New Rules for Tech Vendors: How the SMB Buying Journey Is Changing

So many vendors are interested in selling to SMBs, or selling more to them—for obvious reasons! It’s an enormous market and many areas of the market are ripe for new technologies and solutions.

But over the years we’ve seen so many vendors flail—and even fail—when it comes to successfully reaching, selling and serving SMBs. And its arguably getting even more difficult to be successful as as the SMB landscape changes and more vendors compete for SMB customers.

So we put this webinar together as a  primer to on some of the key dynamics we see in the SMB market, so you can use it as a starting point to fine tune your SMB marketing strategy and tactics. During the webinar, I discuss:

  • Key SMB technology market trends
  • Insights into how the SMB customer technology journey is changing across the exploration, evaluation, selection and service phases, and their new expectations of technology vendors
  • Eight new rules for technology vendors in the SMB market

Please let me know what you think, and any additional observations that you’ve made related to this area!

Reduce Effort and Boost Confidence: Infusionsoft’s Goals to Help Small Businesses Improve Sales and Marketing

This video interview was recorded on September 16, 2015, and originally posted on SMB Group Spotlight.

Laurie: Today I have the pleasure of talking to Terry Hicks. I’m used to talking to Terry when he was at Intuit, but today he’s here in his new role as Chief Product Officer at InfusionSoft, which provides cloud-based sales and marketing automation solutions for true small businesses. I’m really happy to be talking to you today, Terry, and would like to hear what you’ll be doing in your new role. But before we get into this, you were at QuickBooks fifteen years or so. I’m really curious, you had a really successful role there, so what brought you to InfusionSoft? What inspired the change?

Terry: Well, I think one of the things that inspired me coming to InfusionSoft was really the passion for small businesses. Over my fifteen years at Intuit, I got a lot of personal energy, and felt like I was doing something good in the world, but I decided that it was time to take on a new challenge. Intuit’s a great company, I’ve learned a lot, but I just decided personally I wanted to take on a new challenge. I was very open-minded in what I was looking for, but the things that I wanted was a great group of people, who I really enjoy and trust and feel like I’d want to be in the trenches working with them every day. And an interesting problem to solve, where there is a big opportunity to make a difference. It could have been small business or some other space, but when I met the InfusionSoft team, I really connected deeply both with who they are, and the mission that they’re on. So once that happened, I just said, “Hey, this is the next right place for me.”

Laurie: That’s great. Tell us a bit about your role at InfusionSoft, and what you’ll be doing.

Terry:  InfusionSoft has an all-in-one sales and marketing software for small businesses and I’m the Chief Product Officer. What’s included in my role is the product management team and the design team, and also the payments business and the marketplace. So we’re looking at how we revolutionize all-in-one sales and marketing software for small businesses to make it much more appropriate from an experience standpoint, from a basic use standpoint, and solve these problems in a new and modern way.

Laurie: InfusionSoft already has over 30,000 small business customers, there are millions of small businesses out there, so is the challenge how do we get to that next level of growth?

Terry:  Exactly. A lot of what we are solving for is multi-system chaos. A lot of small businesses start using many, many tools to try to solve a problem. The may say, let me try this tool or let me try that tool, before really slowing down and starting to think about, what am I trying to accomplish in my business? So a big opportunity for us is to translate the years and years of expertise that InfusionSoft has to what we call the small business success method or life cycle marketing. We can translate that into both the product experience as well translate that knowledge and grow that knowledge through our ecosystem of experts. These expert partners help small businesses get started, and guide them to success with different strategies. That, I think that’s the big opportunity. It’s move more to, what are you trying to accomplish into the process from the start. As we build that into the experience of the product, it means less work for small businesses to achieve success.

Laurie: So if there’s one message you’re really hearing over and over and over again from the customers you see, like to really do this for me, what would that be?

Terry: Customers really connect with the potential benefits of InfusionSoft–such as I’m trying to grow to sales, I’m trying to get organized.

Laurie: Number one in our studies: Grow my business.

Terry: That’s right. And also saving time because small businesses are time starved, they wear all of those hats. So the number one thing is, I love all of those benefits, help me achieve them with less effort, with more confidence. Help me connect to the actions that I should take in my business to achieve those outcomes. So that really what we’re trying to do.

Laurie:  Make that roadmap more straightforward Okay. So what are the biggest challenges to do this. As we all know, software, whether it’s in the cloud or on premise, it can automate things for you, it can take care of things for you, but you still have to spend time getting things set up and configured for your business. So how do you overcome those challenges of really making that more drop-dead easy to use.

Terry:  Well, the number one challenge is when you have an existing base of customers, they’re comfortable with the way things work. And so, as you start to change, even though the benefit is very attractive, it is still reflected as change.

Laurie:  You’re talking about your existing installed base customers?

Terry:  Yes, that’s something we’re going to be very mindful of. The other thing is how do you build confidence? When the experience changes from building something from scratch to selecting from recommendations that are either tailor-made to look like you with your words, or maybe changing the activity a little bit, how do you build confidence that that’s the right thing for your business?. So whether it’s bringing the expertise of other experts into the experience, whether it’s providing reviews and ratings and performance metrics around it, that will be a big challenge because small businesses are skeptical. They don’t want to waste time or money on solutions that don’t work and could actually hurt their business more than help. So building that confidence is a big challenge.

Laurie:  I think we’ve all been there, no matter what size business, of trying things and it ends up to be such a time-sink and then you’re like, “This thing doesn’t work for me anyway.” So what are some ways you might address that challenge? I think a lot of small business owners have been burned already. They spend a lot of time if not money as well, but time is so key and it was just like, “This was just a big waste of time.” How will you circumvent that?

Terry:  Well, fortunately there are many patterns that exist in design that are successful. So just like our customers, we don’t need to reinvent all of those wheels ourselves. We can adopt many of the best practices that are out there in terms of getting started. Another big advantage though, that’s unique to InfusionSoft, is we have a large network of experts who help small businesses every day. Some of those experts actually work at InfusionSoft. So it’s really bringing those people and those personalities into the experience so for the customers who are more self-directed and inclined to analyze the recommendations and adopt them–they’ll be fine. But for the many who have a question mark of “Is this right for my business?” they’ll have more access to experts from the ecosystem of folks who already support InfusionSoft customers, as well as some of the key members of the InfusionSoft team that can help them get over that problem.

Laurie: So you can personalize it to your style and your preferences.  That’s great.

Well Terry, it was so great to see you again and congratulations on your new role. I’ll be looking forward to InfusionCon next March to see how everything’s going and catch up with some of the new things that you’re doing then.

Terry:  I really look forward to catching up with you. I’m sure we’ll have made a lot of progress by then and I’d love to share it all.

Inbound for Everyone Everywhere: HubSpot’s Quest

hubspotUnder the rallying cry of “Inbound for Everyone Everywhere,” HubSpot hosted 14,000 customer, prospects, media and marketing mavens at its INBOUND 2015 customer and prospect event in Boston this week.

At the event, CEO Brian Halligan and CTO Dharmesh Shah had little to say about the recent scandal that involves a manuscript allegedly stolen from an ex-employee, and resulted in the departure of two top HubSpot executives. Instead, Halligan and Shah focused on a slew of new products, and preached the gospel of making sales and marketing more relevant for today’s highly informed, socially connected, always-on customers.

Mapping to the New Customer Journey

free social networkingBack in the day, brands held most of the power, vendors were the power brokers, and marketing was all about the four Ps–product, price, place and promotion. Today, the digital, social and mobile revolution has changed buyer expectations of how vendors should market, sell and service them–and shifted the power to the buyer. With a tap of a smart phone, buyers can get information, ratings and opinions about you and your competitors.

Marketers must evolve accordingly with valuable content, more effective engagements with prospects and customers and a customer-centric experience. Inbound marketing helps marketers realign by moving from a push approach to a content-driven, pull marketing one.

HubSpot’s mission is to accelerate this shift. According to CEO Halligan, human-friendly, empathetic marketing strategies that “create value before trying to extract it out of the system” are key to empowering this evolution. To that end, HubSpot is focused on providing its customers with a system to automate, track and personalize content and engagement.

Of course, HubSpot has plenty of company (practically every other marketing, CRM, sales automation and social vendor in the universe). But to its credit, HubSpot has distinguished itself as an early pioneer in providing inbound solutions for SMBs. In addition, HubSpot has offered many free services over the years to help educate the market, including Website Grader, Twitter Grader, Twitter Grader, Press Release Grader and Facebook Grader. More recently, the vendor has launched free versions of HubSpot CRM and Sidekick, which provides users with pop-up information, such as past contact history, social media content, mutual connections, about their email recipients.

New Solutions to Accelerate the Inbound Movement

HubSpot unveiled several new solutions both for existing HubSpot customers, and for SMBs that are new to inbound marketing. For instance:

  1. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for HubSpot websites. The “s” in an “ https” URL means that a website uses SSL security to encrypt the link between the website and a browser. Google is advocating for “HTTPS everywhere,” and rewarding sites that support SSL with more favorable rankings. Customers using HubSpot’s website platform can implement SSL in two clicks, for free.
  1. HubSpot Reporting Add-On, to help marketers and sales people “spend more time making the numbers, not reporting them.” For $200 a month, HubSpot Basic, Pro and Enterprise customers get access to a library of more than 20 prebuilt reports, and the ability to build their own custom reports. HubSpot’s Shah stated that the base product delivers “good” reporting, but the add-on is more comprehensive and provides visualization.
  1. HubSpot Ads Add-On. According to HubSpot, 80% of B2B marketers use at least 1 paid channel. Ads Add-On is designed to help customers create ads, manage paid channels, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and calculate returns. The solution works with Google AdWords and LinkedIn Sponsored updates, and is priced at $100 per month.
  1. Predictive Lead Scoring, which is available at no additional charge to HubSpot Enterprise edition customers only, is designed to replace subjective, human lead scoring with algorithmic, data-driven lead scoring base on behavior, demographics, and social and email actions. HubSpot’s rationale for offering this to Enterprise accounts only is that it’s not really a fit for Basic and Pro customers because the solution needs at least 500 customer contacts and 1,000 non-customer contacts to operate reliably, and that it will appeal to more sophisticated customers.
  1. HubSpot Connect, which integrates customer data from different apps together into a centralized system. For instance, you could integrate billing and payments data from FreshBooks, or customer service records from ZenDesk into HubSpot Connect for a more complete and organized view of your customers. Each integration is individually priced. Some are completely free, some require certain tiers of HubSpot and/or the integrating product, and some have an additional fee for the integration.
  1. Leadin, a new freemium offering from HubSpot Labs, is aimed at companies that want to get started with inbound marketing, but don’t have the time or money invest in the entry-level $200 per month HubSpot platform. It provides users with a tool to create a quick pop-up form to collect email addresses from visitors to your website. When they sign up, you get some information to help identify them, such as whether they are a first time visitor. LeadIn then takes all the contacts you capture and puts them in a centralized database. You can use LeadIn on WordPress and other non-HubSpot content management systems. Note that LeadIn offers a simple plug-in for sites, but things are trickier if you have a or other type of site.
  1. New additions to Sidekick and HubSpot CRM, including:
    • Connections, which provides an email graph so sales people can more easily understand the connections they have in an account.
    • Prospects, which helps reps get more information about companies visiting your website.
    • Sequences, a process tool to help sales people follow-up with prospects with automated, personalized emails.
    • Meetings, which preps sales people with notes and timeline of interactions with the prospect before meetings.


If the breadth of new products is any indicator, the departure of two key execs hasn’t appeared to slow HubSpot down in the product development area.

However, the bountiful but somewhat dizzying array of new offerings raises some key marketing challenges for HubSpot. For instance, how will HubSpot:

  • Articulate, differentiate and segment its increasingly confusing solution portfolio for SMBs? SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study reveals that “figuring out how different technology solutions can help my business” is the number one technology challenge for small businesses, and the number three challenge for medium businesses (Figure 1). But I noticed that while HubSpot execs talked a lot about serving SMBs, they didn’t talk much how they are segmenting the SMB market. This will be critical to successfully cut through the confusion with most relevant and tailored education, marketing, channels and solutions.


  • Rationalizing pricing and packaging for HubSpot’s paying customers. As I tweeted, it seemed a bit disconcerting that HubSpot users have to pay extra to get more comprehensive reporting capabilities. It will be interesting to see what percentage of the installed based ends up biting on the add-ons that come with a price tag, and if there will be push back here. Meanwhile, predictive lead scoring is only available to HubSpot Enterprise ($2,400 per month) customers. While the pricing rationale makes sense to HubSpot, I’m not sure that it will be that clear to customers and prospects.
  • Monetizing the freemiums. HubSpot has significantly expanded its freemium offerings in a push to create viral entry points that hypothetically will enable it to engage with a broader cross-section of the potential market. However, we didn’t hear much about HubSpot’s strategy and success metrics for attaining and converting freemium customers.

HubSpot continues to do a stellar job in leading the inbound movement, and developing some of the most innovative solutions in this area. Ironically, however, as it grows its portfolio, HubSpot itself now faces some new inbound marketing challenges of its own.

How Well Do You Know The Very Small Businesses That You Want to Sell To?

Technology vendors are increasingly targeting very small businesses (VSBs, with 1 to 19 employees) with their solutions, lured by the sheer size of the market and the relatively low penetration of many technology solutions in this sector.

However, the very diverse, fragmented and volatile VSB market is not for the faint of heart. And all too often, technology vendors operate on assumptions that are truer of the 1% of venture-backed startups than the average VSB. While all sorts of nuances must be considered, understanding the fundamentals is a must to have a good shot of being successful in the VSB market. Take the quiz and find out if you know the basics about what makes the 99% tick!

  1. What do VSBs rate as their top business challenge? (Check one)
    1. Obtaining financing
    2. Attracting new customers
    3. Growing revenue
    4. Improving employee productivity

Slide1VSBs are consumed with growing their businesses and staying afloat. Their challenges center on attracting new customers, growing revenues, improving cash flow and maintaining profitability. Other challenges, such as improving customer retention and satisfaction, and attracting and retaining quality employees are important but pale in comparison to money in, money out issues. If you don’t speak directly to how your solutions can help solve these key challenges, it will be very difficult to get on VSB radar. Score 1 point if you checked b or c; zero for a or d.

  1. What do VSBs rate as their top technology challenge? (Check one)
    1. Transitioning from on-premise to cloud/SaaS solutions
    2. Containing technology costs
    3. Figuring out which solutions can best help my business
    4. Securing company information

Slide2VSBs are confused by all of the technology options out there! They often find it tough to figure out which technology solutions can really help their businesses. Other key tech challenges include: securing company information, containing technology costs and keeping systems up and running. Help VSBs cut through this confusion with clear information about how your solution can help them improve business outcomes–securely, affordably and reliably. Give yourself 2 points if you chose c; 1 point for b or d; and zero for a.

  1. What is the median for VSB annual spending on technology products and services? (Check one)
    1. Between $1,000 and $9,999
    2. Between $10,000 and $24,999
    3. Between $25,000 and $49,999
    4. Between $50,000 and $99,999

Slide3VSB budgets are very tight. Median technology spending for businesses with 1-19 employees is between $1,000 and $9,999 annually. Be realistic about pricing for this market: remember that after paying for essentials (devices, connectivity, etc.) there’s not a lot left over. Score 2 points if you selected a; 1 for b and 0 for c or d.

  1. Who is primarily responsible for IT support in VSBs? (Check one)
    1. No one
    2. Part-time employee(s)
    3. Full-time employee(s)
    4. External/third party contractors

Slide4In 41% of VSBs, no one is tasked with looking after IT! 34% are lucky enough to have an external contractor filling this role, with just 25% having someone on staff to do the job. Solutions must be easy to deploy and very intuitive to use to gain traction in the VSB market. Add 2 points for a; 1 for d, and 0 for b or c.

  1. What do VSBs rate as the most important information source to learn about technology solutions? (Check one)
    1. Social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
    2. Webinars/podcasts
    3. Professional advisors/consultants
    4. Web search (via search engines)

Slide5Time to tune up your search engine optimization engine! 49% of VSBs put web search as one of their top 3 information sources. 40% say professional advisors/consultants are one of their top 3 sources. After that, VSB indicate their preferences for technology information varies greatly. Creating a strong presence with the top two information sources is critical, but broad coverage in the others is also key to reach this diverse audience. Give yourself 2 points if you chose d; 1 point for c; and zero for a or b.

  1. What is the top reason a solution gets on a VSB’s short list? (Check one)
    1. Easier to use
    2. Local service and support
    3. Better pricing
    4. Free trial

Slide6Better pricing trumps all, but ease of use is almost as important. 41% of VSBs rate better pricing as one of the top three reasons they put a solution on their short list. If a VSB decision-maker gets even a whiff of sticker shock, they’re likely to eliminate a solution from consideration.

Ease of use comes in at number 2, with 36% of VSBs rating this as one of their top three considerations. From there, other criteria ranking drop into the 20% or below range. Score 2 for c; 1 for a; 0 for b or d.

How Did You Score?

9-11 points: VSB Expert. Congratulations, you are part of the elite group of technology vendors that truly understand VSB realties. You know how to engage VSBs on their terms, and your pricing isn’t likely to give them sticker shock. If we Google “small business” and your solution area, your company probably comes up in the top 3. With continued research, social media engagement, great content to educate customers, a strong stable of partners and influencers, and constant striving to make your solution easy to use, you have the right stuff to compete successfully in this very tough market.

5-8 points: VSB Intermediate: Your knowledge of and comfort level with VSBs is growing. You’re likely to already have a plan, but you need to up your game to rise above the noise and carve out a sustainable, scalable volume play in the VSB market. Team up with influencers and partners who are already strong in the space; join relevant groups on social media; tune your understanding of VSBs with research and 1-1 time onsite with VSBs; sharpen content so that it really resonates with VSBs.

4 points or less: VSB Novice: Congratulations for having the courage to start thinking about whether or not the tricky VSB market is a good fit for your product and/or service. Build your understanding of VSB customers with research, 1-1 conversations at events, joining relevant social media conversations, groups and to get a better feel for VSB behavior, concerns and goals. Study best practices of companies that have been successful in this market, as well as those who have failed. By listening and learning before you launch into the VSB market, you can avoid many of the traps that a novice might ordinarily fall into.

Are You Keeping Pace With Your SMB Customers?

The good news for tech vendors: SMBs are bullish on their own growth, and on using technology to help achieve that growth. The bad news: tech vendors may not be doing a good enough job helping SMBs understand, evaluate and buy the tech solutions that will best help their businesses.

SMB Group recently completed our 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study, which provides an in-depth look at U.S. SMB (small businesses: 1-99 employees, medium business: 100-999 employees) technology adoption, the decision-making process, and the buying cycle. Among the findings, we learned that “figuring out how different technology solutions can help my business” is the number one technology challenge for small businesses, and the number three challenge for medium businesses.

Figure 1: Top Three Technology Challenges for SMBs


SMBs need tech vendors to provide them with a more informative, consistent purchasing experience to help them punch through the confusions knothole. Though the priority rankings differ a bit between small and medium businesses, the top two asks for both small and medium businesses are for vendors to provide a consistent experience across online, mobile, offline and other channels and to more clearly articulate how the solution helps improve specific business goals. Number three for small businesses is the desire fro better real-time online chat/phone support to answer questions, while for medium businesses, its help in connecting with reference customers with similar needs.

Figure 2: Top Ways Tech Vendors Can Improve the SMB Purchasing Experience


The “SMB market” has always been a tough nut to crack as it actually comprises many different diverse markets. In addition to standard employee size and industry segmentation, SMBs vary widely in terms of business maturity, attitudes about technology, and a host of other variables. Furthermore, it’s a very volatile market: about 50% of new businesses fail within the first five years.

Today, these age-old challenges are compounded by the fact that the digital, social and mobile revolution raising SMB buyers’ expectations of tech vendors’ across solutions, marketing, sales add service.

As competition for SMB mindshare and market share continues to rise, tech vendors will need to work smarter to earn SMB dollars. Vendors need to do a better job of understanding the intricacies of the SMB market so that they can personalize content to nurture buyers along the their journey, providing them with an informative, helpful and consistent purchasing and service experience across channels.

Please contact Lisa Lincoln at (508) 734-5658 or for more information about the 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study (including a Table of Contents), or to order.


Infusionsoft ICON15: Inspiration and Automation for Small Business Marketing

This video interview was originally posted on SMB Group Spotlight.

Laurie: Hi, this is Laurie McCabe and I’m here today for SMB’s Spotlight with Greg Head, who is the Chief Marketing Officer at Infusionsoft. We’re at the ICON 2015 event, which is Infusionsoft’s annual user conference. It’s been a blast so far and I’d like to learn more about it, but Greg, could you start just by telling us a little bit about what Infusionsoft, and about the company in general?
Greg: Well, Infusionsoft is the leading sales and marketing software for small businesses and the company has been around for just over 12 years. It started as a small business that turned into a startup that turned into a growth company. And now it’s one of the largest software companies, with 30,000 small business customers. We serve exclusively small businesses and we have over 600 employees and thousands of partners.
Laurie: And located here in the Phoenix area?
Greg: Yes, located here in Phoenix where we started.
Laurie: Okay, and just to clarify when you say small business–because we know as analysts when people say small business they could mean a thousand different things–what’s small business for Infusionsoft?
Greg: Well, we serve small businesses that have up and running businesses. That are full time and have employees and are still owner operated, which means most of our customers have 25 employees and of that most have fewer than 10. That’s where most small businesses reside, but there’s the mid-market of hundreds employees and on up that we are not involved with at all.
Laurie: Okay, that’s good clarification. So tell us about ICON. This is the third year I’ve been here so I’m very familiar, that it’s a great event, but who is it for? What are the goals for the event?
Greg: ICON is our annual conference for users and partners, and now other small businesses that want to join in on all the learning and keynote speakers and so forth. So it’s here at the Phoenix Convention Center, we outgrew the conference room and then hotel rooms and the largest hotel in Phoenix. It’s kind of a movement that’s been happening and now there are over 3500 people here this week. Here exclusively to talk about small business growth, small business sales and marketing, some on how to use Infusionsoft better, that’s definitely part of it. You can be here for three days and attend very valuable sessions and keynotes on these topics.
Laurie: Yes, we will post a link to where people can get more information about the sessions.
Greg: Excellent.
Laurie: So, can you tell me a little bit more about the Infusionsoft solution, what does it do for small businesses? Why do they use it? What benefits do they get out of it?
Greg: Yeah, the main thing, is that our solution is the small business CRM, the contact management, the customer database, and the marketing capabilities from web forms, to emails, and all the automation needed make things go–because small business owners need to make things go.
Laurie: Right.
Greg: And ecommerce to transact online, it’s all in one system. So we help small businesses that are growing and have customers, leads in their funnel coming off the website and Facebook, the new digital funnel has exploded.
Laurie: Right. Exactly.
Greg: Most small businesses have a dozen different tools to capture leads over here and to sell something online over here. So Infusionsoft is the one system that can organize all of that.
Laurie: And to automate it.
Greg: Yeah, once you are organized you can actually automate. You can set it up to start doing things for you that we used to have to do manually.
Laurie: Right.
Greg: And that’s driving a lot of small businesses crazy.
Laurie: Yes, because you can’t keep up with the follow up and the other things that you need to do on that one off basis in a small company. Well, even in a large company it just doesn’t scale. So if you don’t automate it…
Greg: Yeah, but big companies, for instance, at Infusionsoft, we have IT resources, technology, and money to throw at it. Small businesses need one system that’s going to run and help to do that.
Laurie: Yes, absolutely, and I think that as a small business, that you got to have the inspiration, the perspiration, but then you need automation because if you don’t have that you know that perspiration factor just shoots right up.
Greg: Yeah, that’s right.
Laurie: And you’re killing yourself before long with that. And that gets on to my next question, which is for many small businesses, unless they are sales and marketing coaches, or something like that, sales and marketing is an intimidating thing. Putting yourself out there, fear of rejection and everything else. So when you counsel people about some of the basics, things they should look at when you’re thinking, “Okay how do I take sales and marketing in my company to the next level? Or I realize that my revenues are flat, or my revenues are declining, so I’ve got to do something. Where is the right place to start?” How should they think about tactics, strategy, that kind of thing?
Greg: Well, most small business owners don’t think about it separately, it’s part of what they do, and they’re in the firefight. So the first thing is when we help them, it’s a function of where they are in the stage of their business. Maybe they’ve just quit their job, and now they have the business up and running, and getting sales going for the first time. Or maybe they have some revenues and they’re trying to grow figure out tactics to make it work, and 10 or 20 employees, you’ve got different types of issues there. But primarily small businesses jump right into the tactics to go get people to talk to, to sell or convert online. So they run right into the tactical mode, and that’s where all the beginning is. They have a hard time taking a step back and looking how to optimize all that.
Laurie: Their real objectives are how they are going to measure the improvement?
Greg: Yeah, again they get a little stuck because they are peddling so fast, and they don’t look at the biggest thing underneath of all of that is distinguishing the right market for their products and services. At first everybody goes out and tries to sell to everybody but after a while, you have to start narrowing it down, to the ones who are your best customers and prospects.
Laurie: So I know you have a lot of tools to help people use the Infusionsoft solution, do you also have services to help them figure out those bigger picture things?
Greg: Yeah, well small businesses need help and between our partners and us we help them get Infusionsoft set up and get the system running and helping in their business, and we’re also advising them tactically where they should be spending time to plug the hole. Our partners do consulting as well to help small businesses figure out their marketing strategy. At ICON, over half of the speaking sessions are not about the tactical, day-to-day tactics. We are also trying to help them with ways to think about the business, and how to get through the next hurdle in the business. While businesses get to a once place, then it’s a struggle to get to the next level.
Laurie: Yeah, getting stuck and then unstuck.
Greg: So getting unstuck is a major part of what people get from coming to Infusionsoft, for a few days seeing some other possibilities and getting some tactical help to help bridge some of those gaps.
Laurie: Yeah, I like because we all get stuck in our own ruts. S one last question for you really. For you, what are the most exciting highlights here at ICON?
Greg: Well it’s a big deal for us when we get to be with all of the people that we serve. That’s why we’re here, and we get to hear all the small business stories about the stuck and unstuck. We appreciate that and all the challenges small businesses face. Some of our customers get on stage and tell their stories, and that’s a big part of what we do here. We’re continuing to grow, this is a major movement. And we’re announcing new capabilities in our product and the Infusionsoft payments to make getting paid easier and simpler, and more.
Laurie: Right, so once customers are ready to buy, you can easily process the payment.
Greg: Well, big companies, other departments handle the function of getting paid.
Laurie: We all want to get paid, right? I think that should be a good program, and you also introduced some new things to help them get started more quickly?
Greg: Yeah, there are new resources, we keep improving the resources we have for small business owners, starting with Infusionsoft get started and learn more about the concept that they may or may not know. So that’s part of our help center, and our kick-start services that we offer. And we are always making the software easier because we know small businesses have a passion, and they don’t want to spend all day reading manuals and learning to use something. You know most small business owners are focused on something else. So we try to make it easier to focus on the things that they do, and to get back the time and passion and growth in their lives. Families all that stuff that they thought they’re going to get more of, but didn’t really work out that way, so that’s why we’re here.
Laurie: This has been a great synopsis of Infusionsoft and ICON. Thanks Greg, so much.
Greg: Thank you very much.

See ICON15 event highlights here


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Vendor Strategies to Help SMBs Capitalize on Marketing Automation

This is the sixth and final post in a blog series discussing key marketing automation trends for SMBs. This series is excerpted from SMB Group’s December 2014 report, SMB Group Perspectives Report: Top Trends in Marketing Automation and How Vendors Are Helping SMBs to Capitalize on Themwhich provides detailed information and insights to help SMBs capitalize on these trends.

One of the best things about shopping for a marketing automation solution is that the vendors drink their own Kool-Aid! In other words, they provide a wealth of free resources to help SMBs learn more about marketing automation and their individual solutions (Figures 1a and 1b)). These include everything from papers and ebooks to webinars, live events and conferences. Even if a vendor’s solution is not the best one for your company, you’ll probably find some very valuable information among its resources that will help you make a more educated decision.

However, as part of the solution selection process, you should also consider the types of tools and services vendors offer to help SMBs get more continuous value from marketing automation. Evaluate the scope and types of tools, services and support programs that will help you get the most from the platform, and consider whether they will help you use the solution more effectively not only in the near term but also in the future as your needs evolve.

Figures 1a and 1b: Vendor Pre-Sale Education and Solution Enablement Programs

Slide1 Slide2

Each company discussed in this series offers a solid approach and a valuable solution. But, these vendors have designed their solutions for different types of SMB requirements; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Consequently, it’s critical to thoroughly research these and other solutions to determine which will be best suited to your business. Develop a short list that includes solutions offering the capabilities and services you need as well as integration with other solutions your business requires.

Fortunately,  marketing automation vendors tend to be very generous in providing resources and information about how SMBs can effectively use and get value from marketing automation in general, as well as about individual solutions. If possible, attend a webinar or even an on-site event where you can ask questions.

Many vendors also offer free trials. Try to test-drive at least a couple of different solutions to get a better idea of the options as well as which type of solution will work well for your business. Finally, ask for references from customers that are similar to your business and personally talk to them to find out about their experiences in deploying, using and getting value from the solution. Because vendors will almost certainly provide you with happy customers for references, ask what they specifically like and don’t like about the solution, and find out what lessons they learned after using it. Even happy customers are usually honest about the drawbacks they’ve encountered.

By taking time up front to research how well different marketing automation solutions align with your company’s marketing objectives, resources and constraints, you can help ensure a smoother deployment and choose a solution that will enable you to adapt to new marketing challenges and opportunities.

For more information about the full report, SMB Group Perspectives Report: Top Trends in Marketing Automation and How Vendors Are Helping SMBs to Capitalize on Them, please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director, Client Services & Business Development: 508.734.5658 or


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