Succeeding with SMBs

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It’s encouraging to see speech technology vendors focusing on the small and medium (SMB) business market. The cover story, “Small: The Next Big Thing,” by Senior Editor Leonard Klie, states that the SMB market’s purchasing power will account for between 40 percent to 60 percent of all IT spending over the next few years. So naturally, there’s a lot of potential for speech technology vendors in this largely underserved market. However, to succeed here vendors need products specifically designed for SMBs and a strong go-to-market strategy.

The cover story reveals an undeniable truth about SMBs: When it comes to buying technology, cost and complexity are two main concerns for them. If vendors remain committed to serving the SMB market with lower cost, less complex products than large enterprise solutions, they will be off to a good start. But there’s more to consider when serving this market.

Even if the products are well suited for the SMB space, there are two big obstacles that speech technology vendors must overcome: SMBs are small and they are geographically dispersed, making them hard to find and difficult to service. That’s where channel partners can help. Value added resellers (VARs), systems integrators, or technology consultants can extend speech technology vendors’ reach into the SMB market because they, too, are geographically dispersed. Properly trained and motivated channel partners can add a lot of value to speech technology vendors and their SMB customers as it is much easier for this channel to respond to the sales, training, technical support, and customization needs of local SMBs.

Unfortunately, some vendors are neglecting their partners—see Robin Springer’s column, “Social Responsibility Is More Than a Good Idea.” This is a surefire way to ruin partner relationships and, while snubbing partners to sell directly to customers may generate a short-term sales jump, it will likely damage long-term sales growth. Establishing mutually beneficial relationships with highly trained and responsive partners not only extends a vendor’s reach into a market, it adds value to its overall solution.

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