Article: Target the Little Guy. This Could be a Reely BIG Shoo
by Mike Banks Valentine
Out once again to illuminate the dark corners of internet shows
for the tiny shining light of small business tools, I have just
returned from AIIM 2002 where they describe the show thusly:
Enterprise Content Management creates successful SYNERGIES
between paper, document, and web content. It focuses your
best marketing on the best opportunities. It streamlines
processes. Cuts costs. Edges your competition. Boosts
customer loyalty. Spurs growth. And sustains innovation.
But only if you have the knowhow and the tools to set up
your BEST ECM Solution.
Would anyone argue those goals and values apply to the small
business? Without a doubt Is anyone there interested in that
customer? Not a chance They prefer BIG (enterprise) customers.
I use a now familiar introductory line when speaking with
sales representatives on the show floor at major conferences.
As I approach with my "Press" badge prominently displayed to
alert them to the potential of that coveted "free promotion"
that is so vital to growing companies and say, "I'm covering
solutions of interest to the small business. Does your company
offer anything targeted at that market?"
They usually stare back blankly and respond with confusion
saying, "Not really." They look me over quickly noting the
lack of the corporate uniform three piece suit, I wear instead
blue jeans and polo shirt. "Who are you with?" Meaning, of
course, "Are you BIG enough for me to care?" They inevitably
shunt me over to the "Marketing Director" because, "She'll be
able to answer your questions better."
As Miss Marketing Director approaches, all smiles, I ask again
adding, " . . . or do you partner with any resellers or offer
hosted applications to microbusiness?"
Inevitably she'll stumble, steady and then with furrowed brow
often makes it clear she is thinking, "No, but what a great
idea I'll have to propose that in the business development
meeting on Monday" And sometimes she'll even say it directly,
"Not currently, but I sure do wonder why we're not persuing
I recently stumbled across a wonderful application for small
business through affiliate tracking firm, Commission Junction.
It was promoted via their inhouse forum to members of other
affiliate programs who use their tracking services. Oddly,
it is offered by one of the MONSTER's of ebusiness, Oracle.
Just as strangely, it is one of the most powerful and yet
affordable programs I've ever seen for the small business
owner online. It's called "Small Business Suite" and it's
based on their Enterprise Customer Relationship Management
software. (That's ECRM for you corporate geeks.)
I'm baffled at why it takes so long for the BIG boys to find
a way to offer hosted solutions like this Small Business
Suite to what amounts to 50 of the economy, microbusinesses.
I have to admit that I attend these shows partly as agitator
for the cause of the little guy. Nobody wants to "find" that
sector of the market as it is inevitably fragmented and hard
to reach. But Oracle has seen the light and Microsoft is after
the little guy with their own suite of tools through their
small business portal, bCentral.com offering a far less power
ful suite of solutions broken up into modules to appeal to
the pennypinching needs of small business owners.
As for the AIIM show, I found an email solution offered by
one company AIIMing at BIG boys of ecommerce who became VERY
interested when I suggested they seek out a partner to buy
their software and offer it as a hosted solution to small
businesses. Fifty percent of the economy? Yeh That's worth
persuing Damn I gotta mention that in the business devel
opment meeting on Monday This could be BIG
I'm so glad he thought of that Damn Why has BIG business
mostly abandoned the small business market? Some of the
most successful corporations rely primarily on the small
business market to become the megalithic behemoths they are.
Staples, Office Depot, Costco, Home Depot and dozens of BIG
corporate discount stores got huge by offering solutions
(read, cost savings) to the small business person. Where is
the ecommerce superstore? How about eDepot.com? (The name
has been reserved, could it be the small business ecommerce
superstore arriving at last?) Shopping carts, payment gate
ways, merchant accounts, web hosting, site development, SEO
services, ebusiness software, doityourselfebooks and
tutorials. I wish I'd thought of that Wait, I did
Oooooh, if only I had some venture capital or angel investors
Not to say that this idea hasn't been badly attempted by some
wellmeaning small busines portals. The problem has always
been that they partner with BIG businesses who insist on
immediate, BIG growth and vast volumes of business before
losing interest and pulling the plug on 50 of the economy.
How BIG a market is 50 of the ecommerce pie? Must BIG dogs
eat ravenously at the market before the scraps are left to
the little guy scavengers? Go for the vast quantity that is
represented by the little guy and stop relying on premium
prices and the rare BIG single purchase by monopolistic
corporations. Why just rely on the fortune 500 when you
could just as easily tap the Fortune Five Million?
Let me see now . . . 157 Billion dollars in Ecommerce divided
down the middle is just under 78 Billion for small business.
Market worth persuing? Doh
About the Author
Mike Valentine does Search Engine Placement for the Small
WebSite101 "Reading List" Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet
Weekly Ezine emphasizing small business on the Internet