Catalogs, marketing and the small business

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Does your catalog work for small business shoppers?
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For B2B catalogs, marketing can make them small business friendly

Is your B2B company focused on the needs of small businesses?  Traditionally, B2B catalogs, marketing and product mixes were focused on the big players in the business world. Sales messages were designed for specific decision makers within a larger company, and pricing was based on large purchases for large buyers.

But with ongoing losses in the large business market, and over 27 million small businesses now in the U.S., B2B companies can no longer afford to overlook this sector.

Are your catalogs small business-friendly?  Here are some ways to evaluate where you stand, and ways to make your catalogs, marketing and entire B2B company more attractive to small business owners.

How many are too many?

Take a look at the packaging size for your products. Have you considered that few mom-and-pop companies really need a thousand job applications or six dozen desks? 

If you want to sell your B2B products or services to smaller businesses, consider offering smaller quantity packages for those who only need a few of any one item.  A packet of 25 job applications, or the option to buy desks one at a time will open the doors to more buyers.

It costs me how much?

If a B2B catalog is targeting large companies, things like large quality discounts make sense. But to the small business buyer, seeing those big quantity discounts on the pages of your catalog only serves to remind them that they're paying the highest possible prices. And that could be enough to drive them elsewhere to shop.

If the number of large clients has decreased, consider removing the specific quality discounts from each product listing.  Instead, add a small note to each page, or to your order form, indicating that "Quantity discounts are available." 

If large businesses are still a major part of your client base, consider creating two catalogs, marketing messages and even microsites to target small business owners with a custom experience.

The personal touch

While a relatively impersonal, formal style might work very well with large business buyers, small business owners are more likely to respond to a more personal touch.

Take some time to review the customer service experience from the point of view of a small business shopper.  Is it easy to understand the product descriptions without an extensive knowledge of industry jargon?  Is it easy to reach a human being when a customer has questions?   And how complicated is the return process?

The stuff you sell

It's all well and good to tweak prices, shipping or the customer service experience to make it more friendly to small businesses, but none of it will work if you miss the mark on small business needs.

If you're new to the small business market, do your homework.  Learn about what your potential customers need from a supplier like you.  Use sites like LinkedIn to listen to needs and concerns in your target sector.  Read blogs and discussion boards to make sure the products you're offering work well in the small business world.

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