Is SMB the Next BIG Opportunity for Virtual Events?
Small business is big business, except when it isn’t…
On the surface, the SMB segment represents a huge opportunity for virtual event providers. For starters, 99.7% of all business in the U.S. were small businesses in 2019. In addition, as a segment, SMB has been among the fastest to adopt new communications technologies like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting and Cisco Webex. Finally, small and medium businesses often have to manage large numbers of new customers, spread over a wide area…without breaking the bank.
So, with all of these advantages, why do Enterprise customers still represent the lion’s share of virtual event revenues? More importantly, what can virtual event providers do to help SMB embrace virtual events in the same way that they have embraced communications technologies?
Maximizing the SMB opportunity – thinking small to win big
There is no doubt that small and medium business could benefit from virtual events as a platform to engage their customers, train their employees and build relationships. But, in order to help SMB customers to embrace the virtual events opportunity, event providers must do three things – deliver flexible pricing, help SMB customers to help themselves and embrace SMB through marketing.
- Deliver flexible licensing and pricing solutions – From a pricing perspective, virtual events are clearly targeted at larger customers. This is partially a function of the large amount of work that goes into creating a great virtual event experience. At the same time, in order for SMB customers to embrace virtual events in mass, providers must find a way to provide simpler solutions with lower licensing fees and reduced video streaming costs. Doing so will require a departure from the full-service approach that exists today. But, if we succeed, the upside potential for both customers and providers is massive.
- Provide self-service solutions (with service) – In order to bring prices down to the level that will attract SMB customers to virtual events, providers will need to put more power in the hands of business owners and give them the tools to manage their own events. Doing so will require several adjustments to the current process. First, virtual event providers must put more of an emphasis on education, tutorials and training to help SMB customers to help themselves. Second, virtual event companies must provide simplified versions of their solutions that are easy to set up and manage from a customer perspective. Finally, virtual event providers should embrace associations and communities to help SMB customers to build best practices and help each other be successful.
- Embracing SMB through marketing – Looking through the websites of the major virtual event providers, you will quickly notice that most of the case studies focus on Enterprise customers. Given the importance of the companies involved and the revenue opportunity that they represent, this is perhaps not a surprise. At the same time, it is just one indication of the level to which the industry currently focuses on the Enterprise segment as its largest opportunity. If we want small businesses to embrace virtual events, one of the first things that we need to do is start marketing to them and communicating with them. From a traditional marketing perspective, this means making sure that we have a SMB message available (and that our services actually support this message). From a community perspective, virtual event companies should proactively reach out through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their own networks to engage customers around the future of virtual events in SMB. Working through industry associations could also help to raise the profile of virtual events among small and medium sized companies.
SMB and the next frontier for virtual events
For several years, virtual event companies have focused on the Enterprise. This focus has served the industry well, allowing the top players to build solid businesses from which to expand. The fact that the largest global companies have embraced virtual events has also helped to establish credibility for the industry. However, while Enterprise customers will continue to be critical, in order for the virtual events industry to reach its full potential, providers must embrace SMB with an equal level of vigor. As platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting and Cisco Webex show, SMB customers are perfectly willing to embrace new technologies when the solutions are tailored for their needs. In the virtual events space, they will be more than willing to meet us half-way…but, we must be willing to take the first step.
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