It focuses on how you can support SMBs in four key areas: Connected Customers, Efficient Growth, Effective People and Secure Business.
At present, too many SMBs feel our products are for enterprise businesses only, and not for them. To change this misperception and open up new SMB conversations, we need to see things in a slightly different way – their way. What needs do they have? What challenges do they face? And how can we best help you, our partners, meet those needs to nurture growth for SMB customers?
Understanding SMB pain points
Here I’m going to outline just a few areas of common concern to SMBs. The intention isn’t to be exhaustive, but to suggest how partners might develop useful conversations with SMB customers – starting from day-to-day pain points and balancing these with pragmatic solutions and benefits.
It’s worth adding that, while partners can ease specific SMB challenges with many Microsoft solutions, we believe the cloud remains an overarching business solution.
Customer expectations are changing. Today’s customers, whether businesses or consumers, want service on demand – to connect with service-providers simply and reliably, from anywhere, using their channel of choice, 24/7. If we can offer SMBs a cost-effective means to enable this, we’ll be enhancing their end-customer experience while granting them a competitive edge.
Controlling costs is a priority for all businesses, but all the more for smaller firms whose credit lines and cashflow may be under more pressure. So, if we can offer practical ways to reduce operational expenditure (including staff and IT management costs), this could be a powerful proposition. For example, offering SMBs monthly billing through our Cloud Solution Provider program can help to support efficient growth.
Attracting and retaining talent is a related priority, as higher employee retention means fewer costs. It can also be crucial for maintaining a competitive edge and driving growth. Talented people like to be empowered with the right tools for the job – from smart software to cool devices like the Surface Pro 6. They expect tools that let them participate in a dynamic, collaborative and creative culture. And happy employees are also more productive.
This is even more relevant when it comes to finding and keeping younger talent. Millennials increasingly staff our workplaces, and they want a seamless tech experience at work. They expect to be able to work both flexibly and remotely when it makes sense. SMBs will need to keep pace with these expectations while maintaining productivity, collaboration and security.
Maintaining security while opening up systems to remote working, bring-your-own-device and multi-channel customer experiences can be an ordeal for SMBs. Cyberattacks are increasingly aimed at smaller businesses, too – and some SMBs may not even have dedicated IT staff. Effective security solutions could protect systems and data.
Moreover, let’s not forget that whereas AI and Machine Learning were once only seen as the innovations of large enterprises who had the budgets and teams to develop them, cloud computing has enabled businesses of all sizes to access and benefit from this technology. Microsoft’s cognitive services are a set of comprehensive tools, frameworks and APIs that use the power of machine learning without the need to have a team of data scientists. They allow a Microsoft partner to build, deploy and operationalise AI products and services at scale and in an affordable way for all business of all sizes. For example, an SMB business owner with limited resource for customer service, may choose to bring together Cognitive Service APIs and the Bot Frameworks to build a bot that engages their customers and provides first line support through answering customers questions, escalating to a human operator if needed.
Starting a new conversation
When it comes to helping SMBs better connect customers, nurture more effective people, drive growth and secure data – it’s hard not to mention the cloud. And, of course, offering Microsoft Cloud-based services to SMBs can certainly unlock major growth opportunities for partners.
For one thing, Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs) can increase their profitability. Research has shown that the best gross profit comes from activities beyond just reselling products, such as professional/project services and managed services. You can also sell more to each customer, as there’s a clear upsell path for additional cloud services. And being a trusted cloud advisor can help you retain customers.
But when starting your conversation about Microsoft 365 (for example), we believe the solution benefits for SMBs are more important than the product name or features. Our tip is to lead with the benefits. Here’s an illustration of how this might work (italicised words touch on SMB pain points and campaign themes):
- ‘Limited systems draining your budget? This purchasing solution delivers more flexibility, and SMBs can make significant IT expenditure savings on IT with it.’
- ‘Want your people to collaborate more, wherever they may be? Our business-class email solution with always-updated office apps lets them stay in touch the way they choose, from anywhere.’
- ‘You need more team productivity? SMBs who upgraded to Microsoft 365 have reported up to 45 hours’ increased productivity per mobile worker.’
- ‘Want to offer a state-of-the-art customer experience? This management solution will let you provide a multi-channel strategy while also anticipating customer needs.’
- ‘Security issues disrupting your business? This powerful solution offers state-of-the-art protection against external threats.’
You’ll add value for customers by considering their ‘outcome goals’, or what their infrastructure is actually being used for. And by talking through concrete scenarios based on their day-to-day business experience, you can also nurture a partnership of trust.
A note of urgency: product support end dates
Now is also the time to alert SMB customers to two important Microsoft end-of-support dates.
Support for Windows 7 will end on 14 January 2020, while extended support for Office 2010 will end in October 2020.
These deadlines can be opportunities for customers to plan ahead. Getting off Windows 7 is a big step – so why not help your customers use the Windows 10 migration process to modernise the way they deploy and manage PCs?
Getting your message across
To help you win the attention of SMB customers, we’ve created a range of targeted, ready-to-use marketing assets. You can tailor these as needed to sell any solutions that suit your business model. They include:
- Email templates, which correspond to each of the four campaign pillars discussed above –, Connected Customers, Efficient Growth, Effective People, Secure Business
- An infographic
- Web copy and wireframes, for you to use on your website or re-purpose as needed
- Social snippets
We also have dedicated marketing assets for you that can support:
- Your Microsoft Azure business
- The Modern Workplace campaign pillars, ‘Built for Teamwork’ and ‘Unlocking Creativity’
To take advantage of our SMB marketing campaign assets reach out to our UK Marketing Concierge consultancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, discover more about the evolving world of SMBs (and meet SMB customers) at our Modern Workplace Roadshow at Tobacco Dock, London, on 22 May 2019.
1, 2 Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Business population estimates 2018