Big Business (Tries to) Go Small

Note: This post was archived from the Infusionsoft Blog. More details here.

Big Business Tries to Go SmallA couple weeks ago, Dave and I were invited to attend the Warrillow Summit in Las Vegas, which focused on connecting big business companies around small businesses needs, interests and demands. We met many great folks there, but something got me fired up enough to stand on my virtual soapbox and get it off my chest. Small businesses ought to be respected for how well they operate, not disenfranchised because they run leaner and deliver results.

Note: The following thoughts are a mix of my personal experience and lessons learned on the matter; I know I will likely offend and upset some of the larger organizations out there who target small businesses. It’s okay, we can disagree. In this piece, I aim to help represent the voice of the entrepreneur who loves small business.

This morning I came in to find a fat, juicy breakfast burrito from Filiberto’s on my desk. Joe told me it was the extra “fuel” I needed to get this blog post out there. He’s begged me to blog about it ever since Dave and I came back from the Warrillow Summit last week. I took it for what it was, a direct bribe to get me to blog. It worked. My new slogan is, “I blog for burritos.” 🙂

Now that I have sufficient “fuel”, let’s get down to business.

Last week, our vice president of marketing,  Dave Lee and I attended the Warrillow Sumitt. Warrillow is an “advisory service for enterprise companies targeting their Small and Medium Business segment.”  In other words, Warrillow helps big business aim for small businesses, people like you! All the people from Warrillow that I met were smart, intellegent people that seemed to “get” small business.  But, I was absolutely shocked at how many of the big businesses are out of touch when it comes to how to market to and and connect with small business.

It was a real eye-opener for me and I listened to so-called experts give advice on how to reach small business owners and how to build trust with them. Elaborate corporate programs and sophisticated local marketing plans were discussed ad nauseum. So many times I wanted to stand up and shout, “Look people!  Small businesses owners are not “entities”, they’re people! This is Relationships 101. The real way to connect with them is to talk to them, get to know them, find out what their pains are, what makes them tick.  And then, you can think about doing business with them!” But I didn’t want to be escorted out for uncovering the truth about small business; besides some of the content was intriguing and refreshing to consider.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard one presenter refer to small business owners as “those people.” I think he really did view small business owners as some sort of foreign creatures that can’t be understood.  It was rather frustrating to watch his credibility sink further each time he marginalized small business owners.

Here are some of the pieces that got me fired up:

  • ‘Small business’ was frequently referred to as ‘microbusiness.’ As if small isn’t small enough. It seems a little degrading to me.
  • They also referred to small businesses as small business entereprises. Oxymoron?
  • One presenter said,Small business owners are behind the curve. Most are just getting off of dial-up internet. I think that guy was off his rocker.  The business owners I know are some of the savviest, most aware, and “on-top-of-it” people I know. And they had broadband for a while longer than most other folks.
  • “Small business is a badge of honor.” I agree with this one. I think that each small business owner has a sense of pride and honor in what he or she is creating.

I could go on and on about these frustrating moments, but I don’t like to dwell on the negative.  There were some great takeaways and the conference helped me reflect on the things that we’ve learned in the process of being a small business and marketing to small business.  Here are some things that I heard or was reminded of:

  • 77% of small business owners say the recession has made them better at running their business.  Our experience is that most small business owners fully embrace the Ownership Spirit. They won’t let any outside force deter them from their goal. They refuse to participate in the recession.  Clate Mask, the CEO of Infusionsoft, always says, “we will impose our will on the economy.” I love that!
  • We’ve learned that small business owners don’t want to “buy a solution” and be left on their own to solve a problem. But, they’d rather partner with a company they know will be there for them if they need help.
  • Many small business owners simply don’t have the tools they need to grow their businesses. They spend countless hours trying to use different systems together, software solutions and technologies, only to find themselves in utter chaos.  That’s one of the main problems Infusionsoft solves.
  • One important thing that we’ve come to realize is that small businesses do the exact same things big businesses do.That is, small businesses still drive leads, sell, and fullfil on their product or service.  They simply do it on a smaller scale, and much more efficiently.

The last thing I want to add here is that there are some great companies out there that do ‘get’ small business.  I was really impressed with Laurel Holman, the Director of Brand Marketing for the Small Business Group at Intuit. Its obvious to me that they understand small business.

So, when you’re looking to buy products and services to “fuel” your business, don’t get frustrated with the big businesses out there that don’t get it.  Move on and find the ones that understand your needs, will partner with you, and provide exactly what you’re looking for.

I was also glad to see that Infusionsoft was a finalist in Warrillow’s Marketer of the Year Contest.  The other finalists were Intuit, CDW, RBC Insurance, and Ceridian.  We were honored to be in such great company.  We were also stoked to beat out companies like American Express, AT&T, CareerBuilder, Cisco, Fedex, HP, Microsoft and Visa.

As a small business owner or entrepreneur, what are the ways big business can help you? Share you suggestions and thoughts in the comments below.

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