Don’t Follow Your Dream, Follow Their Dream!
Like about 80% of my amazing gender I played at being a nurse and a teacher as a little girl. I didn’t know what marketing was, much less how to get into it. I also never really planned to be a small business but when it happened, it made sense.
The beauty of being a small business and marketing for small businesses is that I have a lot in common with my clients. So what have I learned that you can use to be successful working with small businesses?
Dig In Deep Don’t assume all small businesses are the same. They do not have the same problems. There are pains that are common to all such as finances, wearing all the hats, competition, etc. But to resolve the pain points of each small business you have to get to know them. Intimately.
Understanding why the small business owner has chosen this path is more important than selling the benefits of their product or service. If you don’t know the people behind the business, figuring out the solution that exactly meets their needs just got harder.
One Size Does Not Fit All Make sure your suggestions are designed to fit the business and not the other way around. Small businesses do not want to be prescribed the a vanilla solution as everyone else, nor do they want to be shoe horned into your favorite idea.
If you have asked the right questions and listened to your client, providing suggestions that support the goals of the small business becomes your core strength. Being a trusted partner becomes less about the solution itself and more about the strategic thinking you provide. This leads to long term relationships with clients.
Seek Out Expertise Every small business leader has expertise. They often don’t see it as such so it’s your job to identify it. They take it for granted because they’ve lived with their knowledge for a long time. Once you’ve found it, keep reminding them of ways to leverage that expertise for good.
Finding the right way to share that expertise with the world hits business goals out of the park. It is sometimes uncomfortable for small business leaders to appear to promote themselves but the right content and channel puts the focus on the product or solution.
Be a Player as Well as a Coach Don’t just tell small businesses what to do. Show them how to do it. Show them why it matters and what results to expect. Small businesses are understandably wary of other businesses approaching them with perfect solutions quickly followed by a big bill.
Some businesses want to learn your skill, some businesses have to learn your skill because of budget constraints, and others only want to know what your skill will deliver. Whatever the case, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and play.
Respect the Budget Small businesses are very much at the mercy of their budget and the good ones quickly learn how to bootstrap. This is not a reflection of your services. It is mere survival. Make sure you articulate what one thing you would recommend over all others and build the relationship by respecting the budget.
Small Businesses Pride Last but not least, don’t underestimate the pride and passion small business leaders have for their mission. Don’t follow your dream, follow their dream! They have likely sacrificed a great deal to pursue it.
Working with small businesses is diverse which means you have to be resourceful. Cookie cutter solutions and drive by sales won’t work but immersing yourself in understanding the business and the business leaders will.
What else would you add to these tips? Thanks for your input!