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Here Is Some News: Frogs Are Not The Same As Crocodiles

“Big businesses and governments are totally, hopelessly clueless about small businesses.”

I said that back in 2011 and I say it now. Very little has changed despite all the rhetoric. Governments and big blue chip corporates consistently think they're talking and marketing to the smaller or owner-managed businesses but they’re not.

That is because they do not realise that small businesses use a different language and behave in completely different ways to the world of corporates or public affairs.

There are over four million small businesses in the UK. Small businesses account for 99.8% of business names registered there and employ at least 12 million people. Yet despite this contribution to the UK economy all my qualitative research shows that owners of the so-called ‘small and medium-sized’ businesses feel ignored, or misunderstood by the corporates and big business who purport to serve business owner-managers.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. They fail to understand that small businesses do not make purchasing decisions in the same way as big businesses.
  2. And they fail to understand that small businesses are often small by choice.

In other words, corporates assume that a small business is just a little, big business. That is like saying frogs are the same as small crocodiles. They are not. They do not share the same form, culture or mindset.

Most advertisements focusing on the small business market (banks, IT, software, HR services) do not try to communicate with small businesses. They are not creating (or even attempting to create) a relationship, or demonstrating values important to their target customers.?

Another way of looking at this is that 76% per cent of consumers think that big businesses lie in their adverts; and 78% are more likely to buy on the recommendation of others. Small businesses are no different. Ads aimed at small business owners are relatively ineffective because the ad agency fails to understand the needs and wants of their target.

Insider knowledge for ad agency execs:

Marketers who want to talk or sell to small businesses need to recognise that:

    • Small businesses need to be treated differently at different stages of their life cycle. In fact, one of the best times to communicate with an small business owner is during a life stage transition (start-up, growing, consolidating, merging, selling).
    • Trying to get people to aspire to unrealistic role models is futile, and being patronising, smug or insincere will not get you sales
    • Small businesses will pay more and spend more with a brand that acknowledges their lifestyle and treats them well.

In the spirit of helping the corporate marketer to small business understand us better, I want to offer a few insights that could give them a “Damascus” moment, if they are willing to listen.

8 insights for the corporate marketer:

  1. I am not an 'SME'. I am a small, or owner-managed, or independent, or growing, or self-employed, or new, or young, or boutique business. When I go to a party I do not say "Hi, I am an SME." And as for the "smee" word, what is that all about? I never ever call myself a "smee".

  2. I want my supplier to understand me, business, my business. I am not part of a homogenous mass of some four million similar sales prospects. I would be happiest if you could be more of a trusted adviser and not a numbers jockey

  3. I am not an immature/undeveloped big business. And nor am I a second-class citizen who you see as a market opportunity only after you have exhausted the blue chip big ticket spenders, as a way to maximise your investment. I want to know what I am paying for and how and when I am paying

  4. I am not just another target towards your year-end sales goals.I want you to sell to me with an entirely fresh approach, not merely a scaled-down version of the methods used with big corporates.

  5. I do not want to be patronised. I know you don’t really care (in words or in actions). If people talked to you the way that corporates spoke to small business people, they would punch you on the nose. Some marketers are liars; your salesmen are worse

  6. I want swift action and I don't want my time wasted! I have a less formal, faster buying cycle than a corporate so create faster systems to match how I buy and not the other way around. I am not interested in your processes; they are for your benefit only.

  7. I am the customer; remember who I am. I do not want to be bamboozled with science: keep it simple stupid. I want you to make it easy for me to order and to buy from you; win my trust. I don't have to buy from you today or ever.

  8. I ask that you customise your products and service for me. Make sure your service delights me; show me how you can help, show me the benefits.

Robert Craven

Robert Craven

International Keynote Business Speaker


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