Facebook Goes After the SMB Long Tail with ‘Consultants’ and ‘Pros’

Facebook Goes After the SMB Long Tail with ‘Consultants’ and ‘Pros’

Today in New York Facebook held its Global Partner Summit. There were a number of announcements coming out of the event:

It’s the latter two announcements that are most relevant to this blog.

Marketing Consultants are individuals and small shops (e.g., web development/IT) that aren’t formal marketing agencies. The objective is to train and badge the large number of individuals out there that have small business relationships:

Welcoming Facebook Marketing Consultants. Beyond agencies, we know there are individuals and qualified professionals who can help businesses grow, so we’re testing a new program called Facebook Marketing Consultants to connect advertisers with vetted professionals to fulfill demand for technology implementation services such as pixel deployments, product catalog setup and dynamic ads campaign setup.

Continue reading this post at the LSA Insider blog 
Survey: 31% of SMBs Still Using ‘Paper’ to Manage Customer Info

Survey: 31% of SMBs Still Using ‘Paper’ to Manage Customer Info

This week Salesforce is holding its massive developer and partner conference Dreamforce in San Francisco. In conjunction with the event, the company has released a survey (reg. required) of 490 small and medium size business owners (SMBs). It explores technology adoption and other issues.

The surveyed SMBs range in headcount from 2 to 199. Many of the findings are segmented into small vs. medium businesses. The man operational and marketing “pain points” identified in the report include:

  • Time pressure/not enough time
  • Hiring, retention and training
  • Technology adoption/use of automation
  • Lead identification/acquisition
  • Marketing: figuring out channel effectiveness
  • Meeting/fulfilling customer expectations

To some degree these are universal business problems. However they’re more acute in most ways for SMBs. Overall the top perceived obstacles to growth, in order, were: hiring, time, access to capital, managing employees and technology.

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Why Did WeWork Buy SEO Firm Conductor and Why Should You Care?

Why Did WeWork Buy SEO Firm Conductor and Why Should You Care?

Last week WeWork acquired digital marketing firm Conductor. After it happened I got a number of informal messages like: WeWork + conductor, make sense? Many people were surprised by the move, and from a distance it’s initially confusing potentially.

WeWork rents office space; Conductor manages digital marketing and SEO for enterprises. These two functions seem relatively distant from one another. But here’s what WeWork said in announcing the acquisition:

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Survey: Efficiency Driving SMB SaaS Adoption Not Cost Savings

Survey: Efficiency Driving SMB SaaS Adoption Not Cost Savings

Charles Laughlin lead off with the opening presentation for LSA’s Cloud Adoption Summit today in San Francisco. The title of the session was “SMB Cloud Shift: Why and So What?”

He presented early data from LSA’s second SMB-SaaS adoption survey wave (n=1,000) and set the stage for the remaining sessions throughout the day by raising a number of key questions:

  • Can players now selling marketing leads pivot to selling SaaS?
  • What channels drive scale in a challenging SMB market?
  • Will all-in-one approaches succeed over point solutions?
  • Will success require verticalization?
  • Will a few large players end up dominating the market?

TAI survey SMB cloud adoption reasons

Efficiency and ease of use (above) top reasons SMBs were adopting cloud solutions. Yet adoption was uneven by industry and product category. Those not adopting cloud-based tools and services most commonly reported being “comfortable” with their existing provider or software.

There was a high correlation between SaaS adoption and the age of the business. Companies that were less than five years old were more likely to use online booking and mobile apps, for example, than established businesses more than 20 years old. Newer businesses were also more likely to buy the solution directly from the vendor or through an online marketplace vs. through an intermediary or third party sales representative.

Asked, “If you were to consider purchasing services outside of the core service offering of a particular provider, from which would you be more likely to do so?” ISPs and technology providers (48%) were strongly preferred to banks or media/marketing service partners (23%). As a practical matter that boils down to something like: would you buy digital marketing services from a bank?

Laughlin’s presentation also offered a number of near-term predictions about the market:

  • SMB cloud adoption will accelerate
  • All companies selling to SMBs will be in the cloud business
  • The SMB sales process will dramatically change
  • Virtually all newly formed SMBs will be cloud adopters (in some form)
  • CRM platforms will lead the way

These ideas form the core tenets of the Tech Adoption Index.

Is CRM the Heart of the New SMB Cloud-Tech Stack?

Is CRM the Heart of the New SMB Cloud-Tech Stack?

Yesterday Charles Laughlin, Neal Polachek and I presented a webinar about the evolution of the SMB market and cloud services. Check it out here. LSA has also created a dedicated program (Tech Adoption Index) examining changes in the SMB market and the expanding scope of competition.

Boundaries are dissolving and market sectors that were very separate before are increasingly porous. Companies that offer online HR/payroll or accounting/invoicing software, for example, might offer CRM or other digital marketing. Square, originally a POS service, is now doing CRM and social media marketing for example.

Companies that were well outside of SMB marketing services are now encroaching on the realm of the traditional providers of those services to SMBs: newspapers, YP, online agencies and others. By the same token some companies that were purely about leads are now offering back office functionality.

ReachLocal positioning

Indeed, some of the local marketing companies that primarily provided local search leads on behalf of SMBs are now diversifying or rebranding. For example, ReachLocal is promoting “marketing automation” as a big part of the company’s messaging.

DexYP is another one that now describes itself very differently than in the past (hear more on this podcast with DexYP CMO Gordon Henry).  Take a look below at DexYP’s Google search result. The headline and text don’t emphasize local search, advertising or lead-generation (although DexYP does all those things), rather “local and small business automation software.”

DexYP SERPThese are just two examples, as evidence of the shift taking place in the broader market.

Another example: eRelevance sells retention marketing services to healthcare professionals through medical equipment salespeople. The pitch is that the service will help drive more business that helps pay for the machines. Novel and unexpected: the medical equipment provider selling marketing services. This is an example of how new competitors are entering the market; it’s also an example of how niche players and vertical specialists will put pressure on the “horizontal” marketing service providers.

From the SMB perspective, CRM solutions appear to be one of the gateways to the cloud; another entry point is productivity (e.g., Office 365 has expanded into invoicing). The following data is from LSA’s most recent survey of 1,000 SMBs:

TAI CRM data point

CRM and “marketing automation” started in the enterprise and have moved down market into the SMB arena. These capabilities are now being supported or supplemented by “machine learning” and “AI.” Some of this is clearly bluster but some of it is very real.

Technology advancement is partly what’s driving the product evolution I’m describing. But there’s a lot more going on such as demographic shifts in the SMB world, rising consumer demands and new competitive pressures faced by both SMBs and their marketing services providers.

All of this is complicated and for the companies involved success is far from assured. What’s the right mix of products, what’s the right go-to-market strategy; is the brand “elastic” enough to sell “software”? I spoke to one directory company executive who expressed skepticism about whether companies like his or others similarly situated — used to providing leads, clicks and calls to SMBs — could successfully transition into SaaS companies.

There are about 10 different questions and issues raised above. Many of them will be explored in provocative discussions at LSA’s upcoming SMB Cloud Adoption Summit, which is not so much about software as it is about where the SMB market is heading and who stands to benefit. Join us on December 7 in San Francisco.