It is a truth universally acknowledged that nobody actually wants to spend money. The key to having a successful business is convincing them otherwise.
To do that, you have to make a concerted effort to know the major obstacles keeping small and midsize businesses (SMBs) from making purchases and how best to address them.
The kicker? Those solutions vary depending on the country you’re marketing toward.
What we talk about when we talk about hurdles
In 2018, Gartner Digital Markets surveyed 420 U.S., German, and French SMBs to better understand their buying behavior.
Though the barriers to software purchases were consistent among companies within all three countries (see Figure 1), their purchasing behavior varied drastically.
In this article, I’ll go through how you can more effectively address SMBs’ concerns in each country we surveyed.
Figure 1: The list of most referenced barriers to investing in any software across the U.S., Germany, and France.
We can separate these obstacles into three primary categories:
- Displeasure with their financial situation
- Displeasure with the available options for software solutions
- Displeasure within their company
Not only do these primary categories fit thematically, they also fit together in terms of top-level steps you can take to address each one.
Within those larger steps, I’ll break down each type of hurdle and focus on location-specific means of countering each obstacle.
By engaging with both the top-level and more granular responses to your leads’ hurdles, you’ll develop a more thorough marketing campaign that can simplify your sales process.
Let’s get started.
Address fiscal concerns with free demonstrations and freemium models
Everyone, regardless of nationality, responds to free things. If you offer SMBs a free demonstration, they can gain a stronger understanding of what your product can do and even become reliant on it.
You can also utilize a freemium model (although for smaller companies that can’t afford to lose that much potential revenue, this might not be the best option).
However, free demos aren’t a catch-all solution, so let’s take a look at each of the four financial displeasure barriers individually.
1. Project and solution costs exceeding budget
U.S.: Focus your marketing toward experts within each company, as well as their IT teams. 44% of SMBs use these individuals and staff members when evaluating vendors to determine expected costs, so making your pricing clear to them will help the companies establish their expectations.
43% of SMBs in the United States build expectations of budgets through vendor evaluation facilitated by comparison shopping on reviews sites, so cultivate reviews that talk about your affordability and bang-for-your-buck.
France: Make sure your pricing is highlighted in the content you generate, as it’s more important than reviews to French SMBs that are setting their budget.
In fact, 38% of companies in France use content as a barometer when developing their budget as opposed to 34% who use reviews.
Germany: Target your marketing toward external IT consultants and service providers; almost half of all German SMBs use such individuals to develop their expected budget.
And, as I’ve discussed before, 85% of SMBs won’t go over their budget.
2. Concerns over return on investment (ROI)
U.S.: A negative cost-benefit analysis is tied for the third most important factor in a U.S. SMB’s vendor selection. Collect data on your past successes and proven positive ROI for similarly sized SMBs to prove your value.
This can be doubly helpful, as having a proven track record is the other third most important factor in vendor selection.
France: For French SMBs, ROI concerns are the most important factor in software selection. They are also the most likely to purchase additional features so long as they stay under budget. Offering a freemium model is a great way to address this concern.
Germany: For German SMBs, ROI is a comparatively less important factor (ranking fifth) when choosing a vendor.
What is important to these businesses? Your technical support capabilities, which are top on their list of concerns. Offering a free demonstration of your product’s capabilities gives you a chance to effectively showcase your support offerings.
3. Business and/or technical risks deemed too high
U.S.: Train your sales team on their product knowledge, so they can speak to both business and technical concerns with equal confidence. Having a knowledgeable sales team is seen as crucial to vendor selection by 49% of American SMBs.
France: Market your trustworthiness through your vendor content and the reviews on your site. Make sure that your sales team is fully knowledgeable about the industry they’re selling to and can address industry-specific risks and rewards. Forty-five percent of French SMBs value that industry knowledge during selection.
Germany: As noted above, technical support is a huge concern for German SMBs. To address this, focus on your responsiveness (important to 56% of SMBs), and make sure your implementation and onboarding methodology is clearly established (important to 46% of SMBs).
4. Lack of budget (e.g., assigned to other projects, budget cuts)
U.S.: 61% of U.S. businesses disqualify software that isn’t in line with expected prices.
If you have the resources to provide a freemium model, do it. Otherwise, with a free demonstration and flexible rates and payment plans, you can take advantage of American SMBs’ comparative budgetary malleability.
France: French SMBs usually set their budgets before evaluating software or providers (50% of the time)—far more frequently than their American and German counterparts. Your marketing content, then, should focus on the high ROI and money-saving mechanisms you have in place.
Germany: Only 29% of German SMBs disqualify or drop service providers for aggressive sales tactics, as opposed to 38% in France and 34% in the United States. This means you can take your time and deepen your relationship with your leads, nurturing them until their IT budget is freed up.
Cultivate positive reviews and utilize negative ones to stand out from competition-based hurdles
Reviews can be your best friend in terms of marketing, business strategy, and visibility. They can help you stand out, and highlight different components of your business, whether they’re hosted on your own site, in a directory, or on a reviews-oriented site.
As we did above, let’s break each of these two obstacles down to how you can address them in each country.
1. Lack of satisfaction with potential software solutions or providers
U.S.: Product features and functionalities are the most important component of a software offering once U.S. companies enter the selection stage. Listen to what their concerns and needs are, and develop products based around those as both a business strategy and lead nurturing.
This is a good way for you to work on lead nurturing and an opportunity to offer a demo to show how many pain points your product currently addresses.
France: In France, this lack of satisfaction is price-related, regardless of what your product is capable of.
Make sure your different price points are low enough that French businesses see no reason not to invest in your product when it’s so reasonably priced, even if it doesn’t address all of their particular concerns for the time being.
Germany: 50% of Germans view trustworthiness as an important factor in software selection, so ensuring that your online presence speaks to your track record of success will set you apart and ameliorate yourself to your leads.
Germans also prefer offline marketing, with 24% of businesses valuing conferences/seminars/webinars.
Taking advantage of those in-person marketing opportunities will give you a level of visibility and trust that allows you to personalize your lead relationships and to prove to them that you can partner together to address all of their concerns (both now and in the future).
2. User reviews of the software
U.S.: Reviews websites are the first source of information for 19% of U.S. SMBs. Make sure you have a spread of reviews on an array of sites.
Use those reviews as nurturing opportunities by responding to all negative reviews, and keep both the reviews and your responses visible to showcase your trustworthiness.
France: Only about 7% of SMBs in France use online reviews sites as part of their software research. Keep that 7% in the fold by incorporating your reviews into your marketing content.
It’s especially helpful if those reviews highlight both your affordability and the high ROI you offer.
Germany: 15% of German SMBs use online research on sites with user reviews, making it their most important consideration when researching software.
Pay attention to reviews in online directories (important for 29% of SMBs surveyed), and curate the reviews included on your site to highlight your most successful clients as well as a few smaller ones.
Use lead nurturing to help companies navigate their internal obstacles
Internal barriers can be tough codes for you to crack, but there are certain things you can do to help your leads along their customer journey.
The nice thing is that a lot of these solutions apply to all three of the below internal barriers.
Disagreements between business unit and IT, inability to get management approval to move forward, and internal disagreements on how to proceed at the project team level
U.S.: Among U.S. small businesses, software purchases are mostly handled by a formal team or business staff. This means that, as appealing as your software might be to the more tech-savvy members of a business, it doesn’t matter if their word isn’t final. Make sure that your advertising targets the more fiscally responsible elements of your product.
France: Internal disagreements are less of a concern in France, as 63% of French SMBs have a formal team for business software purchases. Target those teams in your advertising to avoid wasting time by focusing on the wrong teams, and more effectively make the case for your product.
Germany: Software purchase decisions are made by a spread of individual business units (such as IT departments) and business leaders. By emphasizing your technical support capabilities and customer service record, you can appeal to both IT teams and business leaders and show how you keep your software—and their business—running smoothly.
A broader look at what you’ve learned
No matter your industry, and no matter the buyer, you will always have hurdles to leap when it comes to converting leads into sales.
The important thing to do is research what those specific hurdles are and what your leads—or current customers with personas like your leads—respond to best.
Once you’ve established what they care about and what you can do to address those concerns, with the right strategy, you can clear those hurdles like limbo bars.
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