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In Australia, a small to medium enterprise (SME) has 200 or fewer employees. Microbusinesses have 1-4 employees, small businesses 5-19 and medium businesses 20-199 employees. Large businesses employ 200+ employees. Throughout my career, I have had opportunity to work in large and small businesses. Large businesses make up just 3% of all Australian businesses. With such a small pool of large businesses one would imagine that they would be very easy to access, yet many SMEs struggle to engage with large businesses. Often when I work with start-ups taking product to market, they often question how to bridge this gap as part of their customer success strategy.
When trying to bridge the gap, do the following…
Attend events hosted or sponsored by large business
Large businesses often host networking events to promote the launch of a product, latest developments within the industry or a social cause. These events may be at their premises with a number of personnel on hand to meet you. Use your attendance as an opportunity to connect and mingle with their team. Ensure that you are armed with business cards and if the dress code allows it, wear a t-shirt that advertises your brand. In my experience, this can often be a good conversation opener!
Large businesses tend to sponsor local business events, hosted by the local business chamber, industry organisation or locally based events such as the WSSBE. Attendance at these events assists small business owners to meet and mingle with targeted representatives from these large businesses. You may also get to understand and compare competitive large businesses and their services at these events, assisting you to hone in on your sales approach.
Be deliberate in your choices and clear on the outcomes you would like to achieve by attending these events. Is the large business part of your target market or are you looking to engage with their clients?
Sign up for newsletters/blogs/social feeds
Newsletters/blogs and social media feeds are a good source of regular information on activity within large businesses as well as in the market. Sign up and study this content to keep abreast of the business as well as the industry through published thought leadership. Often large businesses may be looking for relevant content or your participation in SME surveys, being on their database will allow them to contact you easily.
Enter a Pitchfest
A Pitchfest is an event often held by large business where SMEs can pitch an idea on how to solve a particular problem. The actual pitchfest may not necessarily be run by a business in your target market however the sponsor’s clients may be of interest to you. These events often have social media programs and carry a large windfall for the winner.
Pursue Industry awards
Should your awards submission lead you to being a winner or even a finalist at an industry award, this exposure becomes invaluable in building visibility and credibility within your industry. Typically large businesses sponsor or attend these awards evenings and the added media coverage before and after the event will ensure that your business is recognised. When pitching or tendering to a large business, industry awards can be a differentiator amongst your competitors.
Choose an advisory board
Being a small business owner can require you to wear many hats until the business is of sufficient scale. While in the growth phase, look to experienced peers with varied skill sets to be on your advisory board. These board members will provide invaluable advice and contacts into large businesses.
Ascertain who within your network and sphere of influence is connected to the large business that you are targeting. Reach out and ask for assistance whether it is with a contact within the large business or a supplier to them in another industry. When doing so, ensure that you can articulate what you are after, the value that you can add and how you will go about doing this. Well nutured alliances can be a long time return on investment so put your best foot forward at all times.