Marketing Microsoft

Small Business Equals Big Sales Revenue

Partners can get seen in the small business space through some basic marketing moves.

By Microsoft's tally, there are 5.5 million small businesses -- those with fewer than 25 PCs -- in the United States alone, and those companies currently spend about $5.8 billion on software every year.

Even better news for Microsoft partners: Much of that money goes to companies like yours. As one example, just consider the highly publicized $18-to-$1 ratio for Windows Vista: According to research by Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, for every U.S. dollar that Microsoft makes on Vista this year, partners offering software, hardware and services related to Vista will make $18.

So how can you get a big share of the small business pie without breaking your budget? One effective approach is using lower-cost marketing activities to fill your opportunity pipeline with sales-ready leads that you or your company's salespeople can close. Following are some proven tactics:

Seek "break/fix" opportunities through phone-book ads. It may seem like traditional printed telephone directories just collect dust these days, but if your small business prospects' networks or laptops crash, they may not be able to search for help online. Instead, as the old Yellow Pages ads put it, they'll have to let their fingers do the walking through the hard-copy phone book. Buying an ad in your local directory provides an avenue for helping such prospects find you.

Optimize your Web site for search and visitors. When small business owners can get online, search engines are often where they go to look for companies, products and services like yours. So you need to get your company's Web site to the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

You can buy your way to the top of the SERPs with paid search (pay-per-click ads and sponsored search results). One good book on that subject is "Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing for Dummies" by Peter Kent (John Wiley & Sons, 2006).

Or you can try to elevate your search engine status by using "organic" or "natural" search marketing techniques -- that is, using the right words and phrases throughout your Web site. For more information on that approach, check out marketing communications expert Dianna Huff's new e-book, "Turning Clicks Into Leads Through Search Engine Optimization," available at

In any case, make sure that your Web site's navigation and content are designed to help a prospect move easily from awareness to consideration to inquiry to sale. My checklist of questions to guide you in optimizing your Web site (both for search and for visitors) is available free at

Aim direct marketing at the right prospects. The process of generating, nurturing and qualifying small business leads (that is, sales-ready opportunities) through direct marketing typically requires two steps:

  1. Build a database of top prospects. Avoid "boiling the ocean" by limiting your list to those companies and contacts that most closely resemble your best customers.
  2. Use direct marketing to touch those prospects regularly until they buy. I recommend aiming for monthly contact by mail, e-mail or telephone so that you're in sight and in mind when prospects are most receptive.

Be sure to include multiple calls-to-action that are designed to appeal to prospects at different stages of the buying cycle. For example, provide information kits, white papers and case studies for those early in that process. Provide worksheets, checklists, Webinars or live seminars for those a bit further along. Provide demos, assessments, quotations and "if you buy now ..." offers for those ready to make a purchasing decision.

Finally, of course, don't forget to leverage Microsoft's partner-focused sales and marketing sites, which are well stocked with resources for generating small business leads and sales.

The bottom line: Small business can represent big business opportunities for Microsoft partners -- but you've got take action to get your share.

About the Author

M.H. "Mac" McIntosh has been providing marketing and sales consulting services for Microsoft and many of its partners for more than seven years. More than 1,000 Microsoft Partners across the United States and Canada have attended his Marketing Boot Camps and Marketing for Leads (tm) live and Web seminars. You can contact Mac via