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How to Market to Small Business Owners

Marguerite McNeal

Small business owners are tough to categorize. The guy who opened the coffee shop likely has very different business needs and definitions of success than the woman who founded the mobile app startup, yet big brands commonly lump diverse SMBs together in their marketing outreach.

There are more than 28 million small businesses—firms with fewer than 500 employees—across the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Whether brands offer marketing management software or credit cards, they should segment small business owners as they do for other targets, says Dan Gliatta, founder of The Cargo Agency, a Greenville, S.C.-based marketing agency. Cargo coined the term “B2SB” (business-to-small-business) and specializes in helping brands from Mercedes Benz to Intel market to small business owners, specifically ones with fewer than 100 employees.


Gliatta has spent nearly a decade trying to get into the minds of small business owners. He and his team publish an annual study that includes research about small businesses’ motivations and needs—and complaints about how marketers treat them. 


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Marguerite McNeal is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. She can be reached at mwmcneal@gmail.com