puppies

Don’t Use Fake Research When Marketing to Small Businesses

Each May, I receive an avalanche of email pitches from public relations people (who now go by the title, “content strategists”) who want SmallBusiness.com to share with its readers the findings of a new surveys their companies have conducted just in time for Small Business Week.

The email is nicely produced and has links to: (1) A press release about the research, (2) research highlights (3) an infographic that looks like a PowerPoint version of their survey findings and (4) an offer to allow me to interview someone at their company about the survey.

One hundred precent of the time, the survey reveals there’s a terrible problem that can be solved by the product paying for the independent research, while, simultaneously, spreading joy throughout the land. Zero percent of the time does this research reveal anything that is less than 50 percent positive about something that would benefit the sponsor of the research.

It pains me to say that the only people who could ever dream up the idea of creating a survey of small business owners who reveal a product or service is perfect in every way is a table full of people who have never worked at a small business. For if they had, they wouldn’t insult the intelligence of people they are trying to reach.

wifibetterthanchocolateinfo_jpgHere’s a great (and by great, I mean awful) example from this year that Comcast Business sent me. It is an “independent” survey that reveals scientifically that customers of small businesses are happy when a small business provides them with free wifi while they’re waiting for a meeting. Yes, and someone else is happy, also: the research firm that got paid for that assignment.

The survey claimed that customers were happier with free wifi than they’d be if given chocolate. (Obviously, Comcast Business doesn’t mind burning bridges with American confectioners.) Here’s some advice for those who want to reach out to small businesses during Small Business Week. Don’t treat small business owners like they’re idiots.

We have a saying at Hammock and SmallBusiness.com about the kind of marketing that works when trying to reach small business owners–or, frankly, any customer:

Help, not Hype!

Fake research that’s sounds like it is a survey of five-year-olds to discover if they favor playing with puppies over that time they got lost from mom at Walmart–even when it’s carried out scientifically–is hype at its worst.

I know, because I commissioned some research on the topic.