It’s a Small (and Medium) World

Fueling Success Through Small and Medium-sized Businesses


In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape, one sector emerges, brimming with boundless opportunities for big brands. Amidst the bustling enterprise, the Small and Medium-sized Business (SMB) segment is often overlooked. SMBs have a colossal presence, accounting for over 99% of all businesses in North America. Yet, within this diverse SMB ecosystem, comprehending the distinct businesses within each industry that fall under this classification can prove challenging.

Fortunately, Cargo has honed its expertise through extensive experience and research, enabling us to unravel the intricacies of the SMB customer mindset. Over the last two decades, Cargo has empowered renowned brands to effectively market and sell their products and services directly to, and oftentimes through, SMB customers. Our latest research, encompassing a sample of over 400 SMB decision makers, delved into the sentiments expressed by SMB owners regarding their classification as such in attempt to explore how brands can successfully connect with this lucrative market by strategically positioning themselves to best resonate with SMBs.

Size Matters: Understanding Definition and Classification of SMBs

The classification of SMBs can indeed be complex and varies across different North American organizations. While some base their categorization on revenue, others consider employee headcount. In Cargo’s research, we adopted a specific definition for SMBs, classifying them as organizations with a workforce ranging from 2 to 500 employees.

This approach acknowledges the significant diversity within the SMB landscape, as businesses on opposite ends of this spectrum differ greatly in size and operational capacity. To provide a more nuanced understanding, our research further divides the term SMB into distinct categories: small (2-10 employees), medium (11-100 employees), and large-sized (101-500 employees) SMBs. By recognizing this wide range of businesses falling under the SMB umbrella, we unlock an array of opportunities for brands to tap into this market.

Duality of Categorization: Sentiment of Being Labeled a SMB 

When we inquired about respondents’ sentiments regarding being referred to as an SMB, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. A remarkable 87% of the participants expressed a favorable perception of the label indicating that the term “SMB” carries a positive connotation among business owners within this sector. Most SMB decision makers embrace the label as a badge of honor, highlighting their unique position within the market. Some of the key themes for the positive respondents included accuracy in the label and the benefit of customers seeking to support SMBs.

While most respondents expressed a positive sentiment towards being labeled as an SMB, the minority who held a different perspective conveyed frustration as they believed their organizations were larger in scale than what the SMB classification typically represents and felt that being labeled as an SMB undermined their size and significance in the business landscape. Additionally, a few respondents viewed the term as potentially degrading, perceiving it as a label that diminished their accomplishments or portrayed their businesses as less important.

Being categorized as an SMB brings forth both advantages and challenges, as highlighted by the respondents in our research. The top benefits reported by SMB decision makers encompassed several key areas. These include:

  • Employee camaraderie: SMBs often foster a close-knit work environment, promoting strong bonds and collaboration among employees. This sense of camaraderie can contribute to a positive and supportive company culture.
  • Flexibility in marketing and advertising: SMBs have the advantage of being agile and nimble when it comes to marketing and advertising strategies. They can quickly adapt their approaches to suit changing market conditions and customer preferences.
  • Ability to win business over larger brands: SMBs possess the potential to compete and secure business opportunities against larger brands. Their agility, personalized approach, and ability to offer tailored solutions can be attractive to customers seeking a more specialized and customer-centric experience.

Conversely, the challenges faced by SMBs were also identified by the respondents. These challenges varied based on the size of the SMB, with some common themes emerging:

  • Employee retention: Retaining talented employees was highlighted as a challenge across various SMB sizes. Attracting and retaining skilled individuals can be a concern due to competition from larger companies or limited resources for employee benefits and growth opportunities.
  • Loss of business to larger brands: SMBs, particularly medium-sized ones, expressed the challenge of losing business to larger brands. The perceived credibility, resources, and market dominance of larger competitors can pose a threat to SMBs’ customer acquisition and retention efforts.
  • Access to capital: Accessing capital was identified as a pressing challenge for smaller-sized SMBs. Limited financial resources, difficulty in securing loans, or attracting investors can hinder their growth and operational capabilities.

It’s important for brands aiming to engage with SMBs to understand the nuanced challenges faced by different-sized businesses within this segment. Tailoring strategies and solutions to address specific challenges can help build trust, strengthen relationships, and provide meaningful support to SMBs based on their unique needs.

Unlocking the SMB Potential

In conclusion, the Small and Medium-sized Business (SMB) market presents a wealth of opportunities for brands. Despite the challenges and varying perceptions associated with the SMB label, our research indicates that the majority of SMB decision makers view it positively, considering it an accurate representation and a chance for customers to support their businesses. By understanding the nuances within the SMB ecosystem and tailoring strategies to address specific challenges, brands can tap into the potential opportunity of SMBs. By recognizing the unique needs of different-sized SMBs and forging meaningful connections, brands can fuel their success and contribute to the growth of this vital business segment. Interested in more? Check out the complete study here. And when you’re ready, contact us to discuss the application to your brand.