[branded content] Marketing for small businesses in a post-pandemic world

This is a unique time for small and medium-sized businesses. They are facing a demographic shift as Generation Z enters the workforce and gender equality is a hot topic. Moreover, the impact of technology is greater than ever before. And then there is the pandemic, which has forever changed the way SMEs do business. “These three forces have fundamentally changed the future of the work,” said Dan Gliatta, Cargo Strategy’s co-founder and chief executive officer. ‘And as a result, marketing to SMEs is also completely different. It’s more important than ever for big brands to know how to find, target and motivate their SME customers. ‘

Passionate

B2B is often seen as a less ‘sexy’ segment in marketing. Gliatta strongly disagrees. “It’s probably one of the most passionate audiences because there’s so much at stake.” At Cargo, one of the leading B2B advertising and marketing agencies, the belief is that companies do not buy from companies, but people do. “And if you want people to act, you have to hit them first,” Gliatta adds. ‘Move hearts to move minds.’ Within B2B, according to Gliatta, there is an important difference between marketing to large brands (B2BB) and to small brands (B2SB). ‘B2SB is more personal. For these people, business is their baby, their lifeline, their livelihood. You also have more direct access to a person as opposed to the decentralized decision-making and procurement committees that exist in larger companies. ”

As logical as this may sound, B2SB marketing has traditionally been overlooked. Therefore, Cargo, which was founded in 2006 in the United States, decided to specialize in this segment. ‘SMEs are the main target group for our customers, such as the dealers to whom our customer sells Mercedes Benz or buyers of commercial vehicles to whom they sell. The same goes for all our customers. Lenovo, Cisco, Microsoft; they all sell to and through SMEs. We thought they deserved the same expertise as any other audience segment. ‘

Building relationships

Major brands focusing on SMEs can excel at demonstrating what their purpose is. Lenovo, for example, helped its customers with their digital transition, which mainly benefited traditional SMEs, says Gliatta. “This helped build a relationship with the brand that went beyond just transactions and product sales.” Known as a luxury brand in North America, Mercedes Benz introduced a van that repositioned itself as a business brand. “An important part of their campaign was the stories of small business owners. In this sector, peer-to-peer is crucial. It is the most credible source of information, more than us marketers and advertisers. We always try to let our customers’ customers tell the stories. for us.’

The history of recent times has undoubtedly been the pandemic and the unprecedented way in which it has affected SMEs. ‘One of the main reasons for starting a business is that people want to take their destiny into their own hands. The shutdown has taken this control out of the hands of small businesses. So now, after the pandemic, they are trying to regain that control. “In the process, many of them have turned a problem to an advantage, Gliatta explains.” Small and medium-sized businesses had to adapt, the pandemic forced them to be more resilient to disruption . This has probably driven digital transformation forward for a decade. Now it is possible to deliver contactless transactions and experiences, digitize their activities and products or services and bring their product to the customer instead of the other way around. ”

what’s next

Research in freight strategy shows that, contrary to popular belief, many SMEs have emerged from the pandemic stronger and more confident than ever before. Market research, analysis of marketing performance and (predictive) analysis are of great importance in identifying future challenges. “We like to call ourselves an insight factory and a test center,” Gliatta says. ‘Ultimately, you win most discussions with data, and data-informed decision-making is the engine behind everything, even creativity. All brands in the world feel pressured to anticipate what each penny will bring in before using it. We focus on the next in the SME segment for big brands, so the rest of the marketing team can focus on what is now. ‘

Although the pressure is usually on the present, and big brands will always look at the bottom line, ‘what’s next’ is just as important. ‘To look ahead, you need a dedicated team, so you can pilot test it and act. Our philosophy is that the best product, the best service and the best experience are no longer the only competitive advantages that large companies need. If you can predict where the customer is going and act on it first, you’re ahead of the competition. ‘

Gliatta will head the new Cargo Strategy office in Amsterdam, which serves the European and North American markets. “Although we have 16 years of B2SB expertise, we do not assume that what works in the US and Canada will work in Europe. We build a local team of experts in strategy, insight and analysis. The bottom line is that no matter where we are, we are always dealing with people. And the mindset of SMEs is universal. ‘

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This article was created in collaboration with Cargo Strategy | Image: Clean image

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