For several decades now I’ve been back and forth between working on and building my own business, helping others build theirs, helping people manage small business, and, occasionally, helping larger businesses understand and presumably sell to smaller businesses.
So I watch and listen. And I see how big businesses try to reach the solopreneur, home office, and small businesses. And the mistakes they make. So here’s my list of 10 mistakes big businesses make with small business.
- We’re not a market segment. Sorry, that would be nice, but no. Go back to your fundamentals and consider what makes a market segment useful for your marketing. Some factors in common, right? Same gender, same economic level, same town, same activities, same something. And what business owners have in common is only that we own a business; which probably means we’re more likely to be different than the same. Treating us as a group is like trying to organize anarchists. We’re solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, accidental or pushed entrepreneurs, and millions of us don’t even think of themselves as entrepreneurs; they’re just self employed.
- We’re short on time and patience. We have a business to run. We don’t have time to research and study, much less to listen to you. Get to the point fast.
- We care about quick and easy. Convenience really matters. See point #2.
- We’re unpredictable about reading, media, and political preferences. Somebody told me once, in pontificating mode, that “to reach small business you have to advertise in the Wall Street Journal.” That’s not what I see. I think only a few of us read about business. Our politics is as diverse (and polarized) as the rest of the country.
- We hate red tape except when we love it. Give us a chance and we’ll complain like hell about government red tape and restrictions. There are large lobbying groups that supposedly represent us that constantly whine about red tape and regulations (I think they actually represent various political interests mostly, and use small business as a platform). But give us a chance to jump onto red tape to prevent competition, and we will. And give us easy ways to deal with red tape (like payroll services, for example) and we’ll love you.
- We don’t sweat tax rates, but we really care what’s deductible. The whole tax rate thing is politics, lobbyists, and whining. Tax rates affect profits only, and profits are what’s left over after the deductions. So well love deductible expenses. If you want to unite us, put in more red tape on deductions, like they did with meal expenses a few years ago. Or crack down on travel expenses and conferences and cars. We’ll hate you.
- We’re unpredictable about technology. Some of us love computers, smart phones, tablets, and office equipment. Some of us haven’t discovered social media and barely email. We’re about as diverse on that point as any random group of adults.
- We don’t divide by generations. You can’t effectively divide us into millennials vs. generation x vs. baby boomers. I’m a baby boomer and I know some millennials who think more like I do about business than some baby boomers.
- We like variable costs way better than fixed. Charge us more later after we’ve made the sale and have the money and we’ll pay it. Charge us fixed costs up front, whether we sell or not, and we’ll hate it.
- We’re online. Point #7 notwithstanding, business owners want more revenue and that’s mostly online. Some of us love it, some of us hate it, but business owners who aren’t online are endangered species.
Do you want to go to the research and check out my data, to see if it’s valid. Don’t bother. I’m a business owner. I don’t need to show you no stink’n data.