The year ahead for SMBs: a story of growth


Written by Heather Gordon, Worldwide Small & Medium Business Segment Leader at Microsoft


As we look ahead to the coming year, there is a fantastic opportunity for partners to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in their digital transformation—but each customer requires a tailored approach. Defined as businesses with 1‒300 employees, SMBs play a crucial role in society and the global economy. Making up almost the entire population of businesses worldwide, they are as unique as they are plentiful.


As a team, we recently completed the SMB Voice and Attitudes to Technology Study, bringing together insights from 3,000 businesses in 10 countries around the world. In listening to SMBs’ priorities and perspectives for the coming year, we heard over and over that they will grow larger and faster if they can adopt digital technologies. This is the first in a series of blogs where I will share key insights from the research and discuss the opportunities this brings for our partners. In this blog, I’ll provide an overview of some of the key results, before we dive in deeper. Let’s start by taking a closer look at how to engage with this significant market segment.


Introducing the SMB audience

Don’t judge a business by its size: SMBs account for 99.9% of global businesses, more than 50% of worldwide employment, and contribute 61% of GDP in high-income and 45% in middle-income markets. Remember, some of today’s largest corporations including Microsoft, Amazon, and Disney were once small businesses operating out of someone’s garage! Today’s SMBs have the potential to grow into tomorrow’s industry leaders.


Like larger businesses, many SMBs are also on a journey of digital transformation to cut costs, improve efficiency and access new markets. However, the SMB market presents significant differences from larger organizations due to different needs and behaviors. For example, smaller businesses rarely have in-house or dedicated IT resources, and as a result have less technical capabilities than larger companies. They are often more customer-/relationship-focused than larger businesses or more heavily influenced by individual executives.


That said, a subset of SMBs are born in the cloud, or Digital Natives—these companies are more tech intense and have broader technology needs than traditional SMBs, and they consume and grow their digital technology usage at a far higher rate.


We are also seeing more millennials enter business decision making or ownership roles—and they bring new buying behaviors and priorities, which we’ll look at more deeply in future blogs.

The bottom line is that partners will be most successful by approaching SMBs with agility and openness to their specific goals, challenges, and priorities.


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