Want to grab an SME’s attention? Don’t call them. » SMEInsider

Want to grab an SME’s attention? Don’t call them.

Four out of five SMEs respond negatively to telemarketing, with 45% describing this method as a “completely ineffective” way to gain their business.

Of 450 SMEs surveyed by Circle Research, 68% preferred to find a company themselves via online search functions, whilst a similar number (64%) cited email as an effective way to get in touch. Over three fifths said that publishing editorial content in trade magazines was a great way for a supplier to get noticed.

“Passive” approaches such as directory listings and “facetime” types like networking and speaking at conferences tended to polarise responses. Whilst many felt that these routes were unlikely to pique their interest, those who did considered these approaches very engaging. Social media efforts such as tweeting and blogging also scored badly – but, despite their perceived lack of impact, these methods can bring significant indirect benefits by boosting SEO and raising a company’s online profile, helping to improve ranking in searches.

Most importantly, the survey highlights the need for carefully considered market segmentation. Larger SMEs (50-249 employees) are far more receptive to face-to-face meetings, advertising in trade magazines and to suppliers who position themselves as thought leaders within their field. Different sectors, too, show a wide variation in preferences, with around 7 in 10 Financial, ICT and Retail businesses citing trade articles as great ways to grab their attention. Retailers are particularly averse to email marketing – 28% say that they find it entirely ineffective.

“SMEs are not one homogenous group,” says Andrew Dalglish, the author of the report. “Rather, in most product categories they can be clustered into distinct groups based on behaviours, preferences and attitudes. This means that for maximum impact, brand, offer and message need to be designed with specific target segments in mind.”