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The energy in the SMB space is moving away from the narrow notion of selling advertising products for lead generation to provisioning a much wider range of marketing services. These solutions are focused not just on acquiring customers, but also managing customer relationships and handling business operations.

We see evidence of this in the expanding product suites of publisher and local solutions providers and the fact that a company like YP, steeped in an advertising heritage, has embraced the term “Marketing Solutions.” We see it in our Local Commerce Monitor data, which is tracking a gradual shift in SMB spend from media to platforms. The SMB space is rapidly moving “beyond advertising.”

BIA/Kelsey’s SMB conference (Sept. 29-30 in Denver) offers an agenda that will illuminate these bigger picture trends impacting the business of helping small-businesses.

One outcome of the expansion of SMB solutions is tremendous pressure on  sales channels. There are too many products covering too much ground for an single rep to understand. And for the SMB, the array of opportunities is overwhelming.

This pressure will lead to a re-thinking of how of local SMB-facing sales channels should operate. The emphasis will shift from trying to sell the same box of solutions to every SMB to an emphasis on using deep data to map the right product and message to the right prospect at the right time. Sales needs to become much more targeted and efficient or the cost of channels will quickly become unsustainable.

We have two sessions on Day 2 at SMB that address how sales channel are evolving:

Building the Right SMB Sales Structure – The Debate Continues

Should traditional media publishers follow a rigid sales segmentation – letting traditional sellers do their traditional thing while digital hotshots focus on new revenue opportunities? Or is it sheer madness to not use the existing reps’ relationships and sheer volume to drive new digital revenues? This debate still rages and we will hear all sides of it, with a sprinkling of best practices to cap it off. Then we will hear from you.

Inbound Sales – Bringing Customers to You

For sales leaders, attacking the SMB market can seem like boiling the ocean. Maybe there’s a better way. We will look at some companies that have had success using inbound lead generation as a sales “force multiplier.”

As more and more companies chase the same medium to large local businesses – growth will be a challenge without a new approach to attacking the long tail of very small SMBs. These one to two person shops are overlooked by most media channels. The are see as the negative trifecta: low average value, high churn, high cost of acquisition.

This long-tail opportunity begs a fresh approach that will break through with innovative use of data and process. SMBs must be acquired and onboarded cheaply, then nurtured over time through automated messaging informed by the SMB’s own behavior or that of its customers and peers. This is an area where we will see a lot of innovation.

We will tackle this topic on Day 1 of SMB with the following session:

Is There a Play for the Long Tail SMB?

We’ve all heard it. The long tail is fool’s gold. It costs more to acquire a very small business than you can recover before they churn out. Everyone has abandoned smaller SMBs and is going after medium to large local businesses or national to local brands. But is that really the end of the story for VSBs? We’ll show you some new ideas on attacking the long tail that just might make you take a fresh look at the opportunity.

Deep data, the cloud, crowd-sourcing and on demand services are combining to enable SMBs to operate more robust businesses on a minimalist cost structure. This gradual leveling of the playing field is creating the potential for SMBs, even very SMBs, to operate at a degree of sophistication that was once the exclusive domain of medium to large businesses (MLBs).

These themes will all be illuminated at SMB, supported with fresh data and concrete case studies.
Watch this blog over the next few weeks for more detailed conversations about these and others themes driving the SMB agenda. We encourage you to register for the event early to get the best rates. See you in Denver.

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