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Debunking The Myth: The CIO of SMB


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How do tech marketers pinpoint true decision makers in SMB?
By understanding what defines an SMB and who’s really calling the shots.

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Debunking The Myth: The CIO of SMB

  1. 1. Debunking The Myth:The CIO of SMBHow do tech marketers pinpoint true decision makers in SMB?By understanding what defines an SMB and who’s really calling the shots.
  2. 2. For tech marketers, it’s an all too familiar story: You’re facedwith a staggering number of companies in the SMB spaceand the daunting task of reaching every last one of them. Asa result, your company often goes to great lengths to ensurethey’re “targeting SMBs.”There appears to be a common misstep in how companies havebeen carrying out their marketing approach: They assume thatreaching out to the CIOs of SMBs will do the trick. Sure, there area few exceptions, but when all is said and done, there are just notenough CIOs of SMBs to warrant spending time and resources ona lengthy marketing campaign. What actually is an SMB? And who manages their $800B annual IT wallet? $ Since no two companies targeting SMBs define them in the same way, let’s clear the air with a simple definition: SMBs are companies having fewer than 1,000 employees. Simple as that! Spiceworks, home to 2M IT pros, has a firm grasp on what that figure means when it comes to purchasing power. This leads us to a few global stats: These 7M are the IT decision makers who are purchasing tech for SMB-size organizations. This means that IT decision makers manage purchasing for over 197M employees inside of 18M companies worldwide. That’s an estimated $800 billion yearly spent on IT and some serious buying clout. Where to begin? Wrapping your brain around the scale of the SMB market is a great starting place for tackling your new marketing game plan. So first things first: let’s level set on what we mean by organization size.Debunking the myth: the cio of smb 1
  3. 3. The Home Office Market (1 to 10 employees) Starring: Your Friendly Neighbor, Fred At the lower end of the SMB market, we typically find 1 to 10 employees often referred to as small office/home office (aka SOHO). These folks tend to purchase products from mass retail outlets (Best Buy/Walmart) or online retail stores ( and then often seek out help from IT-savvy friends or family members to set up and sometimes maintain their computers/networks (Thanks, Fred!). MSPs and IT service providers are playing in this space too and are providing expertise for a number of companies just this size. These “smallest-of-the-small” usually set a budget based on some driving event, such as a new employee or upgrading obsolete equipment at the last possible moment.The ‘S’ of the SMB Market(10 to 250 employees)Starring: The MSP & The IT GeneralistPicture your small neighborhood insurance office or vet clinic. Theseare the typical small businesses that make up a large part of theworkforce around the globe, and where actual IT budgets (albeit smallones!) start to take shape. Because they lack the buying power of largecompanies, they’re extra careful about the dollars they spend. Don’tlook for a large IT department here – these organizations usually onlyemploy between 1 to 5 full-time IT pros. Not surprisingly, MSPs andVARs play a large role in this segment by complementing technologyinfrastructures or even running all of IT for them. That also goes forpurchasing. As a large number of products and services are acquiredthrough VARs/channel vendors, they trust these partners and havecultivated very strong relationships with them.2 Debunking the myth: the cio of smb
  4. 4. The ‘M’ of the SMB Market(250 to 500 employees)Starring: The IT GuruAs smaller companies evolve into bigger players in their industry,they find themselves working harder to compete in the mediumbusiness space. With an average, rather sizable IT budget of over$1M annually, these SMBs have “staffed up” with an IT departmentof 3 to 10 employees and sometimes even a VP of IT. They purchaselarge amounts, if not all, of their products through VARs and DMRs. Byestablishing trust in these partners and building mutually beneficialrelationships with them they are perfectly at ease asking their VAR repswhat products/brands they should purchase – and they usually runwith those recommendations. It goes without saying: Trust is pricelessin the IT world (almost as priceless as understanding who the real ITdecision makers are). The Large SMB Market (501 to 1,000 employees) Starring: The VP of IT The SMB “bulls-eye”: The fewest number of companies boasting the largest IT budgets with IT organizations ranging from 5 to 20 people. A VP of IT is not uncommon here but, as is the case in the medium space, these VPs are known for getting their hands dirty alongside their staff as they help put out IT fires within their organization. SMBs in this space are using VARs and DMRs almost exclusively and this is where we start to see solution-driven IT deployments. These IT departments have larger-scale needs that may require on-site contractors and special employees who set up/deploy systems and move on to another large company opportunity.Debunking the myth: the cio of smb 3
  5. 5. The Enterprise Market (Over 1,000 employees) Starring: The CIO This is where the big dogs play, and they’re easy to track down and network with. Sadly, this is where most IT vendors focus their efforts, leaving the IT pros of true SMBs largely ignored. No love for the little guy! Yeah, the CIO is here (as is the CISO, CTO, etc.), but then these are not SMBs by any measure. Not surprisingly, tech vendors work directly with these heavy hitters to purchase products, negotiate price, service levels, etc.A breakdown... Home Office Small Medium Large Large Enterprise Owners, Office Sys/Network Sys/Network Sys/Network CIO, VP of IT, IT Managers Admin, IT Admin, IT Admin, IT Director Director Director Director, VP of IT, Team Leaders People who keep the Often the only IT Often one of very One of many IT Often hard-to-reach, business running. pro on staff. Highly few IT staff. Highly pros on staff with with gatekeepers Typically not IT-savvy. knowledgeable knowledgeable influence on large preventing sales and influential in and influential in purchases and contact. Passes purchasing. purchasing. actively engaged in off review and tech solutions for consideration of company. technology to junior staff .4 Debunking the myth: the cio of smb
  6. 6. What’s a tech marketer to From the Spiceworks Communitydo now? IT decision makers sound offEven as IT organizations grow (in staff andresponsibilities) the decision makers are What is a CIO? I am the IT guy“downstream” where you’d like your brand to be. for our 250 person law firm in Florida. Me and 2 other guysYes, the CEO, COO and sometimes the CIO are the decide what to buy.ones who write the check, but don’t forget: While - Kevin C., IT Prothe regular guys and gals in the IT department maynot have the power to say “yes,” they most certainlydo have the power to say “no” and are usually theones who shape the purchase discussion. Here’s Most of us ARE decisionwhat not to do: Focus on the CIO as the only makers… or at least TELL the decision makers what todecision maker and watch your sales plummet. decide. That’s how it works here.Worry not – there’s an easy fix: Just pay attention - Paul C., IT Proto the large number of voices and influencers inthese IT departments when marketing and sellingtech products, services and solutions. Voila: techmarketing at its finest! Through IT communities, Marketing to the C-Suite istech conferences, and informative newsletters you the move of someone whocan connect with these key players, speak to the knows their product isn’t any good.C-Level suite, and make your marketing and sales - Scott M., IT Proefforts get more done. I think what so many vendors fail to realize is that while I, as an IT professional, am not the decision maker, I have two very important roles: decision influencer and gatekeeper. If a vendor doesn’t convince me, they don’t make it to the decision maker… and [I] can make or break most IT decisions. - Justin D., IT ProDebunking the myth: the cio of smb 5
  7. 7. What’s my next move? GlossaryWe’re glad you asked! The next step is simple: Show ITpros who are in the “trenches” of their IT departments SMB - Small and Medium Size Businesses:that your company truly values “the little guy.” Because, Businesses with 1 to 1000 employees.let’s face it, they can make a tremendous impact on how VAR - Value Added Reseller: Vendor of ITsuccessful you are in the SMB space. products that provides additional services, sometimes complementary and often builtWe see it over and over again: Tech marketers focus their into contracts for larger purchases.efforts on the “big fish” and bypass potential prospectswho actually call the purchasing shots. Frankly, the CIOs DMR - Direct Market Reseller: Also known as an ‘e-tailer,’ is a company that sells directly toof SMBs are few and far between. Should you come businesses without operating a storefront ofupon a rare one, chances are they’ll be heavily influenced any (or defer to) the IT staffers you just overlooked. Andyour competitor, who might know better, may just snag MSP - Managed Service Provider: Providesthe deal for themselves (ouch!). delivery and management of network- based services, applications, and equipment to businesses. CIO - Chief Information Officer: The person, typically in an enterprise, responsible for the information Ready to talk to the true IT decision makers? Get technology and computer systems that in touch with us at support enterprise goals; also known as the Chief Information Services Officer (CISO) and we’ll make sure you’re quickly engaging with over 2M IT pros. Spiceworks, as an IT management app and a community of over 2M IT professionals, provides a unique view, insight and path to reaching more than 25% of the world’s SMBs. Visit us at to learn more and understand how to optimize your IT marketing with IT buyers.