Why Small Business Hate You – Introduction

Pretty much every working day for the last 4 years I’ve spoken directly to someone whose livelihood depends on successfully selling to Small Businesses, what I call B2SMB professionals.

Sometimes I’ve spoken to whole rooms full of B2SMB pros. From big brands to start-ups. One time I even keynoted to over 500 B2SMB pros and I asked them an annoying question I always ask – by show of hands – how many had actually spoken in the last month face-to-face with an actual living, breathing Small Business Owner?

Out of 500 in this audience, about 5 hands went up.

I was so taken aback that I said out loud, “Ya know, that’s why Small Business hate you.”

And there were the ubiquitous gasps from the audience. I was the “Hate You” guy for the rest of the conference.

I know lots of Small Businesses. And I do talk to them. A lot. It’s sort of like my commitment to put in at least 10,000 steps a day, because I know it’s good for me. No day goes by that I don’t talk to more than a few SMBs, often through live chat on our sister website, bizHive, but often as I simply move around my neighborhood “commercing.” I’ve learned that I can almost always get a couple of casual minutes of an SMBs time by just asking “How’s business?” That’s the ultimate SMB-starter.

But if I really want to get an SMB worked up, have a couple of minutes stretch into a half-hour rant, I ask them about the general population of those at that conference – Business-to-Business sales and marketing types. Or the Big Companies trying to sell stuff to them. Or the products or services that are supposed to be absolutely vital to their very survival, according to a bouncy tele-sales voice.

Boy. They really hate those folks.

Back at that conference, where only a tiny fraction of the audience had admitted to actually conversing with SMBs, I was button-holed by a VP of Marketing for a major B2SMB brand. He said proudly, in a sort of kung fu stance, “When you know how to shovel snow, you don’t bother picking up snowflakes,” to which I said, “Wow.”

Let’s diagram that VP’s credo: first, “shoveling snow” is a pretty good way of describing the hard work of scaling any offer or effort directed at millions of Small Businesses, who really do think of themselves as “snowflakes.” Fair enough. The ever-present, madness-making, enterprise-crushing reality of the Small Business marketplace is how enormously fragmented it is. There have been a lot of icy crashes of Those Who Tried to de-fragment that SMB marketplace. You gotta move it in shovel-fulls.

But the ever-present, madness-making, enterprise-crushing reality of Small Business Owners is their demand to be addressed as individuals. Respectfully. Intelligently. In deference to their skepticism.

Hard to pull that off in an e-mail. Or a cold call. Or even a live sales visit.

Almost impossible to pull that off with push-marketing. Or push-sales. Or products or services pushed down from Big Business applications. Said another way, you can’t push a snowflake.

But there you go again, B2SMB Pro, pushing your offering on the snowflakes. In fact, you don’t appreciate just how damned pushy you are.

As you push, especially at scale, your mass communications betray an astounding lack of individuality (and personalization is a cheap and transparent trick.) You don’t listen well. Your tone is seldom respectful because you think “dumbing down” is what’s required to be understood across so many levels of SMB experience. You confuse “informed” with “intelligent,” and your message – your very explanations of what you offer – gets diminished.

And while all you want is a fair hearing, a chance to pitch your stuff, you just can’t quite appreciate how many sales-quota driven enterprises are pushing on that same SMB.

You can hardly appreciate how much bullshit they listen to on any given day. You don’t realize just how many people are pushing on them.

Or how few of those same people can raise their hands and say they’ve actually talked with an SMB.

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