The road to excellent SMB software is paved with good intentions, but we often end up emulating existing software that is premised on intensive training and highly specialized roles in a business, which is unlikely the case if SMBs are your target market. The first interaction with a Saas offering instead of Excel spreadsheets should delight your users, certainly shouldn’t make them feel stupid, and most importantly, should demonstrate immediate value by addressing a major pain point. Your solution, be it a platform for SMB CRM, accounting software, or facilitating backend procure-to-pay workflows, needs to leave users feeling good about your product, your brand, and your role in their growing business.
1. Delight users
A general trend in enterprise software is the disregard for delight. Business people are consumers after hours and they too deserve intuitive design and turn-of-the-century graphics with drop shadows. This means investing in both excellent UX and UI talent. In today’s highly competitive landscape of SMB tools, it is absolutely not enough to sell a serviceable product; it must delight in its delivery, service and support, design and aesthetic, and usability, on top of the pre-requisite functionality.
Look at Square: their products do delight while getting the job done, through carefully considered usability and design that make users feel like their business is so trendy/innovative/cool, it deserves nothing less than delightful, easy-to-use, aesthetically-pleasing products. Your SMB users don’t live in a dichotomy of delight versus function, and neither should your product.
Winner: Square’s portfolio of small business management products.
2. Don’t build software that makes people feel stupid
In the particular market of SMBs, you are truly engaging users whom already have a fear of adoption and are unlikely to be familiar or comfortable with new technology. Complex design patterns that deviate from the norm users are familiar with through consumer applications are best avoided in new enterprise products. Expecting this set of users to adopt new interaction processes leads to software aversion which quickly results in reversion to old work processes, leaving one portion of the business converted to a new system while trying to manage rogue and often influential users who refuse on the premise, acknowledged or not, of pain aversion. There certainly is still opportunity to innovate and redefine existing patterns, but unnecessary complexity through multi-layer workflows or functionality designed for fringe use cases can cause your user to walk away feeling frustrated at your product and themselves.
I consider myself a savvy user, but at one point I gave in and called tech support for an app on Salesforce because I couldn’t find items that had been added just moments prior. To their merit, it only took a few minutes to resolve the issue after setting up a screenshare, but not only were those minutes costly to my company and theirs, I felt ridiculous after the fact that I hadn’t identified the cause myself amongst the many top level navigation and underlying items that I have never used, and have never seen anyone else use.
It may be hard to admit, but winning over your customer is just as much about how they feel about your software and solution as it is how truly useful your product is for their business. “Do I feel good before I use it, while I use it, after I use it?” The answer is a resounding no if they are dreading logging in, navigating through the multi-layer menus, or specifying criteria in a seemingly unending list for a report.
Winner: Insightly’s CRM/PM platform for its ease of use.
3. Demonstrate immediate value to drive further and future adoption
Target low-hanging fruit that causes big pain for your market and execute on those with excellence. You can’t do everything all at once, so take the time to both understand what value you bring to your customers and articulate that value through marketing and product design. Your product’s value-add should leave your customers crying about the hours they’ve wasted in the past trying to address the problem you have solved for them (my reaction upon discoveringStich Labs). When the role your solution plays in their business is immediately obvious, your users are then converted to your champions, driving adoption across the business and allowing you to expand your product offerings in the future as you grow with them.
Winner: Stitch Lab’s inventory management system solves an obvious and critical pain point for SMBs.
Buck the trend of typical enterprise software and stop designing for large enterprises when your target market are SMBs. Your users are resource-constrained, not highly specialized, and most importantly, the unicorn market you can tap into by delighting, making them feel good about using your product, and demonstrating immediate value through addressing and articulating which pain point you resolve.
What are some SMB software solutions that have delighted you and why? Have you ever championed a solution because you were so impressed? Share your thoughts below.