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SME channel preferences revealed

SMEs.  There are close to two million of them, they generate half of the UK’s GDP and employ 60 per cent of the private sector workforce.  Moreover, they’re big buyers of B2B products and services.  Just ask SAGE who’s built a £1.4 billion business on the back of them.

SMEs are a potentially significant opportunity for many B2B marketers, but how best to open a conversation?  This was puzzling me so I asked 450 buyers of B2B services within SMEs to imagine a prospective supplier wanted to gain their attention.  How effective, the question continued, would different communication channels be in this respect? 

Their answers provide clear guidance on where best to target marketing resources.  They can be viewed in full here – – along with an exploration by industry sector and different sizes of SME, but here’s some highlights.

First, prioritise two digital channels – search and email.  Two thirds of SMEs (68 and 64 per cent respectively) say these are the best routes for a prospective supplier to reach them.

Second, seek the implicit endorsement of trade media.  A similar proportion of SMEs, 62 per cent, report that suppliers producing editorial content in trade titles are likely to get on their radar. 

Third, use telemarketing selectively.  Almost all SMEs report that this is not an effective route to engage with them.  Importantly, a significant number have a strong aversion with almost one half (45 per cent) reporting it to be completely ineffective in reaching them.

Fourth, adopt a segmented approach.  SMEs are not one homogenous group.  Rather, in most product categories they can be clustered into distinct groups based on behaviours, preferences and attitudes.  This means that for maximum effect, brand, offer and message need to be designed with specific target segments in mind.   This segmented approach should also drive channel choice.  For example, one in ten (10 per cent) state that direct mail is very effective in reaching them, but one fifth (19 per cent) report the opposite.  So for maximum impact, couple the general guidelines above with an understanding of your target segment’s specific preferences.