Wednesday 18 July 2012

The SMB Market - IT Commodity or IT Contact?

Those of us that provide IT services in the SMB market, so from about 5 seats to 40 seats, for a long time begin to figure out the types of clients there are, A-B-C, and where they fit into the overall scheme of doing business.

For those of us that are successful at both the IT and Business side of things we also see how the various technologies available to us can address pain points in our prospective client's business.

We can promote those technologies to our clients because we use them and understand how they can help our client's business.

In the end the reality is that we cannot put any one person or "small" business into a category, or box, of any sort. And that is, IMNSHO, the key aspect to SMB that marketing and surveying and other types of folks in big business may never get.

Yes, we put the "Small" in small business. And, we don't mind being called "Small" Businesses.

However, our IT needs are not the same as our larger SME/Enterprise cousins. We actually need to be a lot more agile in the use of our IT. For, in the end IT is not the end in and of itself but the "means" or tools used to get business done.

The better the tools and the better trained to use the tools that we are the more efficient our business is.

A savvy business owner gets that. A savvy business owner also gets that they need to be focused on building their own business and not on their IT needs and IT support.

That is where we the "Small" Business IT Solution provider comes in. We put the "Specialist" ingredient into the mix.

We provide the best series of solution alternatives forward to the business owner explaining the costs and benefits of each. In the end, the business owner will decide what is best for their company and run with it. We run our own "Small" business so it is not hard to speak in a language the business owner understands.


Contact, that is face-to-face time, is something that does not get captured in IDC surveys and SMB Marketing.

Now, don't get us wrong here. There _is_ a market for Cloud services and they can indeed address certain needs in the SMB space among others.

And, there is a place in our IT Solution Stack for Cloud services. We most certainly put forward OWN Hosted Exchange/SharePoint as an option for our prospective clients when talking hybrid or Cloud centric options.

However, it is in that Contact that we develop a "relationship" with the client. We begin to develop a "trust" with our new client.


Relationship and Trust are two very key elements in doing business in "Small" business. Those two elements are never spoken about when vendor's public speakers are talking about the $5B in untapped small businesses IT opportunities out there!

Another aspect to doing business as an IT Solution Set Provider that seems to get lost in all of the "Small" business surveys and survey cited IT business potential is Passion.

Many of us have a Passion for what we do. We enjoy the work we do and just happen to get paid for it.

That Passion is something that client business owners really enjoy.

Example: We took the newly set up Asus netbook with a just released 80GB Intel X25-M second generation SSD in it to demonstrate what an SSD can do for a portable's performance. Not a single laptop that has left this shop since destined for a client site is without an Intel SSD in it. Period.

Yes, the Passion was definitely a part of that experience. But, after explaining to the business owners/contacts the actual benefits over time relative to the up-front costs the decision became a no-brainer for business owners.

So, we are Passionate Relationship Trust Specialists that just happen to sell what we love to work with. :0)


Our point being that in our experience there will always be two types of "Small" business owners out there.

One that sees IT as a commodity and will continue to purchase their stuff at the local retail store and jump on the Cloud bandwagon just because that's what they think is best. This type of business owner has never been our target market.

And, one that sees IT as a tool to gain profits for their business. Let's get real here. IT would not be important to anybody or any business if it did not play a role in improving how a business can provide their products and services.

Any business owner that has a handle on their business and its direction over the next six months, year, 3 years, and more will understand that they need the right tools to do the job.

It is this second type of business owner that vendor SMB surveys and marketing "experts" may never get without themselves first having been a "Small" business owner in the second type of "Small" business owners.

It is this second type of business owner that we Small Business Specialist IT Solution Providers represent.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

*Our original iMac was stolen (previous blog post). We now have a new MacBook Pro courtesy of Vlad Mazek, owner of OWN.

Windows Live Writer

1 comment:

Victor Camacho said...

Great post Philip.
You expressed exactly how I feel. And it is good to hear, because a lot of what I read says that everything should be cloud period.
Good points about contact and trust. Some clients want my input on everything technical because they know I am passionate about technology.

Thanks for the great post.
Victor Camacho