At our recent B2SMB Institute Leaders’ Forum, Jenn Allen, principal of the SMB segment for Cisco, advised attendees to get ready for the changing face of the SMB, saying, “Millennials, or cloud natives, are set to take over the SMB segment. So many Millennials want to form their own businesses.”

Supporting this prediction is new data from Thumbtack, which surveyed 4,000 U.S. small-business owners between the ages of 18 and 35 and found that Millennials are choosing independent work over traditional office jobs and prioritizing personal fulfillment over financial incentives.

The good news for B2SMB solution providers is that the Thumbtack research shows Millennials use technology to help grow their businesses, utilizing social media for marketing (84 percent) and platforms like YouTube to answer customer questions. So platform providers don’t have to sell Millennial SMBs on the benefits of technology for their small business.

What B2SMB providers need to focus on is what motivates Millennial SMBs. Approaches that work for other SMB segments won’t necessarily apply to cloud native SMBs. According to the Thumbtack survey, financial incentives are not the main factor in starting a business for Millennials — three in five report starting a business to be more fulfilled, not to make more money. The emphasis is on work they are passionate about with the flexibility to choose how and when to work.

Also important for B2SMB solution providers to understand is the fact that Millennial entrepreneurs are not tied down to a traditional office setting. According to the Thumbtack survey, only 11 percent of Millennials report working from an office, while 27 percent work from home. Twenty-seven percent use public spaces like coffee shops or libraries and 11 percent use co-working spaces. Understanding these working environment preferences will help B2SMB solution providers target solutions that are more relevant to Millennial small business operations.


B2SMB Leaders on Engaging Millennial SMBs

The Leaders’ Forum panel discussion that featured Cisco’s Jenn Allen was about strategies for reaching and engaging SMBs. Allen and her co-panelists touched on the subject of engaging Millennial SMBs during the session.

Allen said she would love to see her company form an SMB business unit focused on attracting Millennials. Her co-panelist Iris Hickenbottom, SMB BDM & Enterprise Lead for Dell, said her company is actively looking at how to increase the number of Millennials they serve. “We are looking at what we need to do to align with them.”

Another panelist was Cargo CEO Dan Gliatta, who advised that for any SMB segment you have to “Move the heart to move the mind. If you come after an SMB with selling, you’ll lose them.”

Based on what we know about Millennial SMB preferences and motivations, it would seem this philosophy applies even more so to the Millennial SMB segment.

Has your company had success engaging Millennial SMBs? How is your approach different than with other SMB segments? Tell us what’s worked/not worked for you and your company.

Watch for more on this topic: For our upcoming B2SMB Institute Global Conference in Oct., we’re putting together an incredible panel of experts and SMBs to discuss the various ways companies need to adapt their selling and delivery methods to properly appeal to and support Millennial and women-owned businesses. Check the conference site next week for more details.