It’s very noisy out there in the world of SMB marketing services. It has become harder to get attention and stand out in a crowded market where many of the products and services sound very similar — and it’s not getting any easier for marketing providers.
Alignable just released some small business survey data that explore “how local businesses are being sold to by vendors and Sales teams, and the effectiveness of current sales methods.” The following were the questions asked:
- How many times a week, on average, are you solicited to buy products and services from others?
- How often do you respond to unsolicited outreach by a sales person?
- What’s most likely to get you to engage with a sales person?
- If a fellow local business owner wants to meet you, how do you prefer they initiate a discussion?
- Does the amount of people soliciting you impact your willingness to reach out and meet other business owners?
In terms of sales-contact frequency, 59% of the respondents said pitches were coming at least 4 to 6 times per week; 37 percent (of that group) said more than 6x per week. That means many SMBs are being solicited by sales reps — some of this is probably email too — roughly 20 to 30 times, or more, per month.
The data also show that business owners are generally unresponsive to these unsolicited sales efforts. Just under 90% said they either never respond or respond less than 10% of the time. Furthermore, all the unsolicited sales activity has a negative impact on local business owners’ relationships with one another and their willingness to engage with other local businesses, according to the survey.
What would get these business owners to engage with a sales rep? A referral from another business/owner was the top answer. Presumably this also implicates reviews and testimonials, though those variables weren’t explored in the survey.
The other interesting response from the question above was: “ability to test product/service with little to no investment.” Accordingly, a free trial appears to be a must. This is consistent with what a number of local businesses told LSA about what would get them to engage with marketing services providers.
These findings suggest that much of the current sales activity aimed at SMBs is almost totally ineffective. Perhaps as a result of this, many marketing services providers are turning away from conventional outbound sales tactics toward “in-bound” marketing or content strategy designed to generate leads.
The Alignable survey didn’t explore specific sales tactics: email vs. telephone vs. outside sales. But the survey data suggest that email and cold calling are less and less effective (please argue with me). Outside sales probably remains fairly effective — SMBs value in-person meetings — however premise reps are costly and going to be reserved for higher value accounts.
What’s your experience or reaction to these findings? Do you agree or dispute them?