The IT solutions placed by channel partners, and the innovative relationships you develop, can have a large impact on that SMB’s overall business health.
Gartner defines a small business as any business having fewer than 100 employees and <$50M USD in annual revenue. Mid-sized businesses can have over 100 and up to 999 employees and annual revenue ranging >$50M USD and <$1B USD.
SMBs on the smaller side of the definition can have entirely outsourced, and potentially incomplete, IT functionality. SMBs on the higher side of the definition have defined IT functionality including budget and employees.
To get started telling your customer success stories, target your SMB IT channel niche wisely.
The definition of SMBs provides a lot of wiggle room when it comes to telling how your IT solutions impact customer success. Not only does the size fluctuate. SMB business and revenue models vary significantly, as well. No wonder the overall potential SMB marketplace for IT solutions remains epic and largely under-developed.
In Part 1 of this two-part series, I discussed how larger channel partners are adapting to develop SMB customers. Their own enterprise-level strategies, models and tools may not be transferable or scalable to potential SMB clients. As a result, these channel partners wisely forge additional partnerships with providers currently serving this marketplace.
Partnering with an IT provider currently serving SMBs requires fine-tuning. When developing your SMB IT channel strategy, beta-test your assumptions before you apply your strategy liberally and, perhaps, too broadly. Consider these beta-test variables:
- SMB personas matter. In characterizing the nature of partnerships with SMB IT service providers, identify prospective “ideal” SMB client personas which successfully allow both of you to showcase your mutual expertise and how you complement each other. That is where your business value is created.
- SMB specialization matters. Identify a specific SMB client size, specific industry vertical and/or set of solutions to showcase when beta-testing your partnership with a SMB IT service provider partner.
- Measurement matters. Examine how relevant and valuable your current customer success metrics are to SMB customers. Are their SMB business models targeting the same set of measurements as indicators of business health?
- Real story-telling versus reporting matters. Are SMB clients going to be satisfied with your current reporting format, which only may involve rattling off statistics and comparing those numbers to the previous reporting period?
Mommy, where do SMB customer success stories really come from?
Well, it all depends on where you decide to start and stop your customer success stories.
Typically customer success stories start with defining enterprise-level IT problem-solving, expanding upon the technical intricacies of the solutions created, chronicling successful execution (our people + their people handoff) and post-execution monitoring of the ongoing health and therefore the customer success of that implementation.
End of story.
Instead, consider that SMB customer success story-telling continues the enterprise-level IT story well beyond post-implementation monitoring of the ongoing health of that solution.
With less employees and lower annual revenue, one well-placed IT solution can have a ripple effect across the entire small to mid-size business. Walk your IT story throughout the SMB organization. Measure this ripple effect across infrastructure, corporate culture, employee engagement in utilization, and business and revenue generation models.
Expand your concept of customer health and customer success for the SMB marketplace. Those holistic stories are relatable and familiar. They are compelling to SMB clients.
Start building your story by focusing on these 5 structural components.
Tell your own story first. In the first place, why are you partnering with a SMB IT service provider? What competitive advantages does your partnership offer to that SMB decision maker in terms of growth, expansion and sustainability for her own company?
Become entrepreneurial. Determine the minimum viable solutions you can offer which have the biggest impact on the long-term health and viability of a specific SMB client segment. Placing a seemingly “lesser” IT solution can liberate a SMB from their current status quo.
Connect your own story to that SMB’s story. What is that SMB client’s current business case and overall state of their business health? That more holistic definition is the customer health that your customer is most interested in improving with your IT solution.
Collaborate when measuring customer success. Create a scaled-down set of metrics that include variables common to the SMB marketplace regardless of size and industry vertical. Every business always targets “getting to the next level.” Show them how your IT solutions can help them accomplish this objective.
Look for trends in your growing SMB customer base. Grow your niche-expertise solving specific – yet common – problems within the SMB marketplace. These areas of SMB expertise may have nothing in common with the types of solutions your enterprise-level clients require. Then again, you may discover intriguing correlations.
Whose story are you telling, anyway?
Are you telling SMB customer success stories to make your channel partner company look good? Or are you focused on making your SMB customers truly successful?
SMB customers do not want their customer success stories framed as a technical showpiece. Where you currently stop telling your IT channel team customer success stories is precisely where your SMB customer success stories should continue.
“How can we work together to develop our IT solutions to enhance your SMB business case for customer success story-telling?” That question might be an excellent starting point for developing an enduring SMB relationship.
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, professional development coach, analyst and content creator. Babette has one of the most distinctive voices in today’s workforce, professional development and customer success communities. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring and developing technical and non-technical employees focused on customer success. She catalyzes compelling strategies and processes for cross functional communication and collaboration. She is the author of Do YOU Mean Business? – her playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks to drive revenue through your organization.
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