In a December 7th, 2016 post by Microsoft's Cindy Bates on the US Small and Midsize Business Blog, Bates highlights some data points from a recent survey of over 1,000 consumers that, as she points out, uncover "shifts in the ways customers want to hear from businesses." Bates is the VP of US SMB and Distribution, and I reckon has a pretty good sense of the changes that have happened within even the last 5 years in the SMB space, which often leads mid-size to enterprise organizations as far as technology trends and adoption -- because the risk is much lower for SMBs, and the potential for competitive advantage through early adoption of bleeding-edge technology is far greater.
While I'm always a fan of these kinds of surveys, and would love to dig a bit deeper into some of the data, the stats shared within the infographic (which I've included below) are not, IMO, that interesting in and of themselves. Not that I am disputing the fact that 73% of respondents think a cloud platform is important (Yes, but how are they defining a "cloud platform," and what is the geographic and psychographic makeup of the respondents, which can very easily skew the data?), or that 30% say that it's important for businesses to be able to reach them via mobile devices (which is incredibly low, depending on your respondent cross-section). That's what makes the discussion around this kind of dataset interesting….at least to me.
But her call to action is weak. My advice to Bates: instead of reference the customer's need to self-audit, provide an online self-audit tool, or maybe point to an existing audit or survey, such as the 6Dot Digital Analyzer built by Meylah.com for the sole purpose of helping SMBs review their own digital readiness, and better understand what to do next -- and various Microsoft partners who can help them improve their digital footprint and connect with customers in the ways that this Microsoft survey identified.
Here is the Microsoft infographic included in the blog post:
I think Bates makes some great points about how to implement digital experiences, but again, her summary focuses on academic review of the survey and does not provide actionable steps. I think this is a missed opportunity for the post, and for Microsoft. In my experience in this space, people want and need specific guidance, not just academic overviews.
What is my experience in the SMB space? I was part of the advisory board that provided input to Meylah and Ignite Washington on the creation of their digital analyzer, and did a number of workshops with City of Seattle and King County Small Business Administration and other local groups to refine both the tool -- and our recommendations for SMBs to take the result of their personalized analysis and take action. But you can also see the strong desire for specific recommendations at Microsoft's Worldwide partner Conference (now called Microsoft Inspire) where community-led expo theater sessions on basic business topics , such as 'How to Use LinkedIn,' 'Leveraging Twitter to Grow Your Business,' or 'How to Build Your Content Marketing Strategy' had massive turnouts. People want and need practical, actionable guidance.
Cindy, would love to discuss and share a few more ideas. You can reach me at @buckleyplanet, or maybe I'll see you at Inspire in July :-)