There's a channel opportunity in helping SMBs develop their tech strategy as they move digital.

December 21, 2022

5 Min Read

By Elliot Curtis


Elliot Curtis

Growing small businesses are facing a myriad of challenges in today’s environment. Macroeconomic factors such as economic uncertainty, inflation and ongoing pandemic-related disruptions (like supply chain delays) are making it more difficult for businesses to operate and grow. And as we all know too well by now, inflation is the biggest threat facing U.S. small businesses, creating widespread cash flow problems.

At the same time, the pandemic accelerated digital transformation initiatives as businesses of all sizes sought to attract consumers with new business models and digital capabilities. According to the SMB Group, 46% of small businesses accelerated their use of technology as they adapted to address initial downturns caused by the pandemic and 74% agree that effective use of technology is key to business growth. This left businesses that hadn’t already adopted new digital solutions with an imperative to do so.

However, growing small businesses may not have the knowledge or experience to effectively leverage new technology to transform their business operations. A survey from QuickBooks shows nearly half (48%) of growing SMBs feel they aren’t currently using digital tools designed for a business of their size, which can lead to unnecessary complexity and costs.

As a result, there is a significant, and largely unaddressed, channel opportunity for small businesses that are scaling (revenue surpassing $1 million and with 10-99 employees) and need guidance for their technology strategy. Trusted technology and business consultants can help SMBs navigate these issues by providing guidance on how to select the right tools that are not only right for the size of their business but also work better for their budgets to enable future growth.

How to Tap Into the Value Chain

Here’s a look at how to successfully tap into the SMB value chain.

  1. Help businesses digitally transform with cloud-based solutions.

According to a study done by tech industry research company SMB Group, 71% of SMBs are likely to select a cloud-based solution the next time they purchase a new application. Providing both the ability to easily leverage new technologies and flexibility to quickly pivot and grow, cloud-based solutions will be key to small business success. And the value of cloud-based solutions will only continue to increase as cloud vendors add capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, giving small businesses easy access to the modern solutions they need to grow.

To help your customers take advantage of the benefits of the cloud, discuss your customers’ digital transformation priorities and roadblocks preventing their progress. From there, identify opportunities where cloud-based solutions may accelerate or streamline current operations.

  1. Leverage automation to eliminate mundane tasks.

Most businesses start out with a lot of manual processes. That works fine for a while, but as they expand, the need for automating back-office operations such as payroll starts to increase. The SMB Group study also showed 33% of small businesses plan to deploy technology to offload low-value, repetitive tasks. But they’re dealing with a growing number of vendors and tools to choose from, and are constantly inundated with marketing on what to buy next. It’s overwhelming, and business owners often hit a barrier in how much they can scale operations on their own.

During the early stages of advising an SMB, start with reviewing its current workflows and supporting tools. Make sure it is set up with …

… foundational business tools that will help them “work smarter, not harder” and accelerate business growth. By helping it automate its core business functions, eliminate mundane tasks and drive efficiencies across their business, service and solution providers are better positioned to have a trusted, long-term business relationship.

  1. Help small businesses manage remote work.

The pandemic caused businesses of all sizes to expand remote and hybrid work. With its positive effects on employee retention and productivity, it’s likely that this trend is here to stay. In fact, SMB Group notes 70% of small businesses have a remote work program. However, remote work is still difficult to manage, especially for small businesses that aren’t used to managing remote employees. Additionally, to address hiring challenges, an Intuit QuickBooks Pay and Benefits Survey 2022 shows 79% of small businesses are turning to contractors or gig workers. As a result, small businesses are seeking simple, easy-to-use solutions that can help them better manage their growing workforce from any location.

There’s a big opportunity for partners to provide customers with the digital tools they need to manage employees from anywhere. Look for tools that can provide strong digital capabilities, such as mobile time tracking, payroll solutions, and more, that help business owners track, pay, and manage their workforce.

  1. Advise owners on the benefits of customizable business solutions under one umbrella.

Many SMBs are working with too many vendors and too many apps — an average of 19 different apps, in fact. Help business owners consolidate technology and provide solutions that have robust product integrations and tools that complement one another, under one umbrella. By doing so, partners can guide them to streamline their operations and provide more value.

Moreover, a lack of customization is one of the top disadvantages that business owners noted about their current enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Customers of this size crave tools that are customizable to fit their immediate demands. As the company grows and scales, it’s going to be looking for data and insights to track the business’s health, so offering customization is key.

SMB-Centric Tools Opportunity

SMB customers at this stage of growth are on the hunt for digital tools that reduce costs, drive efficiencies and are customizable for their specific industries and needs. Tapping into the SMB opportunity will provide additional avenues of revenue for the channel and also allow them to build a trusting relationship as they begin working with more partners or vendors for business software and hardware.

Elliot Curtis leads strategy and marketing for the QuickBooks partner program. He has spent over 25 years in the technology sector and been involved in cloud transformation since 2004, and has experience across partnerships, sales, marketing, operations and strategy in both corporate and start-up environments. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @QuickBooks on Twitter.

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