As a small to mid-sized business (SMBs) owner, you had to step up and innovate in 2020. Companies like yours, which power our economy, have had to transform how you engage with customers, define success and support your community during the pandemic.

Many SMB leaders used technology to reach out in a remote world. The companies that are thriving have been the ones that quickly adapted to new ways of collaborating with team members, delivering products and staying connected with customers. This has forced small businesses to think more strategically about adopting solutions that automate processes and personalize interactions.

Adding new technology to the mix might be a tall order for your small business. At smaller companies, managers and employees typically handle many different roles, and there’s not a lot of time or money to invest in new tools and training. That said, successful SMBs are forward-looking and adaptable. You embrace change when you can see clear ROI.

Today, SMBs can see that their customer base is moving to digital channels more rapidly than ever. They know customers want to engage directly online. Competing in a transformed business environment will require automation and personalization technology, but SMBs are looking for new capabilities that are delivered on their terms.

This presents an opportunity for larger tech companies and SMBs alike. Some technology companies focus on enterprise solutions or consumer tech, leaving SMBs underserved. But that is changing as leaders realize the potential in the SMB market, which represents a projected market value of tens of billions just for SMB-focused sales and marketing automation solutions.

Why have companies like Slack and Zoom done so well through 2020? They’ve learned not to focus solely on enterprise software, and they deliver low-barrier, affordable and highly valuable solutions that serve the SMB market.

Tech company leaders know there’s room for that market to expand significantly if they seize the opportunity and tailor service delivery to SMBs. As a SMB leader who needs support as you transform operations, you should seek out tech companies that enthusiastically serve your market. Here are three traits SMB leaders should look for in a technology partner:

The technology company over-delivers on support: Savvy tech companies realize that SMBs are under-resourced and therefore all the more appreciative of great support levels. They know that providing stellar support is the quickest way to build a loyal base of customers, so they focus more on support than marketing.

A high price point and steep learning curve can be significant barriers to product usage and adoption, particularly for SMBs. Tech companies that understand SMBs will reduce those barriers, making adoption simple. SMB leaders are passionate about their business, so when companies serve them well, they become advocates for the products they’re using— the most valuable type of marketing there is.

The company “gets” SMBs: Smaller companies are infinitely complex and diverse. Your SMB could be a growing online store run by a couple of people. It could be a dental practice with several locations. It could be a fitness studio with an active blog. The point is, small businesses vary in the number of employees, the sales models they use and their engagement needs, but some tech companies offer only one-size-fits all products. You need a company that gets your business’s unique needs.

When choosing a tech partner, look for a company that recognizes the complexity and individuality of the SMB sector. Companies that understand the unique needs of SMBs on a molecular level won’t offer a scaled-down version of a product — they’ll invest as much in building products for SMBs as they do in creating consumer and enterprise products. They’ll offer solutions that allow SMBs to capitalize on investments they’ve already made, giving them the option to expand use cases when they’re in a position to do so.

The tech partner delivers a “wow” factor: As a tech entrepreneur that serves SMBs, I’ve learned firsthand that if you “wow” SMB customers by solving big problems, you can generate a lot of new business. SMBs tend to focus on personal relationships in business more, and if you help them by providing a solution to a persistent problem — a solution that doesn’t require tons of investment of time and money — they’ll repay your upfront investment in development and support many times over through their organic evangelism of your product.

Look for tech partners who provide a customer experience that goes beyond what is infinitely scalable. Tech companies that are willing to go the extra mile for SMB customers are demonstrating that they understand the value of the sector and are looking to capitalize on organic growth through true customer satisfaction.

Together with your fellow SMB leaders, you’re in a sector that can add trillions to the global economy and play a key role in driving post-pandemic recovery. But success in the years to come will require technology adoption to automate core tasks and personalize customer interactions. Your business will need world-class solutions that are built with your unique requirements in mind.

While some technology companies continue to focus on the enterprise sector, others — including companies like Slack and Zoom— understand the value of the SMB sector and offer products and services to help them grow and prosper. When you’re looking for ways to connect with your digital customer base as an SMB, make sure you’re working with a technology partner who not only understands you but is a trusted advisor.

Jason VandeBoom is the founder & CEO of ActiveCampaign, the leader in Customer Experience Automation. Founded in 2003, ActiveCampaign accelerates every company’s growth with the only automation platform designed for ideal customer experiences. Today, ActiveCampaign is the market leader in intelligence-driven customer experience automation with over 100,000 customers in more than 170 countries leveraging the platform to grow their businesses.

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