How to be a B2B brand that helps small businesses

6 mins read

If you were to take the economy’s temperature right now, ‘a feeling of uncertainty’ would be running pretty hot. At a time when 90% of brands are struggling to connect with small business owners, it’s clear to us that the most helpful brand during times of uncertainty will see its fortunes favoured.

Now I know that nobody wants to read more about The Brexit Mess but, whatever happens, the uncertainty that’s spilt off it over the last two years has been one of the most destructive symptoms for businesses – and will continue to be for years to come.

Unfortunately, by having to second-guess the future constantly, instead of simply doing what they do best, it’s small businesses that have been hit the hardest by recent uncertainty.

There’s also been a raft of new legislation that small businesses have to get their heads around and implement. Take, for example, the introduction of the HMRC’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ scheme and Auto Enrolment, causing even further disruption to their day-to-day.

This all adds up to many small businesses feeling unsteady and looking to their partners for help, advice and guidance to keep them stable. Interestingly, this creates a big opportunity for B2B marketers from brands that want to sell to small businesses.

When I travelled across the UK meeting with small business owners from multiple industries, one message rang out loud and clear: ‘help me, don’t sell to me’. And what better time could there be for marketers to step up and be the most helpful brand to small businesses than right now?

This is your chance to take the lead in building brand favourability, but what does being a helpful brand look like in reality? Here are some ways you could start:

Help Small Businesses skill up

The majority of small businesses started up to pursue something they are genuinely talented at doing, but more and more say they’re now expected to learn new skills to keep their business growing, whether it’s how to run a small marketing campaign or how to keep their books in order. Small businesses owners are looking for help, so create content that levels-up their skills, simplifies complicated issues, and helps them to thrive as a business.

Help Small Businesses step up

Running a small business isn’t all about keeping a cottage industry going – many small business owners want to get one up on their competition just as much as the big corporates do. Your marketing should be less product-led, and more focused on showing small business owners how you can help them become to leapfrog the competition.

Help Small Businesses keep up

The people running small businesses have a laser-focused approach to what they do and how to do it in the best possible way. But this focus often means they miss the big trends going on around them. If you want to be a really helpful brand, create and share content that informs, educates and keeps small businesses at the bleeding edge of industry changes – they’ll thank you for it as they grow.

Help Small Businesses meet up

Small businesses trust peers for guidance, and many relish the opportunity to meet up with other small business owners – because they understand each other and can learn from each other: which suppliers do you use? How did you overcome these issues? How are you coping with *cough* Brexit *cough*? If you want to be the most helpful brand, be the one that facilities these meet-ups and become the glue in their community.

Why now?

At a time when 90% of brands are struggling to connect with small business owners, it’s clear to us that the most helpful brand during times of uncertainty will see its fortunes favoured. Now is the time to stop spamming people with ads and start giving something more meaningful to the small business community.

And if you want further proof that this actually works, you need look no further than ‘Small Business Saturday’ from American Express – a campaign set up during a rocky recession to give support to small business owners that attained global recognition.

What next?

If you would like to learn more about marketing to small businesses head over to our Think Small insights page. Alternatively, Earnest offers ‘Think Small’ insight sessions to help you and your team explore the ways to win the hearts and minds of small business owners. Drop me a line to find out more.