SMB decision makers often don't have as much time or budget as their larger peers to attend trade shows or other industry events. Unlike some of their bigger brethren, neither do they have vendor sales people beating a path to their door -- despite their obvious desire to sell to them.
Enter the Internet, a primary channel for SMBs gathering intelligence on tech products, according to the research firm Compass Intelligence. The firm's president says SMBs are seeking Web sites that facilitate not only online transactions but also relationship-building.
Compass Intelligence recently ranked the vendors providing the best online experience for SMBs. Sitting atop the list is IBM, which it says "provides a rich and consistent experience for customers online, with portals for both small and mid-sized business customers tailored to meet each segment's individual needs."
Chances are IBM has been putting some thought into its online SMB strategy, with CEO Sam Palmisano's desire to make SMBs the company's largest customer segment within five years.
So has Dell, another vendor tapped by Compass Intelligence. The PC manufacturer recently launched an online resource called Small Business 360, which includes tutorials (heavy on input from Dell and its partners), video customer case studies and Webcasts, and industry-specific forums where site visitors can interact with each other.
Rounding out Compass Intelligence's top 10: Microsoft, Cisco, AT&T, Salesforce.com, HP, Intuit, 37signals and Verizon.