Thursday, August 23, 2007

MyBusinessMVP - Serving the underserved: Small Business

I’ll ask forgiveness for this "manifesto" impersonating a blog entry in advance. One of the most lucrative customer segments to sell products and services is Small Business. According to a recent Mastercard Worldwide Survey, three out of four small businesses (78%) view the use of technology as important to their business; over a quarter (26%) say technology is “extremely important”. According to the SBA, in 2002, the year of the most recent census bureau study, there were approximately 23 million small businesses in the United States of which the vast majority are single employee firms. Lastly, our friends at the SBA tell us that in 2004, Small Businesses generated approximately 50.7% of the United States’ over $14 TRILLION domestic GDP. In the words of my wise old Uncle Konrad, it’s really a heck of lot, selling a heck of a lot and buying a heck of a lot too.

In a nutshell, small businesses collectively spend a lot of cash. Regardless of profile, most view technology as a great equalizer through which the playing field of competition is leveled. So, why is it is difficult to sell technology-based services to small business? Mostly because these businesses are part of thousands of industries and extremely fragmented in profile. Quite often their migration and consumption patterns are quite similar to that of the consumer (and we all know how easy it is to sell to services to consumers).

When we say technology services, we think productivity solutions like telecom (VoIP), data backup, CRM, marketing services, Internet, virtual office, research and data management as but a few of many services that are highly effective and significantly increase my business productivity. They enable those small businesses to compete with the “big boys” for a fraction of the cost bigger companies shell out for similar functionality. For the most part, with the exception of the mega satellite TV package featuring every sport ranging from NFL football to tiddly winks in Sri Lanka, technology is relatively affordable; I’ll save my feelings on NFL Sunday Ticket for another time.

Odigo marketing loves the small business customer because frankly we’re one. We embrace technology because it allows us to operate in a highly efficient manner without having to invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in our infrastructure. We’re global, we’re remote, we’re accessible and we’re effective; technology allows us to be all that without strapping our resources and raising our overhead to levels where we can’t even afford basic cable.

Herein lies the dilemma... Service providers offering small business services find it extremely expensive to market & effectively sell to the Small Business customer; even on the Internet. They sign up hundreds of Resellers, agents, VARs or whatever name du jour for those types of companies who will typically bypass hundreds of small businesses to land that one big fish that helps pay the light bill at the end of the month. Even the Internet can only be so effective. How can a small business owner find your service if they don’t know what to ask for? Did you ever try to Google “that service that lets my thinga-ma-jiggy integrate with my doo-hickey so I can get my phone calls on any phone anywhere in the world?!” Not too effective but when I tried, I took advantage of another promotion and acquired $1,000,000 of life insurance for only one dollar payments daily over the next 1,000,001 days; pop up filters be damned.

To market effectively to small businesses (and I mean 10 employees and lower), service companies offering solutions for the Small Business need to align themselves with entities already selling products and services to them. Entities and organizations like retail, hardware manufacturers, associations, etc. all enjoy a structural bond with millions of small business customers; quite often without even realizing it. Unfortunately these “avenues” are really good at selling products; not so great at selling services.

The Partners at Odigo have spent many years trying to leverage these “channels” of distribution to sell highly lucrative productivity services to small businesses. We’ve cajoled, begged, pleaded and offered up a King’s ransom worth of free lunches trying to convince one of these "channel" Companies to step up to the plate and position themselves as a true destination to sell these types of services to their existing small business clientele. One Senior Executive at a big-box retailer confessed after a few beers that “we tell the world that we cater to the business customer but then force feed them with a steady diet of consumer products and services”. Shortly thereafter, we found him sitting at the edge of the bar, nursing a beer and sobbing tears of frustration all over a dirty bowl of stale peanuts.

Well, we’ve finally had enough. Odigo Marketing is making it a mission to introduce a distribution platform that will empower those channels of distribution companies, who call millions of small businesses “customer”, with the ability to sell them a vast array of compelling, affordable and highly effective technology-based productivity solutions…try saying that fast three times with a mouthful of peanut butter and dry crackers.

We’re creating a platform that features several key service providers; all offering great value in distinct business productivity categories and do all this in manner which the customer will find easy to understand, informative, educational and provide multiple points of interaction in which to answer the most complex or simple questions. We will deliver an environment that offers the best in breed providers in key service categories and offer our shared customer significant savings and exceptional value as a key component of the offer. We’re going to save the customer a lot of money, allow our clients to make a ton of money and make a few bucks to pay for lessons in how to write shorter blogs along the way.

We will be introducing MyBusinessMVP by the end of the year. To us, MVP stands for managed vendor portal. To our Partners it will serve as a business in a box where they can significantly expand their small business services assortment without taxing their systems, IT infrastructure or drastically altering their sales model. To the Small Business customer, MyBusinessMVP will truly represent exactly what the name implies. It will serve as a one stop destination to acquire services that will help them maximize productivity and focus on driving revenues while minimizing their overhead. To us, it makes all the “cents” in the world (intentional typo for effect). Stay tuned.

1 comment:

John said...

The majority of small buisness service companies start out selling to just that, small business. But their strategy is always to try to grow that small business into a large business.Forgeting the fact that many small businesses really only want to be "small". Not every small business wants to be the next Google or IBM.Companies that focus and remain focused on the "small business aspect" can be sucessful.Companies that do not usually fail or eventually change their so call "small business" model.

But your points have merit.Too many companies push consumer products or services to small business customers and say they offer small business products.True winners in the small business space look to confront the problems a small business owner faces and create meaningful solutions to those challenges.