Report: Breaking into the Inbox with Successful Pitches to Local Merchants

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Pity the local small business owner. She has to act as CEO, head of product, chief marketer and salesperson, and IT decision maker. With the explosion of new marketing technology products and services, next-generation point-of-sale systems, and smartphones everywhere, her business’ core infrastructure is probably obsolete. Marketing and commerce providers and digital agencies are pounding at her door with new offers daily.

Or, perhaps it’s pity the poor supplier.

He has to identify and qualify good leads, then boil down the pitch for an audience of marketing non-experts who spend far less than $5,000 a month on marketing and selling tools. At the same time, he needs to address the nuances and differing objectives and priorities of retailers, local service providers, restaurants, and business services. Suppliers need to build products and services to suit these market conditions, then streamline them plus simplify their selling.

Street Fight Insights teamed up with Thrive Analytics to survey 500+ small business owners in the U.S. to understand their use of and attitudes toward digital marketing and ecommerce. We asked them tell us how they want suppliers to pitch them local marketing services. We’ve compiled their insights into a report complete with tactics for overcoming objections, standing out from the crowd of supplier messages, and the most effective pitches.

Overwhelmed by Solutions and Sellers

The local marketing technology space is vibrant to the point of confusion. Integrated and point solutions have proliferated beyond the comprehension of most small business owners. They are increasingly embracing digital solutions at the expense of traditional media, yet they need lots of help. Business owners told us they need help on SEO, their sites and ecommerce, and on social media marketing. But those were just the tactics and technologies at the top of a laundry list. There were an awful lot of other items needing assistance.

The survey confirmed their lack of expertise, but it also highlighted — painfully — their lack of time. Most of them work with only one or a few suppliers, yet almost half of them said they’re getting called on more than three times a week, and nearly one in five were getting what amounts to daily contacts.

Number of sales contacts

Cutting through the Clutter

Based on our survey analysis, most local merchants use a variety of digital and traditional marketing techniques, with new customer acquisition their chief priority. They feel digital marketing is more effective than traditional, yet they don’t have a good way to prove it. Where possible, would-be marketing suppliers should focus on integrating different digital and traditional tactics for their customers, especially through ROI measurement tools, analytics, and training.

To get and hold their attention, suppliers should take into account the following:

  • Email is the preferred initial medium, but business owners told us they don’t want information overload.
  • Unsurprisingly, it comes down to dollars and cents — costs even before ROI.
  • Ultimately though, survey respondents said they appreciated a vendor that can put all the pieces together in terms of addressing customer questions and concerns, backed up by industry knowledge and case studies.

In sum, when being pitched a new product or service, local merchants want information on costs, a clear explanation — illustrated by case studies or demos — of how the product or service will benefit their business, and all their questions or concerns addressed. The first contact should be by email, with the bare minimum of information. Follow-ups should be geared to learning client nuances.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.

Click here to purchase a copy of the Street Fight Insights report, How to Pitch Local Merchant Services.