🤝Join our bi-weekly SMB Advertising Sales Briefing for Newspaper Executives for free!

Receive industry trends, sales hacks, best practises, sales materials from other publishers, advertising benchmarks and inspiration for new sales products and tactics directly into your inbox.
100% focussed on digital advertising sales for publishers.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

💡1.000s of newspaper executives already joined

February 28, 2024
5 min read

SMB Advertising Sales: Top Strategies for Selling Ads to Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

Selling any product or service to small and midsize businesses, needs you to understand your product very well to cater to the special time constraints, needs and purchasing behaviors of SMBs. This is why today we will take a look at some effective sales strategies publishers can implement to communicate with SMB customers more effectively. But first let’s start with defining what differentiates these businesses from the rest.

Christian Scherbel
LInkedIn Logo

Definition of SMBs

The exact definition of small to medium-sized business can vary from one country to another, but generally speaking in the US it refers to companies with less than 1000 employees and less than $1 billion in annual revenue. While large corporations worry about stock prices, foreign policy and new market penetration, SMBs are mainly concerned with saving time, money and avoiding bad financial decisions that could damage the business.

For many of us selling advertising to regional advertisers, the bracket is even smaller with lots of our local business being smaller than 50 or even 10 employees. Usually still “founder-led” with business owners that still care about many things themselves and without a broad management team to delegate tasks to.

Examples of SMBs

Statistically, SMBs make up for 99 percent of all companies in the US, so we interact with them on a daily basis, probably without even realizing it.

In the B2C world, these would be family-owned clothing boutiques, grocery stores, independent restaurants and cafes, fitness centers and so on. Their success lies in maintaining a close relationship with their customers, adapting to their shifting preferences and effectively managing their limited resources.

In B2B, good examples would be IT businesses, digital marketing agencies, accounting firms or business consulting companies. Their goal would be to identify the most profitable niche industries to work with and to create customizable solutions to fit their ideal customers.

What is the Difference between SMB and Enterprise Companies?

Size and Revenue

  • Companies with fewer than 100 employees are considered small, while midsized ones have less than 1,000. Large enterprises typically have 1,000+ employees.
  • SMBs have revenues of less than $1 billion annually, while enterprises could earn billions in profit per year.

Market Reach

  •  SMBs usually serve local or regional markets and they offer a more limited portfolio of products or services.
  • On the other hand, enterprises operate on national and global markets, offering a wide range of goods and services.



  • SMBs have limited resources in terms of capital, production facilities, employee power, technology or access to financing. That’s why  they have to be very cautious when making strategic decisions, such as investing in a new physical location, launching a new product or  hiring personnel.
  • Enterprises have more access to capital, productive workforce and advanced technology. That’s why they can afford to invest in research  and development, marketing or new production facilities. Launching a new product line to penetrate a different niche is a justified risk for  them, since their global presence and solid customer base can help them bounce back and recover from any financial losses.


 Regulations and Compliance

  • The regulations imposed on SMBs by local authorities are typically less rigid compared to large enterprises. However, they still need to adhere to tax and employment laws, workplace safety guidelines or environmental regulations.
  • Enterprises must stick to more complex national and international regulations ranging from financial reporting standards to user data  protection laws. That’s why large corporations have dedicated legal and compliance departments to address any potential issues with regulators.

Benefits of Selling to SMBs

It might sound tempting for local publishers to target large enterprises, which want to establish a regional presence, since they can potentially spend more on advertising. As we discussed above, such organizations have a bigger purchasing power and on top of that the deal size is potentially larger as well. However, securing contracts is a lot harder, there is a strong hierarchy in place and lots of team members and departments standing between the sales representative and the decision maker. Hence, shifting your sales focus to local SMBs carries its own unique set of advantages and offers untapped market potential.

Thank you – we added you to our Smart Insights newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Shorter Sales Cycle

The endless back and forth, bureaucracy and slow decision-making associated with large organizations is the worst nightmare of every business development manager. In SMBs, closing a deal is often a less complex process, since there are fewer layers of approval that are needed, so the entire sales cycle is much shorter.

Contract proposals and negotiations are done more quickly, which translates into faster revenue realization. In addition, this shorter sales cycle allows for more frequent interactions with the customer, thus responding swiftly to the changing marketing dynamics is easier. Besides, clients are always willing to voice their feedback on the product or service they use, offering businesses an opportunity to adjust their pricing or sales strategies.

More Effective Communication

In large enterprises, sales reps often have to communicate with a gatekeeper before reaching the right person within the organization who is authorized to work with them. Passing through the gatekeeper is very challenging – sales agents put a lot of time and effort into thinking about the time of the day to send that email, adapt their script fast while on the phone and how to look different from all the hundreds of salespeople who already pitched their offer this month.

Alternatively, working with SMBs is simpler – usually the person you call is either the business owner or a person who works with them closely. This direct line of communication allows for a quicker exchange of information, so that sales reps can quickly figure out whether they are getting a “yes”, “no” or “not now”. A more straightforward approach to the interaction not only speeds up the sales process, but it helps building and growing a long-term relationship with the customer. That's why sales reps from the advertising agency should pay special attention to reporting KPIs that actually make sense for the business owner.

Identifying Leads is Easier

We already mentioned that more than 99 percent of all businesses in the US fall into the SMB category. This is a massive pool of potential leads that companies looking to grow can tap into. Since there are so many SMBs operating in virtually any industry you can think of, the chances of finding interested businesses are significantly higher. Sales reps will no longer worry about their pipeline running dry.

By prospecting potential customers from different industries, companies can get a much better understanding of what their ideal client looks like – demographics, location, budget, company size, number of employees etc. Maybe they are already aware of it, but want to try out a different service offer to a new industry – there are limitless opportunities ahead.

Long-Term Relationships

Cultivating ongoing relationships with Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) can be a strategic long-term investment. Many successful SMBs have the potential to evolve into larger, more successful enterprises over time. This is especially valid for B2B businesses, such as the tech companies. By providing exceptional service and building a strong rapport with these businesses from their early stages, you position yourself as a trusted partner in their growth journey.

As these SMBs expand and their needs become more complex and substantial, your established relationship puts you at a significant advantage compared to your market competitors. Such businesses are more likely to continue relying on your services, given the long history of mutual cooperation. This loyalty can be incredibly beneficial, as what starts as a partnership with a small-scale business could eventually transform into a lucrative contract with a multi-million dollar corporation.

Regional Media Advertising for SMBs!
Our Portfolio of Successful Client Campaigns with News Publishers from all around the World.


The culture of word-of-mouth referrals is particularly strong among the SMB community, presenting a valuable opportunity for persistent sales representatives. By strategically nurturing a strong referral network within their existing SMB customers, sales reps can unlock significant benefits. Notably, sales generated through referrals typically yield a 25% higher profit margin compared to those sourced from other channels. Furthermore, customers acquired through referrals demonstrate an 18% higher loyalty rate than those from other sources. This loyalty translates into sustained business relationships and recurring revenue, crucial for long-term success in sales.

Additionally, these referred customers are four times more likely to engage in further referrals, creating a snowball effect of new business opportunities. By focusing on building strong, trust-based relationships with SMB clients, sales reps can tap into this referral culture, turning satisfied customers into advocates and effectively multiplying their sales reach and impact.

Challenges of Selling to SMBs

The benefits outlined above are undeniable, but there are certain challenges and risks sales representatives need to be aware of.

Limited Budgets And Resources

SMBs approach spending from a very strategic perspective. First and foremost, they prioritize their expenses for rent, payroll, utilities, taxes, etc – these are the essential components of running any business. This means that any investment in a new product or service needs to be carefully analyzed. As a result, they are typically more risk-averse, since a bad financial decision can set them back for months, even years.

On top of that, SMBs rarely have a budget set aside for testing new products or services. That’s why they tend to negotiate more, looking for the best deal possible – asking for discounts, extended payment terms or bundled packages. In addition, small business owners tend to plan their expenses with a long-term perspective, so sales reps should be ready for the “not now” feedback.

Smaller Deal Size

Dealing with smaller profit margins and generating less overall revenue per sale compared to larger enterprise deals is part of the game when it comes to SMB sales. If the strategies for lead generation and qualification are not finely tuned and highly effective, sales reps may find it increasingly difficult to meet their individual or team sales targets. The lower revenue per transaction means that sales reps need to compensate for that with higher volume of deals to achieve the same financial outcomes as they would with larger enterprise sales.

Therefore, optimizing lead generation and qualification processes becomes crucial. It's not just about finding more leads; it's about finding the right leads - those that are most likely to convert and offer the best potential for repeat business. Sales reps need to be strategic and efficient in their approach, focusing on quality over quantity in their lead generation efforts. This mindset ensures that time and resources are invested in prospects that are a good fit for the business's offerings and have a higher likelihood of closing.

A Generalist Approach

Unlike large corporations, SMB employees are not highly specialized in one field of expertise, but they rather spend their time doing several different tasks at once. For example, a single person might be responsible for making sales, recruiting, customer service, IT maintenance or even online advertising.  This carries certain benefits, since employees learn and adapt fast, which is useful in the rapidly changing business climate.

However, this also means that they don’t have an in-depth and expert knowledge in a single area, so implementing a new IT solution or a digital marketing strategy could end up being quite a challenge for them. Sales reps need to be aware of such knowledge gaps, since they naturally slow down the decision making process, adds a layer of risk aversion and can increase the entire sales cycle.

Besides, once the deal is closed, SMBs might require additional training, comprehensive or a dedicated account manager to help them with the implementation of a complex software service.

Product Customization

Big enterprises have standardized processes and procedures regarding the integration of a new product or service into their workflow. SMBs often require tailored solutions to align closely with their business needs, operations or industry-specific challenges. Think of a local restaurant in need of a new POS system, which needs to process unique menu items, pricing, promo codes, and integration with third-party applications and so on.

The same level of customization is needed for its supply chain management, online advertising or marketing and branding. As a result, sales reps should shift their approach from one-size-fits-all to a custom solution fitting the needs of a particular business. That’s why they have to build a solid foundation of knowledge in every industry they target, so that that they are able to handle the upcoming customer inquiries and to address their doubts.

Strategies for Selling to SMB Advertisers

#1 Analyze your existing customers

As a publisher you probably already have a lot of customers that fall into the SMB category, it's invaluable to conduct in-depth interviews with them to gain insights into what aspects of your product or service are most beneficial to their business. Understanding their satisfaction levels, specific features they find useful, and how your product has impacted their operations can provide critical feedback for improving and tailoring your offerings.

Equally important is delving into their experiences during the sales process. Investigate what initially prompted them to advertise with you – was it an ad they saw online, word-of-mouth recommendations, or the reputation of your newspaper or magazine brand?

Ask for feedback regarding your sales process, was the value proposition communicated effectively? Understanding the nuances of these interactions can reveal much about the effectiveness of your sales approach.

Additionally, explore the key factors that influenced their decision to choose your offer over your competitors. Was it your target audience, the scalability of the product, the customer service, or the price? This information is vital in understanding what resonates with SMBs and can guide your future sales strategies to be more aligned with the needs and preferences of this crucial market segment.

Analyze your existing customers to identify your winning sales strategies and use them for attracting new clients.

 #2 Adapt Your Sales Pitch

We already stated that it is quite common for sales reps to communicate directly with the businessowner, who might not be particular tech savvy or have experience with the product or service you are offering. Simplicity is key! Try to make your sales script easy to understand, follow and engage with.

Abstain from using confusing technical or advertising jargon which might put the other party off and change your pitch to fit understandable real-world scenarios. If during your presentation you mention terms like click-through-rate, conversion or cost per click, make sure you define what those mean to avoid any confusion in the future.

Don’t obsess over all the great features your product offers, but rather emphasize on how it meets the needs of the business you are selling to. Does it save them time, money or it improves their operational efficiency? This mentality makes your pitch more digestible and relevant to what business owners are looking for.

#3 Build Trust

Building a successful relationship is paramount for closing SMB deals. You need to with the trust of the other party first by being transparent and honest about what your offer. Be clear about its price, capabilities and limitations. There is no point in making exaggerated claims just to force a sale, since this will probably hurt your brand in the long run.

Be patient and become a good listener. Get ready to learn about the daily challenges the business goes through, the bad business environment and the increasing costs of running a company. Keep the lines of communication open, provide regular updates, respond quickly to inquiries and stay open to feedback. The art of sales is not about making a transaction, but about nurturing and fostering a relationship.

#4 Reduce Risk

We have already established that SMBs by nature are risk averse, which is especially true when making purchasing decisions. Starting a business, running it and trying to grow it is inherently risky, so this more cautious mindset is completely understandable.

To address this, sales reps targeting the SMB market need to do their best to alleviate these fears and concerns. One effective strategy is to offer incentives that lower the financial barriers and perceived risks. For instance, providing free trials, which allow SMBs to test the product in their own environment without a mandatory commitment, flexible payment plans that ease cash flow concerns, and bundled packages.

Moreover, leveraging sales tools like detailed case studies and genuine customer testimonials can be incredibly powerful. These elements serve as compelling forms of social proof, showcasing the success stories of similar businesses and thereby instilling a sense of confidence and security in the purchasing process.

By seeing tangible evidence of how ads have benefited other SMBs, potential buyers are more likely to feel reassured about the value and reliability of the offering.

#5 Qualifying Leads

By qualifying leads, sales reps can identify which prospects are most likely to convert into paying customers, based on factors like industry, size, budget and timeline. This process saves valuable time and resources, as it prevents reps from pursuing leads that are unlikely to result in a sale.

Moreover, qualified leads tend to have a higher conversion rate, which not only improves the overall sales performance but also enhances customer satisfaction, as the products or services offered are more likely to meet the customer's needs. In essence, lead qualification is about focusing efforts on the right opportunities, leading to more successful sales outcomes and a more efficient sales process.

#6 Follow up regularly

SMBs typically have limited resources at their disposal, such as time or personnel, so it is very likely your initial sales proposal will be forgotten about or deprioritized. Small businesses get hundreds of calls or emails daily and it is understandable why they need to be reminded about getting on a demo call or signing a contract. By following up regularly sales reps ensure the potential customers are moved across the sales pipeline, increasing the odds of making a sale.

Plus, communicating with your prospects frequently also helps you build that personalized approach we already talked about. It demonstrates your willingness to meet the needs of the business and building a strong relationship.

On top of that, decision-making is usually swift, but occasionally it could take longer than expected. For example, the business owner who needs to approve the deal might be on a business trip, vacation or a medical leave. Regular meetings with the client keeps you in the loop of what’s happening, so that you can address any concerns or issues promptly.

#7 Know the Goals of Your Prospects

In reality, not every SMB wants to scale and become a global multi-billion dollar company, which dominates a particular industry. Many businesses are content with maintaining their current size or have different growth trajectories. Additionally, the stark reality is that only about 20% of new businesses survive past the 20-year mark. This statistic underscores the need for a more nuanced approach to selling to SMBs.

Instead of focusing solely on the potential for massive growth through advertising, sales strategies should be tailored to understand and align with the specific goals and realities of each small business. This involves taking the time to really listen to what the company hopes to achieve, whether it's maintaining their current operations, achieving moderate growth, or something else entirely.

In most cases, regardless of their growth aspirations, SMBs share common objectives: improving efficiency and productivity, reducing operational costs, and increasing revenue. These goals are often the driving force behind their purchasing decisions. Therefore, aligning your product or service with these objectives can be a more effective sales strategy.

Take note of the goals of your potential customers and offer them solutions to help them out in achieving them.

 #8 SMB Referral Network

Having an SMB referral network is pivotal when selling to SMBs due to the inherent trust and reliability it fosters within this community. They rely heavily on peer recommendations and testimonials before committing to new products or services. A referral from a fellow SMB carries significant weight, as it comes from a credible source with firsthand experience.

This network creates a ripple effect, where one satisfied customer can open doors to numerous others, effectively amplifying your reach and credibility in the market. Moreover, referrals carry marketing benefits as well, reducing the need for extensive advertising while yielding higher conversion rates compared to other digital marketing channels.

Final Thoughts

In wrapping up, we hope this deep dive into the world and wonders of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the U.S. has shed some light on just how pivotal these companies are. It's fascinating to see that, despite their size, SMBs represent a whopping 99 percent of all U.S. companies, touching our lives in more ways than we often realize. From the cozy corner cafe to the buzzing digital marketing agency downtown, these businesses are the backbone of the economy, each with its unique challenges and triumphs.

Even though the journey of selling to SMBs might be fraught with considerations like budget constraints and the demand for customized solutions, it's also filled with the promise of shorter sales cycles, direct communication, and the chance to foster long-term relationships that could evolve into something much bigger.

Share this post

Subscribe to our blog!

Thank you – we added you to our Smart Insights newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Get more digital ad revenues with SMB clients - Book your Free DemoGrow your business with Smart Ads - Book your Free Demo

Start now! It’s easy

Get your free Smart Ad

Upload failed. Max size for files is 10 MB.
Thanks for your request – we deliver your demo ad within 24 hours!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Build Great Banner Ads + Landing Pages at Scale Now!

A link to your advertiser’s website, social media post, Google My Business Profile or print ad is all it takes to get your Free Demo Ad within 24 hours.

Get more digital ad revenues with SMB clients - Book your Free Demo

Free Smart Ad demo for everyone!

Please use your official agency or publisher email address and not @gmail.com or similar.
Upload failed. Max size for files is 10 MB.
Thanks for your request – we deliver your demo ad within 24 hours!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Consent Management
We use cookies and other/similar technologies (together: cookies) on our website. Some of them are essential, while others help us improve this website and your experience.
These items are required to enable basic website functionality.
These items are used to deliver advertising that is more relevant to you and your interests. They may also be used to limit the number of times you see an advertisement and measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Advertising networks usually place them with the website operator’s permission.
These items allow the website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language, or the region you are in) and provide enhanced, more personal features. For example, a website may provide you with local weather reports or traffic news by storing data about your current location.
These items help the website operator understand how its website performs, how visitors interact with the site, and whether there may be technical issues. This storage type usually doesn’t collect information that identifies a visitor.