If you find yourself struggling for an answer to this question, the acronym SMB can often stand for “small- and mid-sized business.”  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are roughly 27.2 million small businesses across the country, employing nearly half of the United States workforce. In addition, this hugely influential group is unsurprisingly enthusiastic, hard working and always looking for ways to improve how they do things.

Amongst the throngs of small-business consultants and companies targeting the SMB audience, the 30th annual Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) conference in San Antonio shed light on the landscape and challenges SMBs face today.

With more than 1,000 offices across the county, local SBDCs assist new business owners to get on their feet and get the business moving forward. And while this crowd and able counselors are enthusiastic to learn, there are a few key takeaways I gathered at this event to better inform how to target this influential audience through PR and marketing communications.

1. Understand their situation: SMBs face a myriad of challenges, from healthcare reform, funding, taxes, etc. They have a number of governmental and business related requirements to meet and unfortunately some supersede others, whether they like it or not. For example, some businesses can’t get funding unless they have a business continuity or disaster recovery plan. While they’d love to have a website to showcase their goods and services, other priorities sometimes don’t allow them to get it all done with limited money and time available.

2. Be realistic: Small-business owners run two separate lives — one as a consumer and the other as a business owner. While we often market to them in the sense of the consumer (after all, we ALL ARE consumers), be respectful of their budgetary limits and time constraints. But if you earn their trust and respect, they’ll reward you with loyalty and you’ll have a customer for life.

3. Keep it simple: The best way to get a small business interested in what you’re offering is to make it as simple and turnkey as possible. The cheaper the better, and the faster the uptime the sooner they can get back in motion. Remember, they also need to train their staff on new investments so the less time they spend downloading, the more time they have to boost the business.

Are you marketing to SMBs and looking for best practices? Check out our Airfoil SMB Quiz to see how savvy you are.

— Meg Soule