New CMO Council Survey of Large Enterprise Marketers Reveals More Brand Spending on SMB Customers but Deficiencies in Data, Insights and Campaign Effectiveness

SAN JOSE, CALIF, (Jan. 23, 2014)-Two out of three big business brands are planning to increase their focus and investment in engaging small to medium-sized business (SMB) customers over the next 12 to 36 months, according to a new study from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Penton, a leading business information services company. However, these marketers admit to shortcomings in their ability to access customer data, intelligence and critical vertical-market insights that can improve campaign effectiveness.

The study, "Business Traction From Smarter SMB Interaction: Advancing Enterprise Excellence in SMB Marketing," revealed that 70 percent of marketers surveyed believe the SMB market is extremely important to their business. And looking forward, they plan to increase attention and focus on the SMB sector, with 38 percent of respondents saying they will aggressively boost their marketing investments.

The CMO Council initiative was conducted in partnership with Penton, whose business information includes content, technology, data and networking that reaches an estimated 4 million SMBs in five core sectors that have strong growth trends, including agriculture, transportation, natural products/food, infrastructure, and industrial design and manufacturing.

Responses from more than 160 senior marketing executives selling to small businesses are included in the study, along with one-on-one interviews with six senior executives from leading brands targeting the SMB sector. Thirty-nine percent of respondents represent organizations reaching more than $1 billion in annual revenue, and 60 percent allocate up to 40 percent of overall marketing expenditure on SMB-specific campaigns or programs.

Despite the criticality of the market and the opportunity that the segment clearly represents, few marketers have the dedicated resources or tools to fully exploit more effective and directed marketing engagements. Only 8 percent have a complete view of the SMB customer, but a review of data gaps reveals an even bigger challenge, namely a key deficiency in customer contact information and difficulty in identifying and connecting with actual decision makers.

"While brands are excelling at developing products, services and even offers that engage small business buyers, marketers are struggling to keep up with the data and intelligence needs of a dynamic, diverse and fragmented market," stated Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council. "Organizations must look to new partnerships and intelligence sources to gain a deeper understanding of the vertical market segments of their SMB customers, including life-stage needs and behavioral shifts."

Better integration of customer data is top of mind for 45 percent of marketers while 36 percent are looking to gain a deeper understanding of the SMB marketplace. Marketers are looking to internal resources to gain this understanding as 33 percent have worked with IT, sales and channel groups to learn more about their customers in the last six months. Marketers are also turning to events and webcasts (43 percent), as well as experts in the SMB market (32 percent).

"Our research shows that brands who are able to learn more about the intricacies and nuances of individual markets are better able to reach and engage with their relevant segments and targets," explained Kate Spellman, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Penton. "For example, identifying the right time of day to send critical information, provide insights, and market products and solutions is critical. The needs of the farm vertical are drastically different than those of the restaurant or manufacturing fields. However, many organizations make the mistake of approaching all SMB markets with the same formula and offerings. Intelligence and insights will be the key to SMB success."

Other key findings include:

  • Only 5 percent of marketers believe that the SMB market has a very positive view of big business, even as one in four brands believes it has well established and trusted brand recognition. Nearly half believe they have a good rapport and growing relationship with their customers.

  • Half of the respondents have dedicated customer experience resources specifically for the SMB market, yet only 40 percent have a specialized department or team assigned to activating this critical market.

  • Only 6 percent of marketers believe they are extremely effective at developing compelling messages and executing measurable campaigns for the SMB market.

  • Mastering the marketing mix is also a challenge as 63 percent of marketers are only moderately satisfied with their current strategy.

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that 23 million small businesses in America account for 54 percent of all sales in the U.S., and small businesses provide 55 percent of all jobs and 66 percent of all net new jobs since the 1970s. Small to medium-sized businesses (under 500 employees) are estimated to account for about $5 trillion in U.S. GDP - as much as the large enterprise sector.

The 51-page report, dubbed "Business Traction From Smarter SMB Interaction: Advancing Enterprise Excellence in SMB Marketing," includes detailed findings from a 29-question online survey of more than 160 senior marketers fielded in the third and fourth quarters of 2013. The full report ($199) includes best-practice interviews with marketing executives from Capital One, Cox Communications, OfficeMax, SAP, Symantec and WageWorks. A complimentary executive summary is also available by visiting

About the CMO Council

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council is dedicated to high-level knowledge exchange, thought leadership and personal relationship building among senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision-makers across a wide range of global industries. The CMO Council's 7,000-plus members control more than $350 billion in aggregated annual marketing expenditures and run complex, distributed marketing and sales operations worldwide. In total, the CMO Council and its strategic interest communities include more than 20,000 global executives in more than 110 countries covering multiple industries, segments and markets. Regional chapters and advisory boards are active in the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, India and Africa. The council's strategic interest groups include the Coalition to Leverage and Optimize Sales Effectiveness (CLOSE),, Marketing Supply Chain Institute, Customer Experience Board, Market Sense-Ability Center, Digital Marketing Performance Institute, GeoBranding Center and the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME). More information about the CMO Council is available at

About Penton

For millions of business owners and decision-makers, Penton makes the difference every day. We engage our professional users by providing actionable ideas and insights, data and workflow tools, community, and networking, both in person and virtually, all with deep relevance to their specific industries. We then activate this engagement by connecting users with tens of thousands of targeted providers of products and services to help drive business growth. Learn more about our company at

Penton is a privately held company owned by MidOcean Partners and U.S. Equity Partners II, an investment fund sponsored by Wasserstein & Co., LP.


Media Contact:

Crystal Berry

Director, Marketing Programs and Communications