If your clients are small businesses, it’s important that you understand their needs and be able to connect with them. Small businesses don’t act the same way corporations do, so it may take a little growth on your part to speak “Small Business-ese.”
1. Really Listen
Some large corporations claim to listen to small businesses, but with all the red tape and bureaucracy that goes on, the business owner can feel like just another number. Show that you’re actually paying attention by making changes based on what your customers tell you they want.
Dell, which has many initiatives to connect with small businesses, launched its Consumer Advisory Panel in 2010. The company invited bloggers and small business owners to come to its Austin headquarters to tell it what they did and didn’t like about Dell. Not only that: the company actually delivered. When participants complained about the customer service hotline, Dell made changes to the wait time and overall structure to its system, showing it really was listening. (Disclaimer: I’m on the panel and saw this firsthand.)
2. Get in Their Shoes
You think your company has budget issues? Try getting by on a shoestring budget, or bootstrapping. While your company is in turmoil over the latest CEO’s scandal, small businesses are on a completely different plane. Get on it. Learn it. Appreciate their point of view.
3. Create Small Business Initiatives
Visa has a Business Network platform that provides resources and tools for small business owners. It’s not a push for Visa; it’s simply a place business owners can gather to learn more.
Yours doesn’t have to be a community website. It could be a contest, a social media hub or a series of workshops or webinars. Find a way to connect with your target audience by providing useful small biz resources…with no strings attached.
4. Read, Read, Read
Just as you need to bone up on what’s happening in your industry, you also need to know what’s going on in small business. There are some amazing blogs and magazines, like BizLaunch’s blog, or Inc. Magazine, that cover topics relevant to business owners. These will give you a sense for the pain points your customers experience, and may help you brainstorm about ways you can ease the pain.
5. Write, Write, Write
The flip side to number four is to write. Write a company blog targeting small business. Guest post on small business blogs. Provide free whitepapers and ebooks that address key issues your customers have (not sure what those are? Look at your website’s FAQ for ideas). Write a book as a representative of your brand and market it to small businesses to further attach your name and your company’s name to the audience you want to reach.
6. Connect Socially
Twitter and Facebook aren’t just for you amplifying your message to the masses. They’re also great tools for getting to know your customers. Support them socially by sharing their blog links and interacting with them individually. A large corporation being boiled down to a real, live human voice is impressive to anyone on social media.
7. Realize One Size Does Not Fit All
Calling a solopreneur about your $5,000 a month service probably isn’t going to get you far. Realize the constraints (financial, administrative, etc.) that come with small business and try to modify your own services and offerings to better match them. Maybe you can come up with a limited version of your service that is more in line with a small business budget.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our globally connected world. They’re what make corporations like yours successful. Remember that at one point, your company too was a a small business. Put that into perspective, roll up your sleeves and sit down with your small business clients. You’ll be glad you did.
As small business experts, BizLaunch creates educational content to help large companies connect to entrepreneurs. We have helped large companies such as Deluxe, Visa, ATB Financial, Scotiabank and Staples develop webinars, seminars, te
Photo: Jim Linwood on Flickr