Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are the engine of the current economic recovery in the U.S. As a segment they are growing faster than large enterprises, which means we are seeing commensurate growth in the number of computerized solutions for that segment. Despite that trend, most marketing solution vendors aspire to be purveyors to big (or relatively big) enterprises. Deal sizes, profitability, street credibility and industry prestige drive that behaviour.

Although the fundamentals of marketing apply to all businesses regardless of size, specific processes and supporting automation solutions don’t always scale up or down. We think these are salient factors when considering the differences between small and large companies:

  • Sales cycles for complex products and services are longer. Usually – but not exclusively – complex offerings come from larger companies.
  • Enterprises have more dedicated marketing staff as well as well as dedicated subspecialists with deep expertise. By the same token, smaller businesses typically have people who are marketing generalists or who may wear many functional hats.
  • SMBs depend more on automation to scale their marketing efforts because the incremental cost of personnel and external contractors is more burdensome.
  • Small businesses often value speed over process, while the opposite is frequently true for enterprises.

What do these differences mean in practical terms for SMBs?
We think one consideration overrides everything else: An SMB marketer must constantly test demand generation tactics – in a focused manner and on a small scale – before making big commitments. Here are some ideas for narrowing the scope of such experiments:

  • Segment your marketplace; then test on a single segment.
  • Try one channel at a time.
  • Use different lead nurturing cycles and methods.
  • Alter your content and try it with a specific audience.

Changing one or very few variables with each test will make key learnings clear and allow you to refine larger-scale efforts. Define the essential metric(s) before you start. Keep in mind that failures – as well as successes – are a good thing. Any information you glean from experiments is ultimately useful.

We’ve come to understand that comprehensive turnkey marketing automation solutions are better for SMBs, even at the expense of flexibility or functionality. In contrast, enterprises have the luxury, by virtue of their size, to evaluate and choose best-of-breed tools for specific processes. Key functions of a compact all-in-one solution will include:

Marketing fundamentals are the same, regardless of the context. Tactics and tools necessarily differ according to scale. You can’t be successful at demand generation without keeping this in mind.