Kicking off the LSA’s first SMB Cloud Summit, Jen Allen, who is the Go To Market Lead for the SMB Segment at Cisco, discussed the insights and findings from her research at Cisco on how to sell and market cloud-managed services to small businesses.

The Evolving SMB Market

SMB is a large segment that Jenn argued must be segmented further to micro-segments. At Cisco, they have taken the mid to small market (2-250 employees, 3 million businesses) drilled down into: individual owner/home practice, brick and mortar single location, cloud natives and startup, and regional chain.

Similar to Charles Laughlin’s findings in the Tech Adoption Index , Cisco is also seeing a growing trend of emerging small businesses that can’t be treated like “mom and pop” shops. Cisco calls these businesses, which are newly started, young, and have an eye towards scale, “Cloud Natives”.

Supporting sales with a simple unified message

The Cloud Native segment demands a hyper-focused marketing message and it is a challenge for marketing and sales to unify their message.

They want to be treated like the enterprise in terms of the white glove service and assurance that is provided by Cisco but they don’t need to be oversold by the tech specs, rather, the business objectives – there is a balance between treating these business like enterprise while selling to them like consumers.

Jenn’s data has shown that small businesses prefer purchasing bundled solutions from single providers. She argued that the offerings need to be succinct and simple without too many options. As a fan of In’n Out, she used their paired down menu as an example: “Someone who walks into In and Out doesn’t want to know how the cow was butchered, they just want a burger!”

Reaching the SMBs

In order to establish lasting relationships and grow the business, Cisco is experimenting with different ways to reach the evolving SMB space through small peer-driven events, marketing centered around business problems, and digital marketing that is “real time”- mirroring the message that the sales team is communicating to their prospects when they are simultaneously researching your products online.

One data point that jumped out from Jenn’s data is how underutilized podcasts are: 58% of their survey respondents replied that podcasts influence their buying habits, resulting in the following takeaway: Podcasts are the new white paper.

The key takeaways from this presentation for me were two fold: 1. Businesses are increasingly becoming more sophisticated in their needs and 2. As small businesses evolve, companies in the space need to evolve their marketing messages and sales tactics to align.