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Verizon Exec Issues SMB Challenge at CPExpo

Sugarbroad keynote at CPLV 19

(Pictures above: Verizon’s Catherine Sugarbroad on the keynote stage at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, April 11.)

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — SMBs are underserved and present a big opportunity for the channel if they do their homework and take the right approach with them.

That’s the message Catherine Sugarbroad, Verizon‘s executive director of SMB product, shared with attendees during her keynote, titled “Take the SMB Challenge,” at Channel Partners Conference & Expo. Verizon is so bullish on SMB that it created a separate business unit, Verizon Business Markets, to focus on this sector.

There are 30 million SMBs in the United States, 78% of which consider technology important for growth, Sugarbroad said. Also, 60% prefer to work with indirect channels, she said.

“So how excited are we?”

There’s lots of perceptions of SMBs that need to be debunked, Sugarbroad said. For example, many feel a significant number are home-based hobbyists, but in terms of tax spending and number of employees, the percentage of home-based opportunity is “actually dwarfed by workforce,” she said.

“So never doubt there is a huge opportunity here,” she said.

Another misperception is that many SMBs fail. While there’s a steady stream of entrants and exits, 30% of the exits are due to retiring or selling the business, Sugarbroad said. And although 20% of businesses will fail in the first year, after that a high percentage survive and experience a “long, healthy life,” she said.

Top concerns for SMBs include: capital and cash flow; regulatory compliance; cybersecurity; and hiring. Cybersecurity is their top concern, with many feeling either very vulnerable or believing they will fall under the radar because they’re so small, when actually they’re considered low-hanging fruit by cybercriminals, Sugarbroad said.

Knowing the different SMB personality archetypes — the inspired hustler, the optimist optimizer and the seasoned timesaver — will help you know how to approach them, she said.

“SMBs want trusted partners,” Sugarbroad said. “They’re not like enterprise and not like consumer; they’re different animals.”

To SMBs, everything is personal. They know they’re smaller so they will band together; they just want to be treated the way they treat their customers, she said. Also, don’t approach them with slick materials, but instead tell them genuine stories about yourself and what you’ve accomplished, she said.

When it comes to making decisions about technology, price isn’t the highest priority. If they’re feeling informed and in control, they’re feeling a lot less vulnerable, Sugarbroad said. More important is simplicity, reducing friction, keeping them informed and in control, she said.

“Take the SMB challenge: know your customers, focus on immediate value, be authentic and transparent, keep it simple and build trust,” she said.


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