Last week Kris Barton, Chief Product Officer for USA Today Networks and ReachLocal (a wholly owned subsidiary of Gannett), shared lessons learned at LSA’s 2017 SMB Cloud Summit regarding the SMB view of SaaS, media tactics, and other observations in serving a 15,000 plus SMB customer base.

Looking at the SMB market’s evolution from a marketing perspective, Kris talked about an influx of point solutions, tools, and vendors and how this has created a big challenge for SMBs. They miss a lot of the details when executing their own initiatives and programs. And rightly so, since its difficult to keep track.

Using market research, he illustrated that in 2018, businesses plan to use eight or more marketing tactics, 48% of businesses do not know which of these tactics are effective, and the majority of business surveyed said marketing measurement is being tracked manually or not at all. That’s a big problem, and the lesson is that any SaaS solution needs to be “closed loop” to deliver real value.

From his days at Omniture, and ASPs (Application Service Provider), to today’s world of SaaS, Kris contrasted the value delivered to SMBs in the past versus the promise SaaS tools carry today. Understanding the “sales funnel” remains critical among many marketers.

Safe to say that the sales funnel adage is old hat. The reality is that the purchase process is more complex and non-linear as consumers dart in and out, using various devices and touch points, as part of their journey. He presented the idea that SaaS solutions need to help local businesses tailor to the customer experience.

He shared four ways to win in the SMB market for SaaS providers and otherwise:

  1. Focus: ReachLocal has and continues to practice delivering a “customer first” experience, which is contrary to the product focus of many SaaS solutions.
  2. Coaching: He contrasted the way we advise SMBs between two styles: coach and concierge. The concierge provides data, is overly optimistic, and will do whatever you want. Whereas the coach demands accountability, provides instructions, and offers insights.
  3. Integration: This is key to reducing churn, creating stickiness. In ReachLocal’s case, attaching marketing to business systems (PPC and social ads to Quickbooks for example) via integration helps SMBs realize value.
  4. Engagement: SaaS solutions need to align engagement to the value proposition. Providers can’t rely on login sessions to remain constant or increase over time.  Instead focus on how to generate increased usage via awareness, so that SMBs get the most value.

As a parting thought, Kris also maintained that diversification is viable as always, when executing on a marketing strategy. The key is to deliver holistic experience, that provides meaningful return and value for the SMB, in addition to a set of tools that be leveraged.