SMB (that’s small and mid-size business) is an underwhelming way to label this important segment of the US and international economies. It sounds little, or less than significant. But if it were not for the SMBs populating the US business landscape there wouldn’t be much of an economy. If there were no SMBs there would be no Big Bs. What’s small about the 20-34 billion square feet of commercial space – that’s 30-50% of all US commercial space – currently occupied by small business?
Twenty-eight million small businesses in America account for 54% of all US sales. They provide 55% of all jobs and, since the 1970s, 60% of all net new jobs. Big Business eliminated 4 million jobs since 1990. Small businesses added 8 million.
So it makes sense that the SMB segment is something our customers want and need to understand. Major technology companies and national insurance companies want SMBs for customers. But numbers only tell so much. What’s more interesting are the narratives that drive this segment. By understanding those narratives, it’s possible to better align ads and offers, and identify with what’s really at stake in the world of SMBs. By understanding the beliefs underlying how SMBs view themselves in the world, and the key challenges they face, our customers can better appeal to them, help them, serve them and sell to them.
Narratives of Challenge and Discomfort
Many SMBs are struggling. And the change in administrations can’t have clarified anything. What’s to become of the tax code? Which way will health care fall? Which regulations change and which ones stay the same? It’s not easy to dwell in uncertainty, and the narratives SMB leaders express demonstrate these feelings:
Lonely at the Top of the Bottom is a narrative that sums up how SMB leaders currently feel as they navigate challenges.
Challenging Global World highlights how the businesses on Main Street face more challenges than ever before. Old assumptions and profit margins alike are challenged by the pressure of Walmart moving in, by staring down the Amazon online juggernaut, by feeling the whole weight of globalization.
Narratives of Opportunity and Grit
But despite the challenges SMBs face daily, their leaders are, by and large, optimistic and proud. And the narratives reflect that, too.
Pioneer Heroes expresses the belief that America is built on the work of risk-taking SMBs that persevere through difficulty to ultimate success.
Happy with Chaos argues that chaos isn’t something to overcome, but something to embrace. And the business owners who understand this will succeed as SMBs.
The SMB segment is where innovation thrives because without creative, innovative responses to accelerating business challenges, SMBs fail. It’s a proving ground.
Narratives of Need and Frustration
What do SMBs need to succeed? Their narratives express that, too.
Cyber Novices addresses technology issues, how they often overwhelm and distract rather than support and clarify what should be the core focus of SMB leaders.
People are Key recognizes that there’s little chance of success without good people, but that good people are hard to find, train and keep.
Financial Chicken and Egg illustrates the obvious–that there’s never enough money. And even when you have it, it’s hard to manage. But you can’t afford the systems that seem to be the answer or the people to manage them.
Taken together, these SMB narratives provide a blueprint for product marketers, for financial services companies, for service providers and creative agencies charged with capturing the dollars and the loyalty of small business leaders. That’s the beauty of speaking to your customers in the language that’s already driving their beliefs.