Make Your Business Small Business
Today I wanted to tag onto Albert's post from yesterday about the importance of hiring people who have small business experience if you want them to understand and sell to small business owners.
Small business owners know and appreciate it when you speak the same language as them - you need to make your business small business.
This was recently highlighted in an Indystar.com
article about National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) lobbyist Kevin Hughes. Kevin did not run a business but learned the ropes by working for 4 years for a senator who owned a series of gas stations in Cleveland. Small business issues quickly rose to the top of the agenda which forced Kevin to better understand the industry.
"I gained a pretty good understanding and appreciation for what small-business owners go through . . . and was able to see how that very closely interacted and intertwined with politics," he said.
With small business education being at a premium, Kevin was able to take his knowledge and went to work for the NFIB to continue supporting entrepreneurs.
When you hire people who can speak the same language as your customers everybody wins. You get more clients and your clients finally can buy from a company that understands their needs and wants.
Labels: appreciation, gas stations, indystar.com, Kevin Hughes, national federation of independent business, selling to small business, understanding
It's the People, Not the Product
Guest Contributor: Albert Luk
Albert's Posts - Albert's Site
I primarily read two blogs on selling to small business: Rick Spence's blog and this one. In the last month, both Rick and Evan have posted articles on building trust before successfully selling to an entrepreneur. I agree whole-heartedly. A good first step in building trust is finding some type of affinity with small business owner before you can sell anything.
Affinity is typically built through common experiences. Those with common experiences tend to relate better than those with divergent life experiences. For simplicity's sake, I am going to describe account managers I have met who have a lot of success selling to small business and those that do not based on the life experiences of each.
Let's call the successful account manager Mary (Mary is not a real person but rather an amalgamation of many different successful SME account managers I have met). Mary is typically on her 2nd or 3rd career, worked in some type of entrepreneurial setting (or, to put it another way, has not worked in a big corporation all of her life), understands from practical experience the industry she is selling to (or perhaps has worked in it herself) and understands how to create solutions for clients.
Without ever selling a good or service, Mary already has the following unique value propositions:
- Entrepreneurs tend to experiment so they appreciate Mary's many life experiences;
- Mary can speak from experience and not the text book; and
- Having worked in an entrepreneurial environment, she understands the daily life of her clients.
Bob- an amalgamation of many unsuccessful SME account managers I have met- is typically on their first career, spent his entire professional life in an institutional setting, is well educated but never ventured much outside that world.
Bob tends to be a turn-off for many entrepreneurs for some of the following reasons:
- Bob is perceived to be too institutional; Bob is a "suit" and "not one of us."
- Bob is perceived to be bureaucratic; he understands corporate policy well but does not tend to know how to make that work for his clients; and
- Bob speaks "MBA"- big words that do not matter much in the entrepreneurial world.
Mary and Bob are generalizations. Nonetheless, having met both Mary's and Bob's in the course of my practice, my preference is to buy from Mary.
For anyone wanting to selling to the small business market, a good starting point would be to analyze hiring practices and determining whether you have a lot of Mary's or Bob's in your sales staff. After all, sophisticated marketing campaigns only go so far- it's the people selling your good or service that will be the real difference-makers.
Labels: account managers, Albert Luk, developing trust, entrepreneurial setting, hire the best people, life experiences, Rick Spence, selling to small business, sucessful selling
Get Your Customers Talking About You!
Word of mouth marketing is one of the best ways to target small business owners. Many B2B decisions are made through referrals as SMBs heavily weigh the opinions of their peers when purchasing a new product or service.
So how do you get your customers talking about you?
Here's another great idea from the BIG marketing for small business blog
: Profile Your Customers
. The idea is simple - every business wants to get noticed so why not create a profile page where you highlight some of your new or best clients? Your clients will appreciate the exposure, stay loyal to you, and tell their friends about how they got linked from your webpage. As an added bonus, testimonials and case studies are great selling tools and build a greater sense of trust than marketing material direct from your company.
Here is how the BIG marketing for small business blog describes the opportunity:
Many are craving added attention and profile, but simply can't afford it - their is value and opportunity in that - so get moving and make it happen. New prospects will take notice when shopping around. You'll be seen as more customer-centric and focused on their success as oppose to just your own. They will also see the greater value of dealing with you, knowing that you'll provide them with greater profile through your customer-focused marketing endeavors. You can start by doing one simple addition to your website. Create a landing page dedicated only to profiling your customers with a link to the page appearing on your home page. Include their picture, business name and logo, product/service description, and links back to their web site. What do you think the first thing your customer will do when they see their profile on this page? They'll send it to their peers, friends, staff, mom and dad. They'll likely add a link back to this page from their site (an added bonus which increases your search engine optimization efforts). All of a sudden, this simple addition has brought you added traffic, exposure and a happy customer for all of $0.
Have you empowered your customers and given them opportunities to talk about your company by profiling them off of your website and in your marketing materials?
Labels: B2B decisions, Big Marketing for Small Business, profile your ucustomers, purchasing decision, referrals, selling to small business
Convincing The SMB To Buy Your Product
Entrepreneurs are notoriously cheap. They cut corners, delay payments, and have many holes in their operations all in an effort to save money. Business owners will often also tend to try to take on more than they should within their companies when they are not the right person for the job.
A good example is a recent survey
put out by 1&1 Internet
. 1&1, one of the most popular web hosting companies in the US with over 6.5 million customers, found that over 30% of small business owners use do-it-yourself packages to create their own company's website.
The survey found that business owners agreed that if they did not have a website, they would lose business to their competitors and that a poorly designed website would also lead to lost sales opportunities.
This is the typical situation many SMBs face when making a purchasing decision: They do not act until there is so much pain that they are forced to do something. Entrepreneurs now realize that if they do not have a website they can no longer keep up with the competition - so they are forced to get a website created. Even though they acknowledge that a poorly designed website can lead to lost opportunities, 30% still opt for do-it-yourself packages because it is cheaper and a poor website is better than no website and it is not painful enough yet for them to make the leap to a better looking website.
The challenge for professional website designers and for any company trying to sell to the SMB market is to show that the entrepreneur needs to act today - or else they will lose out. You need to demonstrate the clear pain points to the small business owner if you hope to get her attention and her money.
Is your company creating a clear value proposition that shows the pain the business owner will experience if they do not buy your product or service immediately?
Labels: 1 and 1 Internet, act today, buy your product, immediate pains, lost sales oppportunities, right person for the job, selling to small business, small business survey
Microsoft Is Doing Something Right!
I came back from a week in New York City and began plowing through all the email in my system and found that everyone is talking about Microsoft's upcoming Small Business Summit.
I found updates on the conference in 3 sites that I read on a regular basis to monitor trends: Guy Kawasaki
, and Big Marketing for Small Business
Microsoft is standing out because they are creating the largest virtual conference ever for small business owners, they have almost 60 presentations people can listen to, and they've attracted big speakers like Guy Kawasaki.
It's also free to register - a price tag that will attract any small business owner.
Microsoft sure is generating the buzz for this event - I'm looking forward to seeing how well it goes! To learn more about the event and register for free, visit the Small Business Summit website
Labels: Big Marketing for Small Business, GANB, generating buzz, Guy Kawasaki, Microsoft, selling to small business, virtual conference
Going to New York City
Dear blog readers,
Over the next week I will be in New York on a mini vacation. Thank you for your continued support and readership! I'll be back on the 19th and will return to my regular posting in the blog!
Have a great week!
Labels: New York City, selling to small business
10 Riskiest Businesses to Start (and Sell to) - Part 2
In continuation of my post from yesterday, here are the remaining 5 riskiest businesses to start (and sell to)Transportation:
- Pay high insurance premiums
- Sensitive to changing oil prices
- Very competitive market
- Challenge to find trustworthy drivers
Restaurants and Bars:
- Seasons and styles change rapidly
- Dominated by major players
- Need a sizable marketing budget to compete
- Are often undercapitalized
- Expensive startup costs
- High staff turnover
- Suppliers expect cash on delivery
Travel Agencies and Tour Operators:
- Very competitive
- Dominated by large players
- Razor thin margins
- Customers increasingly going online
- Need to offer special packages which involves research time
- Difficult to convince customers to use an agency vs. online
Labels: 10 riskiest businesses to start, apparel stores, communications, restaurants and bars, selling to small business, tour operators, transportation, travel agencies
10 Riskiest Businesses to Start (and Sell to)
The nightmare of every company selling into small business is what happens when your customer goes out of business and still owes you money? With a new Bureau of Labor Statistics poll showing that only 44% of new companies make it to their 4th
anniversary, it's a more common challenge than you might think.
According to Forbes, the 10 Riskiest Business to Start (and therefore to sell to as well) are:Trucking
Money Services Businesses
- Slave to oil prices
- Large competitors only earning single digit profits
- Facing increased government regulations
- Finding trustworthy drives a problem
- Many cheques from customers bounce
- Finding a bank to supply the cash is difficult
- Facing increased government regulation
- Large banks like Citigroup and Bank of America are avoiding the industry
- Razor-thin margins
- Insurance companies pay the bills and don't like paying much
- National competitors spread costs through high volume
- Shortage of skilled mechanics
- Commodity businesses who compete on price
- Low margins and often high startup costs
- Measurable growth hard to achieve
- Very competitive industry
- Margins between 1 and 4%
- Dominated by very large players
I will continue with the other 5 riskiest businesses to start (and Sell to) tomorrow.
Labels: 10 riskiest businesses to start, Auto Repair, Bureau of Labour Statistics, Food Stores, Forbes, Money Services, Personal Services, selling to small business, Trucking
How To Generate Small Business Buzz
Ron McDaniel is one of my newest expert authors for EvanCarmichael.com and is an expert on how to generate buzz.
In his blog
, Buzzoodle Buzz Marketing, Ron laid out strategies that bigger businesses can use to generate buzz and attract attention for their companies. I thought it would be worth sharing with you:
Here is what you do if you have more than a 100 employees but want to create organic, powerful buzz that spreads.
- Think like a small business. Create a small team of people that want to participate and give them the tools, guidelines and stories to succeed.
- Loosen up the big business culture for these people. Let them take some chances and have fun. You may not love some of the things that are said, but it is more likely to go viral and take off it is authentic and fun.
- Stop worrying about control of the message. Set guidelines, but let go of the fear. You lost control of your message years ago anyway.
- Monitor the web. Make sure you know what is being said about you and respond quickly to issues. Nothing creates good buzz better than taking care of bad buzz quickly and with an eye on converting the unhappy person to being a fan of yours.
- Encourage more people to put up online profiles and connect in online groups.
Labels: business culture, Buzzoodle Buzz Marketing, control the message, monitor the web, online groups, online profiles, Ron McDaniel, selling to small business, think like a small business
Small Businesses Not Buying CRM / ERP
A new survey by AMI-Partners reveals an interesting trend in the CRM / ERP market. Medium sized business are adopting the new technology to help them grow their businesses but small businesses are not.
According to the study, over 33% of medium businesses are currently using CRM and ERP system while over 25% of them are planning on making a purchase within the next 12 months. This represents a significant opportunity for CRM and ERP players looking to move downstream from their large corporate clients.
Sau Lam, a research analyst for AMI-Partners had this to say:
This data indicates that U.S. MBs have made the connection between streamlining and automating business processes, and maximizing productivity and value in the market. MBs also recognize the value of integrated suites: 75 per cent of those surveyed use an accounting/financials module that is part of a larger solution suite.
What are the top drivers of the growth in the medium business market?
- Compete more effectively with larger companies
- Improve operations
- Better serve customers
- Meet evolving business needs and regulatory requirements
The industries leading the ERP boom are wholesale and professional services while professional services are the innovators on the CRM side.
Small businesses, however, were a different story altogether. While almost 75% of small businesses use accounting software, only 12% use ERP / CRM systems and although 11% of small businesses plan to make purchases in the next year, it is far short of their medium business counterparts.
What's holding small business back?
- High price tag of applications
- Lack of IT staff to support implementation and support
- Lack of perceived needs
Labels: AMI-Partners, CRM, ERP, new technology, Sam Lau, selling to small business, significant opportunity, small and medium business
Big Business Strategies For Small Business
If you've been reading this blog for a while you will know that I am a big fan of big businesses teaching small companies operational best practices
to develop a trusted advisor relationship.
Small businesses are always looking up to big businesses to get ideas for how to structure their growing company and implement policies and procedures.
Well now there is a book. I came across a PR for a new book called: Marketing Works
: Unlocking Big Company Strategies for Small Business. It professes to employ
a "step-by-step process of how a small business owner can effectively leverage marketing techniques to maximize the potential of their own business, regardless of the market they operate in."
I have not read the book and cannot endorse it but it reflects a growing trend of providing big company best practices to small businesses.
Fortune 500 companies have thousands of best practices that they take for granted but entrepreneurs are yearning for. The first company to share these ideas in an easy to understand format for small business owners will generate a lot of buzz in the SMB
community and build trusted relationships with their prospective clients.
Labels: best practices, big business, fortune 500, Marketing Works, policies and procedures, selling to small business, SMB community, trusted relationships
Top 10 States For Small Business
SurePayroll put out it's newest list
of the Top Ten States for Small Businesses in 2007. The SurePayroll Top Ten is based on employee growth. The underlying presumption is that growth in size suggests that a small business is doing well. The list for 2007 is:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
The ability to grow employee headcount in an environment where labor costs are rising also shows strength in these Top Ten states' small business economies.
At the same time, small business employees in these growth states can also view these economic results positively - jobs are available to them and salaries are rising. While employees in other states did experience salary growth in 2006, the job growth in most states was flat or declining in 2006.
Labels: employee growth, labor costs, selling to small business, small business economies, small business employees, SurePayroll, Top 10 states
Do You Have An Immigrant Women Strategy?
According to Intuit Inc.'s Future of Small Business Report, Immigrant women are one of the fastest-growing segments of small business owners in the United States and can expect to be a sizable
portion of small business owners by 2017.
Immigrant women are starting businesses at a rate 41 percent higher than native-born women.
Why are they starting businesses:
- For flexibility to raise children
- To avoid barriers that come with traditional jobs
- Because their skills do not translate well into corporate America
Immigrant women are "prone to taking risks," said Farhana Huq
, of CEO Women, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps low-income immigrant women start businesses. "They really just put themselves on the line."
Language skills and relationships from home countries also give immigrant women advantages that help them find suppliers and customers.
Does your company have a strategy to sell to the increasing number of immigrant women owned businesses?
Labels: Farhana Huq, flexibility, immigrant women, language skills, selling to small business, strategy, taking risks
Small Business Friendly Banks?
It looks like the banks in Australia are becoming more small business friendly, according to The Australian.
Ralph Norris came on as head of the Commonwealth Bank, admitted that the bank's relationship with small business could be better and he promised to lift the bank's game with the sector.
Historically, micro or very small businesses were not on the radar screen to banks unless the business was flying high and/or the business owners were prepared to hand over the deeds to their house. The banks have learned that SMEs can be very profitable. According to the Australian:
One of the greatest ironies over the past two years is that big business has discovered that small businesses are potentially great customers. They spend more on things such as banking services, IT services and telecommunications. And on top of that, they are big buyers of small-business equipment.
goes on to discuss a new trend in Australian small business banking: partnering with mortgage brokers:
An interesting development for small business and gaining access to loans is the arrival of mortgage brokers now chasing small-business customers. Pam Sullivan, director of All Finance Services in Joondalup, Western Australia, and a director of the Mortgage Finance Association of Australia, says residential property mortgage brokers are looking to diversify into commercial lending because in some states in Australia the housing market has slowed considerably.
"Brokers wanting to enter the commercial arena either need to undertake a commercial course to obtain the extra knowledge or work on a buddy system with another broker who can assist them," she said. "Several lenders are now paying referral fees to brokers for commercial business which could also be attractive to a broker who is not experienced in this area."
Sullivan expects small business will have access to a greater range of lenders and products to suit their individual needs.
"If they go to their bank they only have access to what that lender can offer which is not always the best one out there," she said.
This will include helping small businesses into cash flow lending opportunities, which if we take a line on the success of mortgage brokers in helping to provide better loans at better rates of interest, has to be a good thing, in general.
Labels: Australia, banks, Commonwealth Bank, Ralph Norris, selling to small business, small business friendly, The Australian
SMB Who's Hot: VistaPrint
is the leading online supplier of business cards and other customized printed products for small businesses. They have over 8 million small business clients and are growing by the day.
Why is VistaPrint
so successful?Low cost entry point
They have the lowest cost entry point for business cards - they are free if you're willing to accept a VistaPrint
logo on the back. Once small businesses are enticed by the free offer they are upsold
on custom designs, higher quality paper, and dual sided printing, among other options. If the client does not have the budget to afford the premium business cards, VistaPrint
gets free advertising on the promotional cards and has earned the loyalty of a future client when the business grows. They are showing that they believe in the entrepreneur's future potential and is willing to help them out.Aggressive online promotionVistaPrint
is actively involved in online promotion. They do a lot of pay per click and online advertising targeted
. They also send out at least an email a week to the small business owners who have opted into their newsletter list. The emails contain updates on new specials and offers that entrepreneurs can take advantage of. VistaPrint
has also launched 7 localized Web sites serving over 120 countries around the world.Partnerships for success
creates successful partnerships with companies who are service the SMB
market. They recently launched a new initiative, the Small Business Success Kit
. It's a free kit that offers access to valuable information and special offers geared to help a small business at any stage. For a new business, the kit offers business identity, training, accounting, tax information and more. Some of their listed partners include:
- America's Small Business Development Center Network (ASBDC), the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the United States and its territories, with a network of 5,000 small business counselors.
- Constant Contact, the leading permission-based email marketing solution for small businesses, associations, and nonprofits.
- Entrepreneur Media Inc., publisher of Entrepreneur magazine and owner of the popular small business information portal entrepreneur.com.
- Google AdWords, which enables businesses to reach target prospects and acquire new customers in a cost-effective manner, providing businesses with accountable and trackable advertising.
- Homestead.com, provider of easy-to-use Web site creation products, ecommerce solutions and online marketing products and services for small businesses.
- InfoUSA (Nasdaq: IUSA), the leading provider of business and consumer information products, database marketing services, data processing services and sales and marketing solutions.
- Intuit, a leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses and makers of popular products such as QuickBooks, TurboTax and Quicken.
- j2 Global (JCOM), the provider of communications services such as eFax and eVoice Receptionist that enable small businesses to cut costs while building a strong business presence.
- Palo Alto Software, makers of BUSINESS PLAN PRO, the best-selling business planning software in the U.S. retail market, according to NPD Intelect (formerly PC Data).
- Stamps.com (Nasdaq: STMP), a leading provider of Internet-based postage solutions.
is ahead of most companies who are trying to target the small business community and is a model company to watch. They come in at the right price point, promote through the entrepreneur's favourite channel, the Internet, and have partnered successfully with the right industry players.
Labels: low cost entry point, online promotion, partnerships for success, selling to small business, small business clients, VistaPrint, Who's Hot
SMB Who's Hot: Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo's small business Web site
has been ranked #1 by Change Sciences Group, a national research firm, for the best online customer experience for small business customers among the top 40 national and regional banks.
Wells Fargo, which serves more than 830,000 active online small business customers, was one of the first banks to launch a dedicated small business Web site and continues to enhance the informational content and online banking tools for this important customer segment, including:
- Small business webcast series of interactive, online sessions to help small business owners meet their business growth and management goals. Approximately 45 minutes long, each webcast features a panel of experts, including economists and advisors, sharing relevant, practical advice.
It's a long way from perfect but definitely a step up from the standard template driven SMB
websites that most Fortune 500 companies have. Wells Fargo is taking a step in the right direction as a leader and is beginning to establish itseelf as a trusted small business advisor
instead of a commodity service vendor.
Labels: Change Sciences, selling to small business, small business web site, trusted advisor, webcast series, Wells Fargo
Small Business Confidence Steady
CNN.com reported yesterday that business owners' confidence in the economy remains in line with January, but higher gas prices are a big concern.
According to a recent Morgan Stanley survey /Discover Small Business confidence measure, small business owners' confidence in the economy stayed steady in February as optimism about their own business fortunes was offset by an increase in concern about cash flow.
The good news:
Optimism was reflected on the hiring front: 17 percent of owners plan to hire more workers in February, up from 14 percent last month; 39 percent also plan to spend more on business development, which is up from 35 percent in January.The bad news:
However, concerns about cash flow also rose. Forty percent of business owners who sell products reported a significant jump in cash flow concerns, up from 24 percent in the previous month, the survey said.
Thirty-nine percent of respondents said that changes in gasoline prices affect profitability, while 48 percent said the effects are minor and 13 percent said they were of no consequence.
When asked to name their largest energy expense, 36 percent of small business owners cited gasoline, but an unexpected 42 percent said they have no significant energy expenses. Of the remaining respondents, 13 percent named electricity, followed by fuel oil, 6 percent, and natural gas, 3 percent.
The survey reached out to 1,000 small business owners to gauge their opinions.
Labels: CNN.com, Discover Small Business, hire more workers, Morgan Stanley, selling to small business, small business confidence, spend on business development. cash flow
Hire Sales Reps With a SMB Mentality
Small business owners like to buy from companies that they have a personal connection with and your sales team can often be the only people your SMB
prospects meet with before making a purchasing decision.
The difference between getting a sale or not is often how well that salesperson can relate to the entrepreneur. Companies looking to sell to small businesses should therefore hire salespeople who have had direct or indirect entrepreneurial experiences in their careers so they can better connect with their SMB
explains this concept in an interview
with Anita Campbell:
[Y]ou should always give your small business accounts - whether they're prospects or customers - to individuals that have had at least a close encounter of the second kind, if not the first. For example, Lowes and Home Depot always hire individuals in their stores that have been contractors, so that when a contractor comes in, they're speaking to somebody that can identify with what it means to be a small business. So, if you can't hire ex-small business owners yourself, or retired ones, look around and see if you can at least hire their kids. Or hire folks that have already worked in a small business.
Labels: Andy Birol, Anita Campbell, interview, relate to the entrepreneur, sales reps, selling to small business, small business accounts, SMB mentality
Selling to Small Business - The Long and Winding Road
Guest Contributor: Albert LukAlbert's Posts
- Albert's Site
My name is Albert L
uk; I am known as the Entrepreneur-Friendly L
awyer. I have the privilege of being a guest blogger on Selling To Small Business. I was once a big-firm lawyer and now I am a Toronto
business lawyer representing the SME market. I hope that my perspective representing both sides of the fence (as well as the fact that I, too, sell to SME's) will be helpful.
Selling to small business starts with the proposition that you want to sell to this market. This may sound self-evident in a blog about selling to small business but let us consider this concept for a second.
Just because there are millions of small businesses, does that necessarily mean that every B2B should target this sector? The answer may not always be a "yes." For example, I understand that Research in Motion found initial success selling to institutional clients before moving downstream to the SME and now the consumer market. Conversely, based upon anecdotal evidence, SME's were the first segment to adopt Skype for commercial purposes.
Why did the SME market adopt one immediately and not the other? It cannot be industry driven since, coming from a Luddite such as myself, they are both in the "technology" segment. I have no definite statistics to back this up but I suspect Research in Motion did not target SME's initially because the sales cycle is long and start-up technology driven businesses need to make money yesterday for their investors.
Skype, on the other hand, was adopted quickly because it was free, it could be discarded quickly and it solved many of the SME's daily challenges (save me time, make it easy to use and make it affordable).
The point being is that if you are Research in Motion and you need to make money quickly to pay for lots of R & D costs, your strategy is not to target the SME market until you are firmly planted on your feet financially.
At the end of the day, selling to small business can be challenging and requires a significant amount of patience. The industries are diverse, the players are fluid and there are geographic boundaries to consider (most institutions cluster in downtown cores or suburban campuses, SME's are more scattered). Think carefully whether you want to target small businesses. There may be a lot of SME's but not every business at every stage of its life should be selling to small business.
Having said that, selling to small businesses can be a rewarding and exciting experience. However, it is not for everyone. If you are committed, patient and persistent, you will do well. Know thy business and plan accordingly.
Labels: Albert Luk, Entrepreneur-Friendly Lawyer, selling to small business, sme market, Toronto business lawyer
IKEA Targeting Small Businesses
IKEA has traditionally targeted homeowners but as the housing market weakens the company is going after a new group of buyers to fuel future growth: Small business owners.
In the past 12 months, IKEA has started creating interior designs and products for entrepreneurs such as book store and salon layouts across the 29 locations they have in the United States. In April the company is also expected to launch a new website, ikeabusiness.com, where small business owners can discover new ideas for designing their offices and share them with other entrepreneurs.
According to Pernille Lopez, president of Ikea North America, "This is one of our biggest growth potentials." She expects business owners to eventually account for 10-15% of the company's sales. With 70% of IKEA shoppers being women, the company is also betting that women entrepreneurs will take kindly to bringing IKEA into their offices.
It will be an interesting development to watch. Many small business owners are price conscious and would welcome IKEA's products as an economic alternative to other suppliers. In addition, despite not having a strong existing selection of business furniture and accessories, entrepreneurs are already going to the stores to buy chairs, tables, storage solutions, and other products. An expanded selection is a logical extension of their existing lines.
What's even more interesting is if IKEA can develop their online community and get the small business owners to share their design ideas with each other online. Not known for having the most comprehensive, Web 2.0 website, it will be a exciting to see how the company takes on this challenge. Done right, it could be a powerful tool for IKEA and help them become the default name for many SMBs when they're thinking about improving the design of their offices.
Labels: book store, growth potentials, IKEA, ikeabusiness.com, price conscious, salon layouts, selling to small business, Web 2.0, women entrepreneurs
Content Based Marketing Trend
Anita Campbell writes a popular blog (also called Selling To Small Business). In a recent post
she discussed the trend towards content based marketing.
What is it?
The idea behind content based marketing is to use content you've written to attract attention, provide valuable information and create awareness. The assumption is that instead of just pushing advertising and marketing information on business owners, companies should be providing information to help entrepreneurs solve their problems. Helping SMBs
solve their problems with the right information leads to establishing yourself as a trusted business advisor which leads to the creation of a loyal customer base.
Some of Anita's suggestions for creating a content based marketing plan are:
White papers - Today's white papers are more than advertorials. They are often how-tos - specific documents well worth saving and going back to. A good white paper can establish your credibility and goes a long way toward establishing you or the even the company as an expert on the topic. If you can get other sites to distribute it as a free download, you extend your reach even further. And a white paper with an excellent descriptive title can be a carrot to generate leads, if you have the reader fill out a contact form in order to receive the white paper.
Press releases - Press releases today are written for search engines and for end customers, more so than for the press. Today's press releases should be distributed online, and if done properly can get picked up by online news outlets such as Google News, where customers and prospects find them and read about your company, your product, your service. Indirectly, the media sees them, too, in the same online venues the rest of us frequent. So it can have benefit for generating press, but what you really are getting is online visibility. When a press release is treated like any other online content and is properly optimized with keyword-rich text and links back to a website, it brings lasting search engine value. It adds to your own personal Google number (number of citations in Google for your name) or that of your business.
Articles in publications - Look around you. Many media companies are cutting back. People are reading more online, and they expect content to be free. What that means is that media companies are looking for articles submitted by professionals and experts in a particular topic. It's a lower cost way for them to generate content. This translates into a great opportunity for you. Write articles and submit them to publications. You get to display your expertise and impress prospects and potential clients. It's prestigious because you appear in a media publication. And it helps your online branding and search engine visibility. Insist on a byline and a short "About the Author" block at the end, with a link back to your website - most media publications readily agree. Writing articles can be used to get visibility in trade publications, business magazines, technology publications, Chamber of Commerce newsletters and various online publications.
Self-published articles - Blogs are being talked about everywhere, and it's for a reason. An excellent, fast and low-cost way to bring attention for your business is to publish your expertise yourself by writing on a blog. Others will find the posts and link to them. Eventually your blog posts get picked up in the search engines, and the indexed posts may send traffic your way for years afterwards. Also, a blog is a backdoor to media coverage. It's well known that journalists monitor blogs for experts to interview and quote for articles. You can even repurpose blog postings for your email newsletter and reach out to a wider audience. Finally, blogs have the advantage of RSS feeds. The search engines are indexing feeds quickly and giving them special treatment, and more and more people are signing up to get RSS updates on mainstream sites such as your personalized Google homepage or at My Yahoo. When you publish your message yourself, you can control your own destiny and not be at the mercy of the press or have to engage in an expensive advertising war.
Labels: Anita Campbell, articles in publications, content based marketing, press releases, self-published articles, selling to small business, small business trends, white papers
How Is Your Online Presence?
Do you have a significant online presence that will convert small business leads into clients? I've spoken at length in this blog about the importance of having a strong website and using search engine optimization to effectively target small and medium business owners. The Internet is the primary research tool that SMBs
are using to source products and suppliers and a new Jupiter Research study confirms it:
"Small business executives' activity level for traditional online activities is much higher than average."
Executives small businesses with 5 employees or less, also known as micro-business owners/executives, display unique online behavior compared to other online users. According to JupiterResearch, micro-business owners/executives spend a median of 17 hours a week online, compared with 14 hours a week spent watching television.
"Micro-business executives are highly engaged online users and great candidates for behavioral and contextual targeting" said Sonal Gandhi, JupiterResearch Analyst and lead author of the report. "They are more likely to respond to this type of targeting than the average online user and are otherwise hard to target online."
JupiterResearch defines micro-businesses as companies with less than five employees and includes sole proprietorships. Micro-businesses comprise the majority of the small-business landscape. JupiterResearch also finds while micro-business executives' activity level for traditional online activities is much higher than average, their adoption of next generation tools and technologies such as blogs and social networking is more or less the same as the online average.
Labels: Jupiter Research, online presence, search engine optimization, selling to small business, Sonal Gandhi
Xerox SMB Rountable Podcast
Small Business Optimism Is Rising
Optimism among small-business owners rebounded in January from a four-month low, as more companies planned to hire and buy equipment, a private survey found.
The National Federation of Independent Business' index of business optimism increased 2.4 points during the month, to 98.9, the Washington-based advocacy group said.
Some 30 percent of small-business owners said they expect to purchase equipment during the next few months, compared with 26 percent who said so in December. The survey results are consistent with economic growth of around 2.8 percent in the current quarter, the group said.
Twenty-three percent of small businesses plan to create more jobs in the next three months, up from 14 percent in December.
Seven of the 10 index components in the survey rose last month.
Fifteen percent of small-businesses owners polled said they added workers in January, and more than a quarter reported unfilled job openings.
Labels: create more jobs, National Fedration of Independent Businesses, purchase equipment, selling to small business, small business optimism
Dell Small Business 360
Dell has also hit on the trend many big companies are following to create a small
business resources center. Dell's is called Small Business 360
and is a first generation SMB
site still focused more on product sales than on actually being a resource center.
To Dell's credit, however, they have begun to put in additional information that is not only focused on selling Dell products. For example, under the Starting a Business category they have articles such as
3 Ways to Get Investors Interested in Your New Business, 5 Tips for Estimating Your Start-up Costs, How to Write a Business Plan.
Inside tip: Anything related to marketing, raising capital, or writing a business plan will always be a big hit with small business readers.
It's a step in the right direction and the beginning of the evolution of the Corporate SMB
Resource Centers from having a focus of pushing products to building relationships as a trusted advisor and supplier.
Labels: business plan, Dell, marketing, raising capital, resource center, selling to small business, Small Business 360
Gain a SMB Competitive Edge
Small companies are always looking to their bigger counterparts to get best practices and learn how to grow their business. How does Xerox get positive press coverage? How does Microsoft hire the best people? How does Bell prepare its business plan?
The success of the Service Corps Of Retired Executives
, a national nonprofit organization comprised of retired professionals who offer free counseling to small business owners, is only one example of how SMBs
are looking up to tap the knowledge of bigger companies.
This all leads to a very important question: Why are you not sharing some of your best practices with SMBs?
There are many processes that your organization takes for granted that would be of tremendous value to a small business owner. What questions do you ask in a job interview? How do you motivate your staff? What kind of incentives do you offer? How do you make sure your suppliers and partners are loyal to you?
With all the new small business resource centers and portals popping up across the Fortune 500 websites, none of them are offering information that is of true value to small business owners. The opportunities lies in providing useful tools and resources by tapping into the intellectual property of your staff and by sharing some of your processes that are taken for granted. Remember, small businesses do not have the structered systems in place to help them grow and are often learning through trial and error.
The first big company to do this will go a long way to winning the hearts and minds of small business owners.
Labels: Bell, business plan, competitive edge, hire the best people, Microsoft, positive press coverage, selling to small business, Service Corps of Retired Executives, Xerox
Developing Trust With SMBs
One of the concepts that kept coming up at last week's Xerox small business event was being a "trusted advisor" to entrepreneurs.
Small business owners like buying from people they know and people they trust. Companies who can establish a trusted relationship with their SMB clients have a good chance of retaining them as clients even if the competition has better prices / features.
Rick Spence highlighted this issue in a recent post
All the more reason, I say, for marketers to develop stronger relationships with business owners before trying to sell to them. You can do that through newsletters, personal calls, blogs, direct mail, invitations to events - anything that sets you up as a trusted partner.
Without that trust, even the best sales proposition will almost always finish second when the business owner has a pre-existing relationship with a competing supplier - whether or not they can do what you do.
Labels: business owners, developing trust, Rick Spence, selling to small business, Trust, trusted advisor, Xerox
February Small Business Trends Index
The Small Business Trends Index looks at the most popular articles that entrepreneurs are talking about. These are the most discussed stories by small business owners over the past month. The higher the score, the more the topic is being discussed. The total scores add to 100.
#1: Index Score: 23.8
9 Resume Tips That Should Be Screechingly Obvious (But Apparently Aren't)
"These are all basic rules, but they all seem to get broken constantly. All of these should be obvious to anyone who's conscious (maybe even the lightly sleeping), but they must not be. On to the rules!"
#2: Index Score: 22.4
Wal-Mart pays itself rent, gets large tax breaks
Wal-Mart, the nation's largest employer and the world's biggest retailer, is regularly paying itself rent and using the transaction to decrease the taxes it pays to state governments.
#3: Index Score: 18.5
Comcast Fined $12,281.84 For Not Answering The Phone Quickly Enough
Montgomery Country, MD has fined Comcast $12,281.84 for not meeting the standards set by their franchise agreement. The agreement stated that Comcast would provide a level of customer service that they did not meet.
#4: Index Score: 18.3
101 ways to make money online. A business consultant shares his research
This is a careful analysis of the many ways one can earn legitimate and illegitimate income working from home. It was put together by analysing thousands of existing internet businesses.
#5: Index Score: 17.0
The 13 Most Overlooked Tax Deductions
Some really good deductions that I didn't even realize you could take. Such as college tuition, moving expenses to take your first job and jury pay paid to employer.
Labels: comcast, make money online, resume tips, selling to small business, small business trends index, tax breaks, tax deductions, wal-mart
What is a Small Business?
Everybody seems to have a different definition of what a small business is. Whenever companies approach me to ask about how they can improve their strategies for selling to small businesses I always first have to find out how they define the market.
Some base it on employee size, others on revenues, and others still on metrics that are important to their particular industry.
In the January 2007 Small Business report by the Canadian government, they touch on what a small business is:
The size of a business can be defined in many ways, by the value of its annual sales or shipments, for example, or by its annual gross or net revenue, the size of its assets or the number of its employees. Many institutions define small businesses according to their own needs: the Canadian Bankers Association classifies a company as "small" if it qualifies for a loan authorization of less than $250 000, while the Export Development Corporation defines small or "emerging" exporters as firms with export sales under $1 million. Industry Canada has often used a definition based on the number of employees: goods-producing firms are considered "small" if they have fewer than 100 employees, while for serviceproducing firms the cut-off point is 50 employees. Above that size, and up to 499 employees, a firm is considered medium-sized. The smallest of small businesses are called micro-enterprises, most often defined as having fewer than five employees. The term "SME" (for small and medium-sized enterprise) refers to all businesses with fewer than 500 employees, while firms with 500 or more employees are classified as"large" businesses.
As will be seen, in practice, reporting on small businesses seldom adheres to any strict definition due to data limitations.
Labels: selling to small business, small business definition, small business report, what is small business
Get Your Message Out Online
Depending on which report your believe most, 40-85% of purchasing agents and buyers go online to do product research before making a business purchasing decision.
With so many of your potential customer base turning to the web for answers does your company have a strong presence to provide them with quality, timely, and accurate information or is your competition outdrawing you?TradeBlog
recently put out a list called the 10 Point Internet Marketing Plan. It includes:
1) Create a detailed, professional website in English that is fully optimized for search engines
2) Develop a dynamic email marketing program to attract new customers and keep existing customer's informed, excited and loyal
3) Provide free product specifications, images, 'white papers' and other information to help educate customers and build my online profile
4) Be certified by a leading international business agency and ensure my products meet industry certified standards
5) Publish customer testimonials, success stories and relevant company news online, to build confidence and trust
6) Buy keywords on leading search engines in suitable global markets
7) Purchase advertising on leading B2B trade websites
8) Have the software, staff and materials necessary to reply promptly and professionally to online inquiries
9) Partner with related, non-competitive businesses to extend the reach of my online marketing
10) Develop an affililate program that rewards internet publishers and business professionals for promoting my company's products
Online marketing is highly targeted can be effectively measured, and hits prospects while they are making purchasing decisions. Is your company missing the boat?
Labels: accurate information, highly targeted, internet marketing, online marketing, purchasing decision, selling to small business
Xerox Ignite Small Business Conference
On Sunday evening, Xerox invited myself, 4 other SMB bloggers
, Patrick Cook
, James Gaskin
, and Denise O'Berry
), and research analysts from IDC
to fly to Orlando, Florida and help them devise a selling to small business strategy.
Xerox's challenge is that they have a well respected brand name but are not considered to be an option for small business owners. Xerox has the perception of being only for "big business."
I did an informal poll with a few of the entrepreneurs in my network to find out what their experiences with Xerox have been and get their suggestions for improvements. What I found was that none of them even knew Xerox had a small business line of products! Needless to say a lot of work had to be done.
Yesterday afternoon we had a roundtable
discussion to give Xerox suggestions on how to increase their awareness level in the SMB
community. I then met 1 on 1 with Paul Gleason
, Vice President of Small and Medium Business for Xerox. The roundtable
is set to be podcasted
- I'll let you know when it comes out!
Overall it's been a great experience. We gave a number of ideas that could really help Xerox differentiate themselves and penetrate small and medium sized businesses across North America. The key will be can they act on the suggestions and how quickly.
Labels: Chris Brunner, Denise O'Berry, Gartner, IDC, James Gaskin, Patrick Cook, roundtable, selling to small business, Xerox
7 Tips For Marketing To Small Business
Kim Gordon wrote an article for Entrepreneur.com that brought up 7 tips for marketing to small business owners.
The challenge is, entrepreneurs are time-strapped multitaskers who are also relatively risk-averse--making them a difficult audience to reach and persuade. Her Top 7 Tips include:
1. Increased sales: Most business owners say their primary objective is to increase sales. Will buying your product or service help your prospects achieve that goal?
2. Safe choices: When it comes to buying outside products and services, entrepreneurs as a group tend to be cautious. Demonstrate that buying from you is a safe choice by providing a content-rich campaign.
3. Maximum convenience: Running a growing business often requires long hours, making shopping convenience a major draw for entrepreneurs. Multichannel marketing--including, for example, a website, a brick-and-mortar store and a direct-mail campaign--is essential to building sales from this target group. 4. Ways to save money: Business owners are likely to be spending their own money and are correspondingly conservative. Adding value to your offers will help overcome resistance.
5. Do-it-yourself solutions: Time-strapped business owners have just enough work hours to get their own jobs done--and they don't want to learn yours. Low-cost do-it-yourself solutions are appreciated, provided they're turnkey.
6. Reliability and performance: Entrepreneurs carefully consider the post-sale customer experience when making a purchase. To motivate business owners to complete sales, make reliability a central component of your marketing message--don't bury this information at the bottom of your marketing materials or website.
7. Vendors they trust: Entrepreneurs often prefer to work with other business owners they know and trust. Special events and networking are great ways to foster interaction with prospects.
Labels: entrepreneur, increased sales, Kim Gordon, marketing to small business, maximum convenience, safe choices, selling to small business, ways to save money
Verizon a Friend of Small Business?
After a big PR splash was made about the new small business toolbar
that Verizon put out, the company has announced less that a week later that it is increasing its small business rates.
Not exactly a great way to win friends in the entrepreneurial communities Verizon.
Small-business customers who buy local phone service from Verizon will be hit with across-the-board increases this month that will raise some rates close to 12 percent.
In addition to monthly service charges, the per-minute cost for local and regional calls will go up by 1 cent. For example, calls within a 10-mile "mileage band" will rise from 6 cents per minute to 7 cents per minute, according to the company.
It's all in an effort to get small business customers to sign up for Verizon's "Freedom for Business" unlimited calling package.
Labels: Freedom for Business, selling to small business, smal business rates, small business toolbar, Verizon
AT&T Launches Small Business Resource Center
So after Verizon announced it's toolbar for entrepreneurs, AT&T decided it would get into the game by launching a small business resource center.
The new portal promises access to expert advice, online courses, and money-saving offers. Business referrals also receive $100 visa card rewards.
Promised features from their press release
* A daily feed of industry-specific small business news, including streaming video segments from SBTV.com - Small Business Television.
* Free instructional Web-based seminars and online training courses hosted by experts.
* The ability to submit questions and to receive one-on-one advice from SCORE - Counselors to America’s Small Business.
* Tips on starting, managing and relocating a small business.
* Money-saving promotional offers from AT&T and other leading brands, including UPS, Pitney Bowes, Lenovo and CareerBuilder.com.
* Information about AT&T's portfolio of products and services for small business, including voice, wireless, Internet, messaging, advertising and search engine marketing solutions through Yellow Pages and YELLOWPAGES.COM, online support and account management services.
The portal is located at http://www.att.com/OnwardSmallBiz
and is currently thin on content but it's a step in the right direction for AT&T. Just like Verizon's move, it could be a great opportunity to capitalize on the small business market if AT&T puts the muscle into making their site a true resource center for entrepreneurs.
Labels: ATT, expert advice, online courses, resource center, selling to small business, small business portal
Verizon Targets Small Business Owners
The economics of selling to small business owners makes it impossible to have account managers call on every entrepreneur in the country to introduce your product. A mass market approach is needed and the Internet is one of the best ways to reach out to small business owners.
Verizon recently announced that it has created a new toolbar for small business owners. In a news release, Verizon ISP portal and platform services executive director Bill Heilig said, "There weren't many toolbars for business-minded people, so we developed one especially for our small-business customers. Once it's downloaded to business owners' desktops, relevant resources are just a click away."
The toolbar is powered by Google and gives business owners access to Google search, Verizon email, Verizon Business Center portal resources, and online business links such as SCORE and SBA. Subscribers can also access Wall Street Journal articles, check their stock quotes and weather information, and block popups through the toolbar.
While many of the features can already be found in other toolbars, it is a step in the right direction for Verizon. Nobody has cornered the market with a toolbar for small business owners and by engaging their users and building on the feedback of small business owners, Verizon could have a promotional goldmine on their hands.
Labels: promotional goldmine, selling to small business, small business toolbar, Verizon
Advice To Sell To Entrepreneurs
I recently came across an article
Andy Birol wrote on selling. In the article he gives advice for selling to employees, C-level executives, and small business owners. Here is what he wrote for selling to entrepreneurs:
Owner entrepreneurs are in many ways the most unusual to sell. Regardless of their success, they go through the following stages towards success:
Those most successful at selling to owners know to sell to the right "step" for their prospects. They are most often other entrepreneurs like attorneys, financial planners, consultants, or coaches. Why? Because entrepreneurs often turn to those like themselves. Unlike the corporate market, entrepreneurs respect and respond to the success, individualism, and risk taking of those vendors who walk in similar shoes. Therefore, the lessons learned when selling to entrepreneurs are:
- Owners first dread the potential of failing, particularly if it makes them miss a payroll, threatens their independence, or ultimately results in having to work for someone else.
- Once an owner's fear of failure is over, their next focus is on increasing their company's wealth by producing quality products purchased by grateful customers.
- After gaining this success, owners turn their attention next to creating their legacy, first as a successful business owner and thereafter as a creator of greater social good.
- Sell to your prospect "owner-to-owner".
- Sell as much to the person across the table as to his or her company; they are indivisible.
- Appeal first to their business needs to gain their attention but understand their egos and personalities.
- Display both empathy as well as the ability to lead them to success.
Labels: Andy Birol, egos, empathy, fear of failure, owner to owner, personalities, selling to small business
Top 2007 Small Business Challenges
A new report by the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business
Index looked at the top challenges small business owners are facing in 2007. They include:
- Cost of insurance (64 percent)
- Taxes (62 percent)
- Energy prices (54 percent)
- Government regulations (45 percent)
- Finding qualified employees (42 percent)
Of the small business owners who had a written business plan:
- 90 percent say generating stronger revenues is their top priority for the year ahead
- 63 percent also say cutting operating expenses is a major objective
- 57 percent cited reaching more customers
- 42 percent are increasing their advertising budgets
- 37 percent are investing in new technology
Labels: business plan, cost of insurance, Gallup Small Business Index, generating revenues, selling to small business, top challenges, Wells Fargo
Small Businesses Live On The Edge
A new report from England highlights the risks that small business owners take while running their companies. The new study found:
- Almost 20 per cent of UK businesses suffer some kind of major disruption in the course of one year
- Nearly one in five enterprises experiences a significant interruption to business each year
- 90 per cent of companies which lose data as a result of a major disruption are forced to close down within two years of the event
Many small business owners are predominantly
focused on the now. They wear many hats within their company and are constantly putting out fires. They make decisions (especially purchasing decisions where they have to spend money) based on solutions that will help them solve an immediate pain. Many entrepreneurs do not have contingency plans, do not prepare themselves for potential disruptions in advance and end up getting hit very hard when they happen.
Lesson for selling to small businesses: target your message to solving the immediate pains of business owners instead of painting a picture of what the future might look like. If your message is not immediately relevant to the entrepreneur it's likely to be overlooked.
Labels: immediate pains, immediately relevant, live on the edge, major disruption, selling to small business
3 Tips For Selling To Small Business
Rick Spence is the former editor of PROFIT Magazine and now consults on entrepreneurship. He writes a blog on small businesses and I enjoyed his most recent post. It discussed
5 Tips For Selling to Small Business. I particularly found 3 to be relevant tips to remember when approaching the SMB
market with your products / services:
* If you're selling information products, keep in mind that entrepreneurs don't want to be educated. "They want to learn by osmosis," he says. Turn information into stories, case studies and anecdotes to make it easier to digest and remember.
* Don't try and sell features to small-business owners. "Entrepreneurs are driven by pain." Tell them now what your product or service can do, but how it can solve their most pressing problem now.
* Get in the ground floor with a small-business prospect. Sell a low-cost product or service that will get you in the door. Once an entrepreneur trusts you and your ability to create value, you will find that many of their budget restrictions disappear like magic.
Read all 5 tips at Rick's Blog
Labels: don't sell features, PROFIT Magazine, Rick Spence, sell low-cost product, selling information products, selling to small business
Microsoft Improves Small Business Package
Microsoft is building a presence in the small business market. Windows and Office are, of course, standard tools for most entrepreneurs but with offerings like Office Small Business Accounting, Microsoft is targeted SME's
and going after entrenched players like Quicken. Microsoft's new Office Live also helps small business owners establish free company websites and email accounts to help them build an online presence. They have also created a Small Business Specialist partnership program to connect with organizations that fill the needs of small businesses.
Microsoft defines small business as being under 50 employees and up to 25 personal computers and their upcoming release of Vista and Office 2007 will be an interesting one to watch. The consumer market is an obvious market for the products but small businesses could drive the growth of both products and Microsoft's future.
I'll be keeping my eyes on Microsoft to see how they target small business owners and penetrate the market. Vista and Office 2007 are scheduled for release next week.
Labels: Microsoft, Office 2007, Office Small Business Accounting, Quicken, selling to small business, Small Business Specialist, Vista, Windows
Small Businesses Of The Future
Intuit just released
a report on where they see small businesses going and what they will look like in 2017. Studying small business trends and staying on top of where entrepreneurs are going are important keys to successfully selling into the entrepreneurial market.
The top 5 findings from the report are:
- Entrepreneurs will no longer come predominantly from the middle of the age spectrum, but instead from the edges. People nearing retirement and their children just entering the job market will set the bar as the most entrepreneurial generation ever.
- American entrepreneurship will reflect a huge upswing in the number of women. The glass ceiling that has limited women's growth in traditional corporate career paths will send a rich talent pool to the small business sector.
- Immigrant entrepreneurs will drive a new wave of globalization. U.S. immigration policy and the outcome of the current immigration debates will affect how this segment performs over the next decade.
- Contract workers, accidental and social entrepreneurs will fuel a proliferation of personal businesses. Economic, social and technological change - and an increased interest in flexible work schedules - will produce a more independent workforce seeking a better work-life balance.
- Entrepreneurship will be a widely adopted curriculum at educational, trade and vocational institutions. As a result, artists, musicians and others not traditionally exposed to business education will learn not just their trade but small-business management skills as well
Labels: american entrepreneurship, contract workers, entrepreneurship, immigrant entrepreneurs, Intuit, job market, retirement, selling to small business, small business trends, women
Can SAP Tackle The Small Business Market?
SAP is the 3rd largest software vendor in the world after Microsoft and IBM. With 38,000 large global companies as clients, they are quickly becoming a victim of their own success and are now targeting small businesses to continue their growth.
Yesterday SAP announced that it's going to spend as much as 400 million euros, roughly $520 million, over 2 years to create an organization that can sell to small business clients. With this new move, SAP is expecting their profit margin to drop by 3-4% this year and they will come up against a number of obstacles selling to small businesses including:
- There are more SMB's to target and their needs tend to be more varied
- SMB's require bigger sales and support teams
- SMB's typically also take longer to make buying decisions
- SMB's require more intensive sales advice than larger enterprises
It will be interesting to see what strategies SAP uses to tap the small business market and how successful they are after spending half of a billion dollars.
Labels: IBM, Microsoft, obstacles, SAP, selling to small business, software vendor, targetting small businesses
What Small Businesses Need Help With
January 2007 Small Business Trends Index
The Small Business Trends Index looks at the most popular articles that entrepreneurs are talking about. These are the most discussed stories by small business owners over the past month. The higher the score, the more the topic is being discussed. The total scores add to 100.
#1: Index Score: 26.1
Get an extra $30-$60 back on your tax return by filling in one line. Just like the title says, an easy way to get some free cash this tax season. http://www.snopes.com/business/taxes/excise.asp?1
#2: Index Score: 24.7
Company Logos and Their Meanings From FedEx to Sun Micro. http://www.funonthenet.in/content/view/344/31/
#3: Index Score: 18.8
China is Now too Expensive for Manufacturing Junk That's right, China is now too expensive, now where is our junk going to be made? http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8515811
#4: Index Score: 16.2 #5: Index Score: 14.2
What are the jobs Americans won't do? Americans work longer hours than Europeans -1,804 hours per worker for the United States in 2005, compared to 1,434 in Germany and 1,535 in France. http://www.slate.com/id/2157483/
New Virgin America airline goes viral video to make its case Virgin makes their case in the video seen in this story and asks for the publics help in lobbying support. http://www.slate.com/id/2157483/
Labels: american jobs, china manufacturing, company logos, selling to small business, small business trends index, virgin america
Top 3 Small Business Trends
I just issued a press release that discussed the top 3 small business trends for 2007. I've included it below:
What's Hot, What's Not
Top Three Trends for Small Business in 2007
A new year is upon us and with that comes new opportunities for small business owners everywhere. What new technologies will your business embrace this year? What new partnerships will you form? How will you take advantage of the changing marketplace?
In answering these questions, entrepreneurship expert Evan Carmichael suggests the importance of examining the rising trends that are promising to impact small business in the coming year. "The beginning of a new year is a good opportunity for entrepreneurs to revive their drive for success and give their business a fresh start," says Carmichael, "but in order to move forward, they need to look ahead at what is to come."
Top on Carmichael's list of small business trends for 2007 is the continued rise in importance of being able to do anything and everything online. "Small businesses today can't just have a one-page website," he says. "The division between IT and business is shrinking. From e-marketing to selling products online to offering podcasts, small business owners need to embrace everything the Internet has to offer."
A glimpse at the number of users on FeedBurner's website - an online news feed management provider - is evidence of Carmichael's point. Today, FeedBurner tracks over 1.6 million podcast subscribers, a figure that has doubled in the past six months alone. Similarly, a 2006 PEW Internet Project report states that 12 percent of Internet users have downloaded a podcast. "This year," says Carmichael, "small business owners need to seriously explore these various types of online tools as means of better reaching their customers."
A second trend that will affect small business this year, says Carmichael, is the focus on everything ‘green'. "Consumers are starting to demand more from those they do business with," he says. "Whether it's behaving in a more sustainable way, supporting environmental causes, or offering green products, small business owners can take advantage of this growing concern."
Venture capitalists are beginning to pick up on this trend, where in the U.S. they invested over $150 million in green-focused startups in 2005, double the amount of the previous year. A study by the Organic Trade Association shows similar growth: in 2005, consumer sales of nonfood organic products in the U.S. totaled $744 million. "Instead of being encouraged by their customers to become more environmentally-friendly," says Carmichael, "small business owners can take the lead and inspire their consumers."
Finally, Carmichael points to the rising trend of entrepreneurs that come from all walks of life to try their hand in business. "Whether they're students trying to pay their way through college, or seniors who are bored with retirement, more and more people are realizing that it's never too early or too late to start a business," says Carmichael. "A single mother who has her own company, for example, is no longer the anomaly it once was."
A recent study by the U.S. Center for Women's Business confirms Carmichael's point. The research found that one in eleven adult women is an entrepreneur, the majority of who are mothers. Similarly, 30 percent of the entrepreneurs who use the services of the Center for Women & Enterprise are single mothers.
"The new year has just begun," says Carmichael. "Now is the time to plan for the next big thing. Pay attention to the trends and ensure your small business doesn't get left behind."
Labels: green, new year, online, selling to small business, seniors, single mother, small business trends, students
Get Involved In The Small Business Community
I just came across a press release that Dell is holding a competition
to find the best small business that "has used technology to drive a significant change or develop a competitive advantage in delivering superior customer value and experience."
While the message could be simpler, Dell is doing a lot of things right here:
- Don't go it alone - Dell has partnered with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) to put on the competition and help promote it
- Give prizes - Aside from the recognition, the winner receives $30,000 in free Dell products and a lifetime membership to the NFIB. There are also prizes for the top 9 finalists
- Offer something unique - While the products and NFIB membership are good starters, the winner also gets to spend a day with Dell founder Michael Dell at the company's headquarters. What better experience could a small business owner ask for than to learn from one of the true entrepreneurial success stories of our time (see yesterday's post Teach Entrepreneurs What You Know).
Running contests and getting involved in the small business community is a great way to stand out, attract attention, and build a brand as a company that cares about entrepreneurs.
Labels: competition, Dell, don't go it alone, get involved, give prizes, Michael Dell, National Fedration of Independent Businesses, offer something unique, selling to small business
Teach Entrepreneurs What You Know
Small business owners are always on the hunt for information to help them grow their companies. They frequently turn to their contacts, books, websites, magazines, seminars, and anything else they can get their hands on to give them insights on how to get better.
This provides a great opportunity for anyone selling into the small business community: What expertise can you offer entrepreneurs to help them with their businesses? Small companies typically don't have the same infrastructure, policies, and procedures that most big companies take for granted. What is your hiring procedure? How do you recruit top talent? How do you set your compensation packages? How do you motivate your salespeople? How do you generate new leads? What kind of relationship do you create with your suppliers and channel partners? These are all questions (and there are many many more...) that may be easy for you to answer but provide invaluable insight to small business owners who do not have the same access to resources as you do.
Entrepreneurs like to deal with people they trust and have a relationship with. A great first step is to establish yourself as someone who has valuable information to provide them with. Become more than a supplier to them. If you can become a valuable business advisor you can build a lifetime relationship with the entrepreneur.
Think about what you have to offer and what would be valuable to your clients. A great example is Microsoft Canada's Small Business + program
. They give small business free access to Microsoft product training (Outlook, Excel, etc) but they've also partnered with industry experts to provide comprehensive business training. If an entrepreneur wants to improve their sales or marketing skills, for example, they can turn to the Small Business + training program to do so. It's a great way for Microsoft Canada to stand out, provide more value to their clients, and build a trusted business advisor relationship.
Whether it's online training, seminars, or just a simple phone call with a new prospect, add value to the relationship by teaching them something you know that can help them. Build the relationship and credibility before asking for the sale.
Labels: business advisor, credibility, Microsoft Canada, online training, phone call, relationship, selling to small business, seminars, teach entrepreneurs
Have Credit Card Financing Options
Managing cash flow and securing startup and growth funds are among the biggest challenges a small business owner faces in building a successful company. To help finance their development, entrepreneurs are increasingly turning to their last resort: credit cards.
According to the Small Business Association, the number of small businesses carrying debt increased by 25% from June 2004 to June 2005. Over that period the number of businesses carrying under $100,000 in debt increased from 15.2 million to 19 million. A full 70% of that increase can be attributed to credit cards.
The study also found that the total dollar amount increase was only 1.9% suggesting that the developing trend is a larger number of small businesses spending on small dollar amounts as supposed to existing small businesses increasing their spending amounts.
Even though the small business lending as a whole has been slowing down, Chad Moutray, chief economist for the SBA's Office of Advocacy feels that the "small business credit card market continues to be quite dynamic."
Does your company offer small businesses the option to finance their purchases by credit card and over a period of time? If not, you could be missing out on a rapidly growing trend that can help drive significant sales.
Labels: cash flow, credit card, debt, financing options, SBA, selling to small business, small business association
Entrepreneurs Don't Trust Corporations
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association recently put out a report
stating that 76% of consumers think that businesses do not tell the truth in their advertising.
They went on to discover that the number one way consumers learn about new product ideas is through word of mouth. It helps cut through the advertising clutter and the increasingly busy lives of consumers.
92% of consumers cited word of mouth as the most common way they discover new products, up from 67% in 1977.
I see it happening all the time in my Mastermind Groups
. Small business owners are facing challenges with their companies from sales to financing to product sourcing. A recommendation from a fellow entrepreneur who had a good experience with a supplier almost always closes the deal.
Is your company doing enough to encourage positive word of mouth?
Check out these resources
for more information on how to build your word of mouth effect.
Labels: advertising, close the deal, good experience, new products, recommendation, selling to small business, Trust, word of mouth, word of mouth marketing association
American Entrepreneurs Are Overworked
A new poll
conducted by Staples of 300 small business owners in America with less than 20 employees found that they are working long hours, take little vacation time, and cannot distinguish between working hours and time off.
Some of the survey results are:Always On Email
What 40 Hour Work Week?
- 18% read work-related emails in the bathroom and 49% read them while driving
Top 3 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Work So Hard
- 62% work well beyond a 40 hour work week
- 21% work over 80 hours peer week
What Personal Time?
- Business growth
- Added responsibility
- Trying to keep up
- 21% work while eating dinner at least 4-5 times per week
- 37% could not readily remember their last vacation
- Of those who did vacation, nearly half admitted to working during some portion of it
- 68% work on days off, checking e-mail, voicemail or making work-related calls
- 66% work after hours and at night
- 51% work on holidays
- 47% work during what is supposed to be family time
Remember when selling to small business owners that they are stressed out, overworked, and wearing many hats within the company. Understanding their circumstances will go a long way to helping you close the deal.
Labels: 40 hour work week, check email, close the deal, overworked, personal time, poll, selling to small business, Staples, strerssed out, understanding, wearing many hats
The Biggest SMB Trend - Starting At 50
The fastest growing segment of the small business market are entrepreneurs over 50 years of age. In Canada, one in four small business owners is over the age of 50 and 30% of people over 50 are entrepreneurs according to the CIBC
These small business owners, often
dubbed as 'seniorpreneurs
', do not have the same needs or wants as their younger counterparts. They typically set up businesses as a lifestyle decision rather than out of necessity or to grow a large company. Most seniorpreneurs
do not want rapid growth because they've recently retired and want to avoid putting in long hours.Seniorpreneurs
see starting a business as the chance to do what they've always wanted to do. They want to break free from their employee status, typically have the financial resources to do so, and want to enjoy their lives while running a small company.
While most seniorpreneurs
do not run the high flying growth companies that most want to be selling to, they do represent a large and often overlooked segment of the market that could be profitable for you if you're selling to small business.
Labels: CIBC, financial resources, growth companies, long hours, selling to small business, seniorpreneurs, small company, smb trend
2007 Small Business Trends
Steve Strauss writes a small business column for USA Today. His most recent contribution highlighted the top 10 small business trends for 2007. They include:No. 10: Web 2.0:
We are now seeing the emergence of what has been called Web 2.0, and it is great news for the small business person. The novelty and nervousness of buying online is now gone and e-commerce has exploded. One example: According to the Internet retailers' industry group IMRG, Christmas sales this year were up 50% over last year.No. 9: E-marketing Trumps Traditional Marketing:
Online marketing is booming. Small business advertising is the backbone of the Google empire, and a main reason small business people like it is that they pay only for qualified leads (or clicks as the case may be.) Google didn't become Google by accident. Savvy entrepreneurs are moving a significant portion of their marketing online.No. 8: Little is the New Big:
The latest statistics show that there are now at least 20 million microbusinesses in this country, and by some estimates, the number is much higher. These businesses are fed by the ever-increasing, powerful, technological tools being made available to small business, as well as the growth of microbusinesses worldwide.No. 7: Say Hello to the New Consumer:
The Boomers are starting to enter, if not old age, then late-middle age, as the first wave begins to turn 60. That's a market. Gen Y, comprised of the Boomers' children, is a sophisticated, computer-savvy, independent-minded bunch. Another potentially lucrative market. The final piece of this new market puzzle is the growth of the Hispanic market.No. 6: Fragmentation is Changing Everything:
There are hundreds of television stations available to you right this very minute, hundreds of regular and satellite radio stations, as well as a multitude of Podcasts, downloads, uplinks, and billions of websites. The television networks are losing power and market share because information is now readily available 24/7 in a variety of formats. Information is fragmenting, as is business: Millions of small businesses around the globe have become international business thanks to the Internet.
His top 5 trends will be released next week.
Read the full article here
Labels: email marketing, fragmentation, selling to small business, small business trends, Steve Strauss, USA Today, Web 2.0
Positioning Your Product Or Services
The Brooks Group is a sales and sales management training and consulting firm that has helped more than 2,000 organizations improve their businesses through unparalleled training, follow-up, reinforcement and ROI-tracking programs.
They write a monthly Sales newsletter
offering advice to businesses trying to improve their sales results. A recent issue discussed posionint your product or service for entrepreneurs:
Entrepreneurs often respond to salespeople by saying, "That doesn't apply to me." Or "my business is different, it's unique." It's important to realize that in the case of entrepreneurs, the owner and the business are practically one and the same. And what they're really saying is "I'm unique, but you don't make me feel that way."
Entrepreneurs are also strongly attracted to products and services that have been designed specifically for their unique situations. If it were up to them, entrepreneurs wouldn't buy a single product or service that wasn't designed and developed precisely - 100% - for their specific business, industry, application, or competitive environment.
Entrepreneurial buyers want to buy products or services that are practical, street-smart, and not theoretical because they want solutions that:
Entrepreneurs often have little patience for complexity because it interferes with the hands-on, quick-action performance. They consider so vital to their personal independence.
- Will eliminate complexity from their lives
- Won't strain the company's resources
- Won't put additional demands on their own personal time
An entrepreneurial buyer might be more receptive to your product or service if you alleviate some of their anxiety by saying something like: "Before we discuss our product let me stress that it is practical and street-smart. It's also been carefully designed for your unique business situation."
Labels: additional demands, Brooks Group, eliminate complexity, independence, patience, positioning, sales newsletter, salespeople, selling to small business, strain resources, street-smart
Selling Small Business vs. Fortune 500
Greg Sommerville, a computer consultant who advises software companies on selling tactics wrote in a recent article
a few tips on the differences between selling to small and large companies.
If you are selling software to businesses, the first question to answer is, how big are the businesses? Selling to small business owners is a completely different thing than selling to Fortune 500 companies. Here are a few differences and things to think about:
Think about the ramifications to selling to another business. Prepare before you promote. Keep your target in mind when creating promotional materials.
- Big and small businesses have different tolerance levels for high prices.
- Big businesses in some cases consider a higher price to be a sign of quality. Small businesses may also believe this, but may go elsewhere if the price is too high.
- Big and small businesses have different expectations of follow-up service and support.
- There are a lot more small businesses in the world than large corporations, but large companies are well known and easier to directly target.
- Often, large corporations have formalized rules for purchasing software that must be followed, or they require legal contracts to be signed. Small businesses are usually much more casual about these things.
- Finally, selling business to business (B2B) is often easier than selling to consumers because there is less competition.
Labels: expectations, formalized rules, fortune 500, Greg Sommerville, high prices, purchasing, selling software, selling to small business, service, small business, support, tolerance