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Selling to the SOHO Market 

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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 and growth.

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 sources.

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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