The outlook for small-and -medium-sized (SMB) businesses includes a lot of looking toward cloud computing and improved analytics, according to Ed Abrams, IBM's VP Marketing and Strategy for SMBs. Ed and I spoke recently about the trends, and I shared with him my concerns about how so many smaller organizations are overwhelmed by tools, technology, and strategies for growth.
So many new cloud-based tools have not only come to market, but many are tried-and-true now. One fear that seems to have been put to rest is the fear many SMBs used to have (and larger companies, too) about putting their data in the cloud. The upside to do it just so outnumber any potential risk that companies have moved in droves to cloud-hosted platforms.
With everything out there - hundreds of thousands of apps, mobile technology, iPads, and things to measure, where does a sales leader or C-level team in an SMB start?
According to Ed Abrams, start with simple, analytics dashboards. Why? Companies now have so much unstructured data and often so little real insight into customer trends and sales effort trends. Take the information you DO have now, and through tools like Coremetrics and Cognos (or other tools) you can begin to see critical trends and patterns. Business intelligence - the valuable data that caused us to wonder what was happening is NOW at SMB company reach.
Because of this, the playing field has been leveled. No longer are smaller companies at a disadvantage when it comes to learning insights about how the sales team is spending its time, or how buyers are interacting with your company. Are you listening, and does your company now have a plan to get these insights and go up against your industry counterparts armed with data ammo?
IBM surveyed 1200 technology professionals in SMB organizations in 2012 and created the IBM Tech Trends Report. I highly recommend reading it because it is simple and clear to understand. It is a document you can give to others in your organization to help support your ideas as a "Pacesetter" (one of the 3 types of people identified by the research). Pacesetters want to better understand what their customers use of social and analytics means. They want to be where their customers are.
In future posts well be talking about the four market-drivers identified by the Tech Trends report:
Mobile technology - to increase customer reach and interaction
Cloud computing - respond and adapt to the market faster
Business analytics - identify new markets and opportunities, understand the customer better
Social business - learn more about buyers and customers in a 2-way conversation
We will offer simple ways to get started, or to move forward from where your organization is at in order to grow revenues.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips.