I recently took on a client who fits the description of an “old school” MSP business owner – someone who has been in this industry for years and has seen the landscape shift around them time and again. This particular business owner made his name selling hardware to big organizations and, for years, they’d been using a somewhat “old school” approach to do it.

For example, a lot of their deals weren’t made in an office or over the telephone, but on the golf course. If they weren’t spending a lovely afternoon on the back nine, they were closing deals at fundraisers or other kinds of social events. Essentially, they were marketing their business through their social circle.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, and it had worked well for this particular client for as long as he could remember, it was also clear that change was once again brewing in front of our eyes. This client was concerned because the potential of that social circle didn’t seem to reach as far as it used to. He was worried that this approach wasn’t effective for reaching today’s modern small business owner – the types of fresh faces that were popping up in his life more and more.

Over the course of our conversation, one thing became overwhelmingly clear to me pretty quickly: he was right. His instincts were spot on. Now, I’d like to talk about why.

What it means to be a business owner in 2019

On the Internet, you’ll find no shortage of people who are ready and waiting to tell you “everything you need to know” about the modern small business owner. Time and again, you’ll hear about how, unlike their predecessors, they’re working from their cell phones just as much as their computers. Therefore, mobile websites and social media must become a turning point of what you do. You’ll hear about how they’re younger and because of that, you need to shift the point of view of your messaging into something more in line with what they’re expecting to hear. I’ve even written about this extensively in the past myself.

While I absolutely stand by the advice that I gave in that piece – and all of these points, really – I think there’s also one incredibly important thing about today’s small business owner that people still aren’t talking about.

In the end, they’re no longer making their buying decisions based on relationships. Their buying decisions are now based on research. They’re highly analytical in ways past prospects were not, and that is one of the major ideas that you need to build the majority of your efforts around moving forward. 

For the client I was referencing earlier, this obviously presented itself as a little bit of a challenge. Over the last few years, that MSP business owner has shifted his organization towards selling managed services to SMBs in particular, which has literally thrust him into a brave new world.

To get an idea of what I’m talking about, consider even a few of the following statistics:

• An estimated 71 percent of modern business owners begin their research with a generic search via an engine like Google.

• Generally speaking, these people will do about 12 searches on average before engaging with any specific brand’s website.

96 percent of these buyers say that input from industry thought leaders is an essential part of their buying process.

• Between 2012 and 2014, the total number of 18 to 34-year-old researchers – either as owners of small businesses or working on behalf of them – increased by a massive 70 percent.

Where, exactly, does the golf course fit in with any of that?

Another study revealed that about 82 percent of small business decision makers think that sales reps are generally unprepared. When you consider that both ideas are existing at the same time, it’s easy to see why.

The modern small business owner – the type of person you should be marketing towards – doesn’t have time for any of that social circle activity that their predecessors loved. They’re too busy directing their energy into focusing on their business. Instead of waiting to be contacted by a cold call, or looking to their personal network, they’re on the hunt for what they’re looking for. They’re not used to being handed anything, so they’re going out to get it for themselves.

Only after they’ve gotten deep in the weeds and done the research by figuring out exactly what they’re looking for, will they reach out to an MSP. At that point, they’re STILL not looking for a relationship. They’re “kicking the tires,” so to speak, trying to figure out whether or not you might be a good fit.

If you truly want to reach this modern small business owner as an MSP marketer, you need to have the content that supports this new way of buying. This means going beyond the conversion-focused landing pages and similar resources on your website. You need to have brand awareness-focused content on your blogs, white papers, and the analytical information that supports the journey your buyer wants to take.

Once you’ve helped this “new small business owner” realize that you are the right fit for their needs, THEN you can work on building that long-lasting relationship. You can’t START there, because modern buyers have no interest in it – or at least, not in quite the same way that they used to.

Are you ready for the new small business owner?

For a lot of people, this is going to require a subtle shift in not just the way they’ve been marketing their services, but in the way they’ve been thinking about marketing their services. This new crop of small business owners wants to have a conversation – but on their terms, not yours. Now, it’s up to you to do everything you can to get ready for it.

If you’re ready to market to this new generation of small business owner, but aren’t sure where to begin, I might be able to help. Feel free to reach out to either myself or one of my colleagues at Tech Pro Marketing for your one-on-one strategy call. This will give us a chance to get to know you better, so together we can optimize your business to take full advantage of “the shape of things to come.”

Photo: mavo / Shutterstock

Nate Freedman

Posted by Nate Freedman

You don't want marketing help from just anyone — you want it from someone that doesn't just know MSPs, but someone that is focused exclusively on helping MSPs generate leads through digital marketing. As the founder of Tech Pro Marketing, Nate Freedman has more than two decades of web and IT experience and manages a team that has worked on more than 1,000 different projects. After launching his first website project in 1998, he's spent more than 5,000 hours working with IT businesses on new and innovative ways to guarantee the marketing results they need when they need them the most.

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