Friday, September 08, 2006

Keep it Simple!

I had a fascinating discussion today with a very frustrated vendor who targets small business.

They have a complex but very useful robust service for small business, and it’s very well priced. I can't imagine any business not getting its money’s worth, and much more, from their product.

Unfortunately, the prospects aren’t buying. Even though these services have been carefully targeted to the real needs of small business , the business owners remain skeptical and uninvolved.

I can't say much more due to client confidentiality, but I think there are three problems here, all of which are commonly encountered in selling to small business.

1) The client is trying to do too much. Its offer is bold and feature-rich. It’s like a VCR with too many buttons; I think the average entrepreneur has trouble taking it all in at first glance. And as we’ve said in this space before, even the best offers rarely get a second glance.

2) The client is trying to change behaviors. To take advantage of these services, most small business owners will have to change the way they view many of the functions they normally do. They’ll have to accept new, more sophisticated processes. While most of them need to make these changes, marketers (especially to small business) should never underestimate the difficulty of change.

3) The client is moving too fast. They need to start small and win the market’s trust before they can expect to sell complex integrated services. The solutions they're selling are valid, but they're not on the prospects’ priority list just yet. Keep it simple: Getting a few early wins would go a long way toward creating value for their prospects and thus build the trust needed to move them to the next level.

Entrepreneurs are no dummies. They know successful change is hard to achieve. Unless you make your offer bite-size and (relatively) risk-free, they're likely to take a pass.

That may be a mistake in the long run. But most entrepreneurs have enough on their plate dealing with short-term problems to worry about the long run.

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