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Vendors and Service Providers Take Aim At SMBs
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By Carl Weinschenk

Part of my job here at SmartBiz is the care and feeding of the news section. Of course, a lot of the news focuses on new products. I mention that as a disclaimer to my point: It seems that more vendors are introducing products and services aimed specially at small businesses. In other words, I'm certainly seeing more of this–but it may just be that I'm looking harder.

I feel confident, however, that the main point is true: Vendors–many of them big–are increasingly serious about small businesses and startups. Just in the last week or so, Cbeyond introduced a national mobile telecom service specifically for small businesses. Microsoft, Symantec and BroadSpire all made announcements aimed the sector.

My guess is that it's a little of both: I'm looking harder, and there is more action. A lot of my previous experience is in the telecommunications and IT industry sectors. It's certainly true there. The big telephone companies traditionally didn’t spend a lot of time courting small businesses. It was, for them, more trouble than it was worth. That seems to have changed considerably during the past few years as technology evolved and stronger competitors emerged.

Consider ecommerce and Website creation. During the past few weeks, we've run stories on search engine optimization, how to leverage Google AdWords and related topics. The bottom line is that designing a truly effective Website is a complex business, and there is absolutely no way small businesses can compete with big enterprises who can throw money at the challenge. Just creating a site that looks good is difficult for a neophyte (believe me, I've tried). Designing a site that performs well on search engines? Forget about it. (I ran out of patience just figuring out how to wrap text around a picture.) Now, however, there are more pre-packaged and online products that can make a site look good and score well on the search engines.

There's nothing new about products and services aimed at small companies. What may be changing is that more of these products and services are specially designed, from the ground up, for small businesses. This is a subtle but very important difference. For instance, in the past storage devices sold to small companies most likely were simply lower-capacity versions of devices sold to enterprises. Today, the entire device would likely be different, starting with a user interface that is far more user-friendly and intuitive.

Carl Weinschenk is the Editorial Director of SmartBiz.
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