This article was originally published on Forbes.
Midsize enterprises don’t often get the individualized attention they deserve from tech vendors. Lumped in with small businesses under the broad category of small and medium enterprises, their unique technology needs are often ignored. As a result, midsize enterprises often settle for solutions that are simply just “good enough.”
Sometimes, that amounts to a cheaper, scaled-down light version of a product that was created with larger enterprises in mind. Other times, it means a limited functionality application that was intended for the more narrow needs of smaller companies. Either way, there has been a gap in the midsize enterprise tech market for far too long.
In reality, midsize enterprises are in a class of their own, with distinct challenges and opportunities. They need tech products that are more robust, but without the price tag of those meant for industry giants. As enterprise tech companies start to recognize this gap — note Slack’s recent acquisition of Missions to facilitate feature customization among non-IT staff — the landscape shows signs of improvement. For tech to empower the midsize enterprises, there are a few generalities that need to be understood about what makes this level of businesses unique:
1. Midsize enterprises care about more than just cost.
While it’s true that midsize enterprises don’t have the resources of their behemoth competitors, they also aren’t simply looking for the cheapest solution. Unless they absolutely have to as a last resort, they would rather not settle for a slimmed down version of an expensive product. Instead, they’re looking at which vendors can offer solutions with a clear return on investment.
To win the business of a midsize enterprise, come to them with a clear demonstration of value. How will a particular product solve a specific problem? How much time will it save them? How, specifically, will it cut costs or add to their revenue? These questions, along with meaningful statistics, are the ones that are driving decision-makers at midsize enterprises.
2. Customer relationship management needs to happen at scale.
While small businesses’ competitive advantage depends on intensely personal, customized interactions with customers, midsize businesses need the tools to manage customer relationships on a larger scale (full disclosure: I am the CEO of Insightly, the CRM). Without the vast armies of customer representatives that larger companies can mobilize, the best way for midsize companies to compete with their peers on both sides is by utilizing tech shortcuts.
The next generation of customers, according to research by Gartner, is looking for a reciprocal relationship with companies, including regular engagement mirroring a real-world relationship. With the right tools, midsize enterprises are well-positioned to execute relationship management at scale while still staying closer to their customers than large enterprises can. Tech vendors should help them find effective resources to get to this sweet spot.
3. Industry is more relevant than size.
Midsize enterprises often identify more strongly with their industry affiliation, not their size affiliation. Therefore, a universal solution targeted at all midsize enterprises is unlikely to go over well. Instead, most of these companies are looking for tech solutions that are either aimed at their specific industry or that are highly configurable to adjust to the nuances of their needs.
With that in mind, enterprise tech solutions should both develop and promote their products as they can apply to different business areas. They should also offer the ability to easily create and deploy customized applications from within the product, allowing businesses themselves to tailor the product to their precise needs as they fit into the larger picture. That may make product development more difficult, but if done right it could pay off in winning over new markets.
4. Integration with existing systems is critical.
Since midsize enterprises don’t always have the tech expertise on staff that large enterprises do, it’s incredibly important for new tools to be able to easily integrate with their existing operating systems. This sometimes includes legacy systems as well. After all, midsize enterprises can’t be expected to overhaul their entire tech suite simply to accommodate a new product. Many are unable to make the investment.
Tech vendors should therefore develop their platforms to be compatible with as broad of a range of business applications as possible, as well as common productivity suites such as Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G-suite. The more compatible a new platform is with a midsize enterprise’s existing technologies, the more likely it is that midsize enterprise will become a loyal customer.
5. Keep in mind that data plays a critical role in success.
One way that midsize enterprises keep ahead of their smaller, more personalized competitors is by having a formal system in place to capture and analyze customer data. From product use data to customer relationship maps, midsize businesses should be using tech tools to inform their operating practices and make better, fact-based decisions.
There is a clear market opportunity for tech vendors that keep these factors in mind and tailor their products accordingly. Empowered by the right tech tools, midsize enterprises can take advantage of their strengths and develop meaningful customer experiences that drive growth time after time.