Marketing to Other Entrepreneurs

If you're marketing to other business owners, you need to offer the 7 things they want most--and learn how you can deliver them.
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This story appears in the July 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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For many business owners, marketing to fellow entrepreneurs is job one. The challenge is, entrepreneurs are time-strapped multitaskers who are also relatively risk-averse--making them a difficult audience to reach and persuade. Sound familiar?

If fellow entrepreneurs are your bread and butter, your marketing must meet their unique needs and requirements to motivate them to take action. Here are the top seven things entrepreneurs want from marketers, and important tips on how your marketing program can deliver them:

1. Increased sales: Most business owners say their primary objective is to increase sales. Will buying your product or service help your prospects achieve that goal? If the answer is yes, put that benefit front and center by making it one of your most important marketing messages. When you help your customers grow, you become an indispensable part of their success.

2. Safe choices: Being a business owner requires taking calculated risks, from buying inventory or acquiring office space to hiring employees. But when it comes to buying outside products and services, entrepreneurs as a group tend to be cautious. Demonstrate that buying from you is a safe choice by providing a content-rich campaign. It should include customer feedback, in-depth product information and reviews where applicable, proof of your affiliations with national associations, and industry certifications.

3. Maximum convenience: Have you ever met a successful business owner with extra time on his or her hands? The truth is, running a growing business often requires long hours, making shopping convenience a major draw for entrepreneurs. Multichannel marketing--including, for example, a website, a brick-and-mortar store and a direct-mail campaign--is essential to building sales from this target group. The key is to provide a consistent branding experience, merchandise and offers, as well as top-flight customer service across all channels.

4. Ways to save money: Marketers who have experience targeting major corporate buyers as well as entrepreneurs will tell you it's often harder to convince entrepreneurs to part with relatively small sums. Business owners are likely to be spending their own money and are correspondingly conservative. Adding value to your offers will help overcome resistance. Depending on what you market, you can add features, bundle products together, offer VIP services and longer warranties, and more. If you market primarily online, free shipping can help close sales.

5. Do-it-yourself solutions: Time-strapped business owners have just enough work hours to get their own jobs done--and they don't want to learn yours. Low-cost do-it-yourself solutions are appreciated, provided they're turnkey. Successful marketers of do-it-yourself products and services, from accounting software to e-mail list management, must focus on ease-of-use as a principal benefit. Bundle in free customer support for a winning combination.

6. Reliability and performance: Entrepreneurs carefully consider the post-sale customer experience when making a purchase. They want to know that your company will be there to support what it sells. What guarantees or warranties does your company offer? To motivate business owners to complete sales, make reliability a central component of your marketing message--don't bury this information at the bottom of your marketing materials or website. And deliver top-quality customer service during the hours your business customers most frequently shop.

7. Vendors they trust: Entrepreneurs often prefer to work with other business owners they know and trust. Special events and networking are great ways to foster interaction with prospects. An event can be as simple as a lunchtime roundtable workshop or as elaborate as hosting the hospitality suite at a trade show. What matters most is that you create an opportunity to build positive relationships.

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