This is a post about : The Secrets To Successful SMB / SME Marketing & Sales Growth

There’s a lot of good growth going on in small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) across the US and around the world. Long seen as the driver of economic growth, firms in this segment offer substantial commercial potential for businesses of all sizes:

  • Middle-market firms, companies with revenues between $10 million and $1 billion, contribute almost $10 trillion to the US economy and have led American job growth in the last 5 years – employing 53 million people in 2015, a number that’s more than doubled since 2011
  • SMB’s are being aggressively targeted by Commercial Banks, in particular those with integrated financing, transaction and capital market services, to cross-sell a relationship-based approach to business development
  • The Technology sector finds SMEs hungry for Software, Data and Infrastructure services to enable efficient growth
  • Many Telecom firms consider the SMB segment a natural, profitable progression for their B2C offerings (Geo-Tel estimates that the SMB business services market has been growing at 15% per annum, and is now worth a total of $20 billion to $25 billion)
  • Private Equity firms are targeting SMB Owners, keen to invest in the segment to fuel and share in its growth. Financial Advisors at Wealth Management firms are targeting the same Owners and SMB Executives to manage their assets and provide valuable financial planning advice.

How to Develop your Approach to SMBs

Sales and marketing professionals have long expressed frustration about the difficulty they face when trying to identify and reach decision-makers in SMB companies, regardless of the industry. This is easy to understand due to the size and opaqueness of this sector (the US Small Business Administration estimates that 99.7% – 28.8 million – of US companies are SMB’s). In the shift to Account-Based Marketing (ABM) programs, targeting SMBs cost-effectively and at scale is a huge challenge.

The key to marketing and selling successfully to the SMB sector lies in shaping the right approach. There are several elements to consider:

  • Is an inbound approach enough to attract SMBs to your offer?
  • Do you build a list of prospects, or do you buy lead data from a vendor?
  • Do you buy company data or contact data, or both?
  • What kind of prospect research and insights will help you understand the company’s needs, their buying process and challenges that they face, and the right time to call on them?
  • How can you efficiently learn more about your targeted decision-makers to personalize your marketing campaign, or prepare for an effective first sales call or meeting?
  • Are your processes easy to scale? Targeting SMB’s means you are covering hundreds (maybe thousands) of accounts, not just a handful, so your marketing and sales processes need to be robust and your workflows need to be both efficient and systematic.

If We Build It, They Will Come

Using content marketing to attract SMB decision-makers will bring prospects to you. We are strong advocates of content marketing, but as part of an integrated campaign, not the sole method to connect with an important audience. Content marketing requires longer lead times, and you’ll need to factor-in the challenges posed by creating content that attracts the right SMB prospects, the incentives you’ll need to offer in exchange for the prospect’s contact details and the time and resources required to keep content fresh, and in front of an always-on audience.

DIY List-Building

In theory building a list means that you get what you want, however unless you’re looking at a very small, tightly defined segment and have access to specialist sources, like trade organizations or professional associations, this is a huge, time-consuming activity, and not necessarily one that will return the best results. Small businesses are difficult to track online and rarely show up in online lead databases. Building a list of SMB companies from social media sources, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, takes time, before you even factor in how to find names of decision-makers and their contact details.

Purchased Lead Data

The quality of SMB lead vendors varies enormously. There are many websites offering leads for a few cents each. We say, “Buyer beware.” When purchasing data, here are our suggestions for things to check for:

  • Coverage: the SMB sector is opaque, (i.e. the amount of publicly available information is scarce). Therefore, it is essential to make sure that the data provider has a good coverage of SMBs.
  • Quality of People Data: there’s also lots of churn among SMB decision-makers, especially when targeting below C-level. There’s a high risk of stale or inaccurate data. It is always a good practice to check how often the data provider verifies this information, and how.
  • Firmographic Information: the quality of firmographic data used to filter and build your list (industry codes, revenue, number of employees, geo-coding) is notoriously unreliable and uneven. It’s a cruel twist that just because a vendor has good SMB people data, it has seemingly no bearing on whether their SMB firmographic data is also good (and vice versa, by the way!).
  • Complete Industry Classifications: SIC & NAICS codes are often incomplete. In any event, they are insufficient for targeting the detailed segments needed for successful Account-Based Marketing (ABM) these days. Try finding an SIC code identifying companies in the “Internet of Things” space, for example! An intelligent classification of industry keywords for each SMB company derived using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing is essential for effective ABM targeting of SMBs.
  • Company Revenue: Revenue data for SMB companies is also frequently inaccurate. Another cruel twist is that the more “factually accurate” the revenue number, the more likely it is to be out-dated as it’s going to be based on a prior-year’s tax filing or other official government reporting. Marketing and Sales professionals targeting fast-growing SMB’s need a revenue number that is current and directionally indicative of where the SMB is headed. (Remember it’s better to “skate to where the puck is going”.)
  • Geo-coding: Often contact data providers don’t have great locational data for companies and their employees. So whether you are using your SMB data to size a new market, organize territory coverage for your expanding sales team, or planning your next road trip, take the time to know whether your SMB data provider has quality company geographic data otherwise it can lead you to the wrong conclusions (or cause you to miss the opportunity to visit a key account on your only trip to Boston this quarter).

We do not see value in cheap B2B lead data, and recommend that you only try it if you have time and money to waste! A poorly-generated, “cheap and cheerful” list only causes problems. It can adversely impact email sender scores, waste your time sending you calling down blind-alleys, increase the number of duplicate contacts in your CRM, and end-up irritating the very people you’re trying to attract.

The bottom line – it is really important to know how a prospective SMB lead data vendor compiles their data (both the people data and the firmographic data) and understand how they update it. In our experience, the best approach comes from a vendor who sources and integrates multiple best-in-class providers and delivers you composited lead data that can truly claim to be the best available. Better to get one “golden” record from a skilled data integrator rather trying to make sense of multiple, “less golden” records in your CRM and Marketing Automation platforms!

Relationship Insight – The Frequently Missing Ingredient

Identifying the right companies and the right decision-makers is only the beginning of what’s needed to successfully market and sell to the SMB sector. The most important element that you’ll need is insight that helps you open doors, understand the customer’s needs and buying process, and personalize your communications. Insight helps you create messages that resonate with your target prospects and you’ll speak directly to their concerns and challenges in your emails, phone conversations and meetings. This intelligence is not available from most conventional sales lead vendors. As 84% of most B2B buyers start the purchase process with a referral, relationships are key to building credibility and establishing trust with SMB decision-makers. Relationships run on smart intelligence, and this is where RelPro excels.

The RelPro Approach

As a team who has established relationship-building programs for major global businesses, we built RelPro to address the shortcomings we experienced. RelPro delivers unrivalled quality and coverage of SMB decision-makers for B2B Marketing, Sales and Business Development. We integrate best-in-class intelligence on 150+ million business decision-makers and deep firmographic intelligence on 7+ million companies worldwide. Our Artificial Intelligence platform enriches this data with timely news and social media content. We help our clients know the right time to be in touch with customers and give them the intelligence they need to start productive conversations through automated research and weekly alerts. Why not see RelPro for yourself and sign up for a demo?

One of the world’s largest Commercial Banks selected RelPro to source intelligence for a new business development initiative targeting financial decision-makers at 4,000 mid-market firms. We helped them:

  • Increase coverage of targeted companies from 60% (via their previous provider) to 99%
  • Update and cleanse executive information for 25% of the existing contacts on their list
  • Identify 61% more decision-makers to contact
  • Surpass new account and revenue goals for this initiative by 30% with insight that helped maximize impact during their meetings and calls

To read more about this valuable deployment of RelPro, read the case study here.

Talk to us to see how we can help deliver excellent results from your next SMB campaign.

About RelPro

To learn more about RelPro, visit our website –, give us a call – (888) 561 7890 or send us an email –, or sign up for a demo. To learn what our customers are saying about RelPro, read the reviews on G2 Crowd.