What micro-businesses really want from brands

Triana Jarman

As a publisher with over one million unique users per month, Sift Media websites see a lot of activity. Small and medium-sized businesses of all types are seeking advice and inspiration, asking questions and debating challenges. As a result, we see what interests or frustrates them, and what keeps them awake at night building up a detailed picture of how they behave.


In the first of a three part blog, we look at what makes a micro business tick. We have drilled down into all the information and statistics at our disposal to provide some recommendations on how to best engage and influence the purchasing decisions of a micro-business owner.  Full details of what we discovered are contained in our latest whitepaper , but here’s a quick summary.


Firstly, let’s look at what defines a micro business.


In an episode of Dragons’ Den a couple of years ago when a business owner had nervously put her pitch to the dragons for investment in her one-person home-based company. She’d done the prep, put in long hours rehearsing her pitch, remembered the all important financials and then the dragon hit her with his assessment.


"I enjoyed your pitch but you have a lifestyle business, I’m afraid this just isn’t an investable opportunity."


Now this may or may not have been a fair judgment on this occasion, it is, of course, a subjective decision, but sometimes micro-businesses can be considered to be less ambitious or ‘business-minded’ than larger SMEs.


This does not ring true with the picture we see on our SME-focused websites each day, however. Micro-businesses are in fact some of the most ambitious and information-hungry SME owners out there. Typically they are making daily visits to BusinessZone and UK Business Forums seeking out best practice advice, inspiration, support and of course networking opportunities.


Small business, small ambitions?


Officially defined (by the European Commission) as a business that has 1-10 employees, a micro enterprise is most definitely not ‘just a lifestyle business’. (Not that there is anything wrong with a lifestyle business per se!). In fact, some of the most ambitious and successful business owners today started out in a very micro way. The creator of eBay started by selling his personal items online thus founding a company almost unintentionally. Richard Branson famously started Virgin Records with £300 and Alan Sugar sold aerials and electrical items from his van. Proof, if you needed it, that businesses can start very small and grow very big, presenting a great opportunity for those looking to engage SMEs.


Not every micro-business will become a multi-million-pound corporation, however, and it would be wrong to say that they should. There’s space in our economy for businesses of all sizes and the variety must surely be a good thing. If nothing else it means there are so many opportunities to work with some of the UK’s most innovative and exciting business owners. And if you are in the business of advertising your own services to micro-businesses, then here’s what to remember.


What micro-businesses want


1. Micro businesses are more content hungry than other SMEs. They most definitely want your advice and expertise, but delivered in the way that suits them.


2. Micro business visit BusinessZone and UK Business Forums more frequently than any other SME with an average of between four and 20 visits a month. They are actively looking for insight .


3. Being small does not mean they are technology shy. We find that SMEs of all types and sizes look for cloud-based technology and software solutions, but micro-businesses also want practical and detailed how-to guidance on managing product and customer data.


4. Content must be relevant and targeted. Give them content that enables them to grow, develop and improve and you’ll build a relationship of trust and credibility in your brand. Two examples of content types that we found to be highly relevant are:


a. Customer service and experience – because micro-businesses feel this is an area where they can successfully differentiate themselves from their larger SME competitors.

b. Employee wellbeing and happiness – micro-businesses would feel the impact of a key member of staff leaving much more so than a 200 employee business, so staff wellbeing strategies are of particular interest.



It is critical to target a micro-business’ needs specifically. They do have a greater appetite for content than any other SME group, so there are some great opportunities for companies advertising to them. It can be tough for the smallest companies to continually attract and then retain customers, so any support you can provide via case studies and best practice advice will help them enormously.

Don’t assume micro-businesses aren’t as ambitious as their large SME counterparts. Their size (and especially the size of their team) means they have a greater interest in finding solutions that can create efficiencies for them, be it time, cost or service related.


BusinessZone Editor Chris Goodfellow sums it up perfectly;


“For marketers to reach these dynamic, time-poor professionals they need to ensure they provide high-quality content that addresses practical problems and has kudos or recommendation to warrant their attention.”


Find out more

Our whitepaper, Why you need to rethink how you engage with micro businesses, is available to download and contains more detailed insight into the needs and behaviours of the UK’s smallest businesses.

You might also like to read the next two articles in this series:

Start-up to scale-up: how to engage small businesses

How to market to high-growth medium-sized businesses