I’d like to start this week’s post with a story, about a gentleman I met last year named Jay. Jay has owned an industrial cleaning supply company for about a decade and has made a fine living, selling cleaning supplies and tidying offices after hours.
Mostly he catered to other small businesses and a select few larger office parks in his city.
But then things changed when the Great Recession hit. Due to the economic downturn, many of Jay’s clients were forced to cut back on Jay’s services. What could he do?
At first, he panicked and even considered going out of business. Then it hit him— if small businesses did not have the budget to hire him, big businesses might. So Jay started doing some research and ended up at a program called Business Matchmaking.
Business Matchmaking is a program run by the SBA and sponsored by some larger corporations (including Bank of America). Think of it as speed dating for business. Big businesses and federal government agencies have, literally, billions of dollars in contracts that they give out every year to small businesses. They need supplies, services and everything in between. At Business Matchmaking events, corporate and government representatives meet with small business owners who can supply them with the services they are looking for.
It was at one of these events that Jay met with a large company that needed a new cleaning supplier. Jay’s successful business history, coupled with the fact that he had served some larger clients over the years, convinced the representative that he was their man. After making the necessary arrangements, Jay got a big, six-figure contract and hasn’t looked back since.
It makes sense that, as a small business owner, you should look to larger businesses as potential clients. Many small businesses owners do— in fact, the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report found that small businesses, by a wide margin, like larger businesses because 1) they are seen as customers or potential customers, and 2) even if they are not our customers, larger business inspire us, as small businesses owners, to do things better.
If you would like to market your business to larger businesses, then, aside from Business Matchmaking, here are some other ways to do so:
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is, of course, a great tool for connecting with potential business partners. The site also has a very sophisticated search engine in which you can search for people by name, industry, title, city, etc., which makes it a great place to start your research. Enter in the type of businesses you are looking for, and also the various titles of the folks who might be in charge of buying what you are selling. Titles might include key words such as:
- Supply chain management
- Purchasing agent
Online search: Alternatively, if you already have a corporation or two in mind that you would like to pitch, then dig in online and find out the right person to talk to. Make sure you also do some background research on the company, so that you know their needs and how your abilities might fit those criteria.
Network: Good, old-fashioned networking still works. Figure out who you know that might give you a good lead and ask for that lead.
Check out supplier diversity programs: Many corporations have what are known as “Supplier Diversity Programs.” These are efforts to increase the purchasing of goods and services by select small businesses, typically those owned by veterans, women, the disabled and minorities.
For instance, The Staples supplier diversity website page states:
“Staples® Corporate Supplier Diversity Program’s mission is to promote and include Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) in all levels of our supply chain. Supplier diversity strategies are designed to strengthen diverse suppliers within our communities, create job opportunities and acknowledge the vision of HUBs nationwide.”
Our friends at Bank of America also have a Supplier Diversity Program, which you can check out here.
One last important point to consider: Large businesses will want to be sure that you will be able to handle whatever contract you get from them, so make sure you are ready to prove to them that you are small, but mighty.
Do you work with larger businesses to reach your business goals? Tell us how you got there below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.
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