It’s time to change how you talk to small businesses

You might be talking to your small business audience all wrong.

Before the pandemic, small businesses were the plucky underdogs, clamouring to occupy the space in the economy where the traditional high street left off. B2B marketers celebrated them, bigged them up, and amped up their ambitions.

When the COVID years landed, they were besieged by issues, run ragged by supply chain tangles and struggling footfall. Marketers switched to a more reassuring, supportive tone, with terms like resilience and future-proofing populating content that tried to re-instil confidence.

Now, the small business landscape has changed yet again. Rising costs, greenwashing, and the grand re-opening after two years of lockdowns mean that marketers need to switch things up again to sell to a new SMB audience.

Here’s the lowdown:

Be genuine

By now, 21st-century small businesses have seen some shit. These are the folks that blitzed through the riotous birth of eCommerce, a never-before-seen event of economic disruption in 2008, and a world-closing pandemic.

They don’t need babying. They certainly don’t need patronising. They need good products and services, promoted by marketers who know what the problem is and how to help.

So be a straight-shooter – tell them what they need to know quickly, concisely and clearly.

Be human

Small businesses tend to be more community-focused than their bigger counterparts. That’s not a dig at larger corporations – but rather an acknowledgement that smaller organisations are more close-knit and less siloed.

Because of this, treat your small business people like the humans they are. Always take a few minutes out of every half hour of your content creation to ask the question: does this sound like I’m talking to a knitting shop owner, an IT repairman or a carpenter? If it doesn’t, take it back to the drawing board. 

And ditch the acronyms where possible. No one needs them and their bad vibes around.

Be green (as long as you mean it)

Just 20 companies are behind nearly a third of the world’s carbon emissions. Almost all of those are enormous petro-oil companies.

So always remember that when sustainability is on the table, never ever go in hard lecturing your small business audience on what they can do better – because they know that they are just a very small part of the problem. If you do have some tips on how they can get greener, that’s great – but let them know in a way that acknowledges the work they’re already doing.

And never throw sustainability around until you get your own house in order – that’s called greenwashing.

Be helpful

Marketing is all about selling stuff, let’s not kid ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also be a force for good, helping small businesses navigate the crises that continue to pile up.

Step outside the world of sales funnels, KPIs and ROI and into the world of environmental, social and governance. Instead of asking ‘how can we sell?’, ask ‘how can we help?’. Be the business that rises above challenges while lifting everyone else up too. In turn, you’ll be the solution that small businesses turn to first when things get hairy.

There are so many ways you can be the brand that makes the difference. Many of them are collected in this excellent post by our Creative Strategist Matt Kilgour (where I pinched the idea for this point from).

Be social

It’s not much of a breaking news story, but more business owners are on social media than ever, and that makes it easier to get into their heads (no matter how unsettling that might sound). The quickest way to get a snapshot of how small business owners think and feel is to check out the comments on posts under the LinkedIn #smallbusiness feed. 

While we’re at it, whether we like it or not, TikTok is the next stage in social media, and the savviest of B2B marketers are already making a splash. Just look at Sage’s phenomenal #BOSSIT campaign. When you’re done with that, check out our own thoughts on the TikTok B2B revolution.

Social media channels are a goldmine for discovering new frustrations that your products can solve and working out what language gets small business owners going. 

Be excited (and exciting)

• • •

(Header Photo: Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash)

Yes, things are still pretty bad at the moment. At the time of writing, we’ve got enormous geopolitical shifts, crushing cost-of-living increases and the news that Elon Musk has bought Twitter.

But we’re also emerging from the pandemic into a remote working world that’s fallen in love with eCommerce and digital services. This new landscape is rife with opportunities for small businesses that are recovering from the economic fallout, so there’s a lot to be excited about if you’re an SMB owner.

Get those opportunities into your content and get your audience excited for the future. This is a chance to revamp your marketing, refresh your brand and ride the wave

To take a deep dive into the minds of small businesses across the UK and beyond, drop by our Think Small site. And get in touch with us for more info on how we can help you get started.

• • •

(Header Photo: Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash)