Selling to the SOHO Market
By Catherine Kitcho
Everyone seems to be pursuing the SOHO market and trying to sell
them all types of technology and services. There is good reason
for this phenomenon. Nearly every forecast done by market research
firms identifies this as the largest market segment with the highest
growth potential both in the short term and the long term. The tricky
part is finding the customers, understanding their buying behavior,
and making the sale.
A recently completed survey of SOHO customers evaluated their buying
behavior for networking products and services. Most of the time,
high-tech companies have this vision of the small business owner
as someone who goes to their nearest computer retailer to buy products,
wires the network themselves, and is most concerned about price
and functionality . This study identified some surprising results.
Where and how SOHO customers buy products is the most compelling
trend. By an overwhelming margin, these customers use Value Added
Resellers or consultants as their key channel. Their VAR or consultant
also plays a significant role in network needs assessment, product
selection, installation and support. Small business owners do not
have the time to go out and buy products themselves and rely upon
the experts to do all of these services for them.
In terms of buying factors, SOHO customers care most about reliability
or quality of the product, and the business stability of the manufacturer.
They want a product that works reliably, and they want a company
that will be around in five years to support their product. They
evaluate the manufacturers in terms of their relative market share,
as well as what the stock market analysts say about business stability
SOHO customers learn about products largely from trade magazines
and the Internet. Even though their VARs or consultants recommend
which products to buy, SOHO customers do their homework using those
What this study tells us is that high-tech companies are advised
to do the following to increase sales to the SOHO market:
- Train your channel partners (especially VARs) and keep
them updated on your products Extend your support programs and
services to VARs for the widest possible geographic distribution
(small business are geographically dispersed.
- Keep sending out press releases about your positive
business operating results, as well as submitting articles to
editors of the trade press.
- Make sure your web site is updated with the latest
product information and make it easy to find (small business
owners don't have a lot of time.
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