SMB spoken here.
If you’ve ever heard me talk about business owners, you probably would have heard me say something like, “We have our own language. It sounds like English, but it’s different.” It is a language born of shared experiences, common challenges and a constant quest for opportunity that others might not understand. Where do the owners of small and midsize businesses go to speak the language of their peers? There are many formal and informal groups for this purpose, and in this post, I’d like to tell you a bit about them.
To begin, here’s a list of some prominent CEO/small business organizations. I am or have been a member of several of these myself:
Each of these organizations is different, but most offer a few things in common:
- Sharing of experiences: many business owners face similar challenges in their business and personal lives
- Ideas and best practices: what others are doing on anything from business development to handling problem employees
- Expert speakers: thought leadership and subject-matter expertise
- Fun activities with like-minded individuals
- Resources of all types
- Camaraderie (don’t underestimate this one)
What do these groups mean for marketers interested in reaching small and midsize businesses? Opportunities abound if approached correctly and if the fit is right. Some accept sponsorships – anything from year-round, multifaceted “corporate” sponsorships to smaller sponsorships of local chapters or events. Some have advertising/messaging opportunities. Each will have different guidelines for corporate involvement, but all are very protective of their members. If you are looking to simply write a check and blast to their member base, you will be disappointed.
Many of the organizations I’ve listed above charge significant member dues ($5-20K) and, accordingly, cater to larger SMBs. If you do find an opportunity to do something with these groups, I highly recommend having top people from your company involved. Senior executives or top, relationship-driven salespeople who can share experiences of other business owners/clients they work with. To reach smaller businesses, local networking groups and local chapters of national or global organizations like BNI are often more accessible to your lead-driven local salespeople.
On a slightly different note, FoundersCard is a membership program that offers premier benefits and invitation-only peer-to-peer networking opportunities for business owners. The benefits are very upscale and the affiliated “partner” companies are world-class. With the right offering, it can be a good opportunity to market directly to business owners and entrepreneurs in an exclusive setting that will reflect well on your brand.
With a network of hundreds of business owners, I can tell you that whenever business owners get together, a special dynamic is created that is not found anywhere else. In general, the companies that belong to groups like I’ve described are 1) more growth-oriented, 2) more interested in best practices and 3) grow quicker than SMBs at large. Finding the right way to reach them through these organizations can be a challenge, but the long-term rewards can be great.
P.S. – I encourage you to check out this short documentary on Dan Sullivan, founder of the Strategic Coach. In addition to watching Dan’s story and his impact on thousands of business owners, you can hear several entrepreneurs (including several friends of mine) talking about their businesses. It provides terrific behind-the-scenes insights that will benefit any B2SMB marketer.