Why SMB-to-SMB engagement matters, and how enterprises should invest in it

From online reviews to influencers, we live in a world that's all about trusted communities and authentic recommendations. And the same holds true for small and medium businesses (SMBs). We’ve found that SMBs trust their peers more than any other group – and that has a significant impact on business decision-making. In our previous essays, we show how enterprises can increase sales and make a positive impact on their relationship with SMBs through building trust and rethinking their segmentation model. But enterprises must also work out how to learn and make use of SMBs’ most trusted relationships – their peers.

Peer moments that matter most

First of all, enterprises need to know why SMBs place such a high value on their peers and their experience.

80%

of SMBs believe interacting with their peers improves the business outcomes they want to achieve

SMBs are time-pressured and resource-constrained, so peers become a convenient source for quick and reliable advice. We’re also seeing a cultural change: millennials that increasingly own and run SMBs bring the same mindset to business and personal purchases. And research shows that nearly all millennials (97%) read online reviews of products and services, and 89% of them trust those reviews.1 Looking to peers for advice is particularly important in the pre-purchase stage. All the research clearly shows before SMBs decide to buy a product or service, especially digital technology, they seek out their peers’ experiences and insights for validation.

SMBs trust their peers more than enterprises when seeking input about purchasing products & services:

SMB trust when purchasing digital tools

Source: Accenture, SMBs & Peer to Peer Engagement Study, May 2021

People trust people like them

We know that SMBs are actively looking for peer reviews and insights. Over half of them (56%) already belong to some form of a peer community, with networking and knowledge sharing being the two most important reasons SMBs value these communities.

Top 4 reasons SMBs value having access to a peer network

29%

value networking and collaboration

26%

value knowledge sharing

22%

value convenient access to peers

20%

value troubleshooting

But what makes up a valuable peer group? SMBs perceive the most value from peers that can relate to their own challenges and provide useful content and insights based on shared experiences. Naturally enough, that means SMBs tend to gravitate to groups that comprise members from the same industry (48% say this is valuable), face the same challenges (41%), or sell similar products (37%). The most digitally savvy also prefer peers with similar digital capabilities to their own, or who face similar technology choices.

Characteristics of a valuable SMB peer set

48%

in the same industry

41%

facing similar changes

37%

sells similar products and services

But it’s not always easy for them to find this. The top three pain points identified by SMBs in their use of online communities today? 1) Unhelpful content, 2) irrelevant peer sets, and 3) unsuitable volumes of posts and messages.

Pillars of the community: the enterprise opportunity

Enterprises should see this as an opportunity to play an important role in bringing together groups of SMBs. How? By giving SMBs access to the type of peer network that they say they want and need: smaller, more curated groups.

However, enterprises need to remember that SMBs trust peer-to-peer networks because they see them as authentic. So, enterprises should help curate and support networks of SMBs, but not try to over-manage them day-to-day. They can do this by building new communities or getting more involved in existing ones, playing a matchmaking role between SMBs, and investing in word-of-mouth marketing and brand strategies. Enterprises can also proactively share and look for feedback on the latest solution, product, and policy updates directly with these groups to build a more direct relationship. Enterprises should not push obvious sales messages as these will likely lead to mistrust.

But approached with a clear understanding of why SMBs value the support, advice, and knowledge of their peers, enterprises could help make those networks even more effective and relevant. It's an opportunity to build trust that's too good to miss.

Coming up next

In our next essay, we'll be looking at the overall global landscape of SMBs. We'll explore SMBs at a global level and what common trends we are seeing that make SMBs truly unique no matter what country we are focused on.

Sources:

1 Millennials Read Online Review

About the Authors

Robin Murdoch

Managing Director – Software & Platforms, Global Lead


Stephanie Gorski

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Software & Platforms


Kelley Harris

Senior Manager – Strategy & Consulting, Customer Sales & Service


Jing Brewer

Principal Director – Applied Intelligence, Product Manager

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