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Sell to Other Entrepreneurs

Other small businesses could be some of your site's best customers.

You shop online for products and services that can help your business. Other entrepreneurs do, too--so why not reach out to them with your website? According to an August 2006 report from JupiterKagan Inc., some 79 percent of online small businesses conduct business-related online shopping regularly. Here's how you can entice them to purchase from you.

Reach out. It's important to communicate with small-business customers regularly and let them know you understand their unique needs, says Sonal Gandhi, a JupiterKagan analyst and author of the report. "Sixty-two percent of small-business online purchases are influenced by familiarity or an existing relationship with a supplier," she says. Once they've bought from you, provide stellar customer service to encourage them to buy from you again. "Always deliver on the service or product being sold," says Gandhi. "Resolve any customer service issues promptly."

Focus on the value you provide. According to the report, almost half of online small-business shoppers comparison-shop for business goods and services. They're not just looking for the lowest price, but want to know if it's the best value for their money and a good fit for their business. Says Gandhi, "Although price is an important component in comparison shopping, other things, such as features of the products or services you are selling, their usefulness to the customer's business, and shipping and return policies, also factor in."

Offer comparative information. Allow small businesses to compare prices and features of your products or services against the other products you offer or even competitors' products.

Emphasize convenience. Doing so can help you foster relationships with your small-business customers and retain their loyalty. Make shopping as convenient as possible by offering features such as order tracking. Retain lists of previously ordered items for reordering, and send e-mail reminders that tell customers when it's time to reorder.

Invest in search marketing. Eighty-one percent of online small businesses use search engines, and 42 percent use them as a primary resource for researching business products or services. Therefore, says Gandhi, "both search engine optimization and paid search are important marketing tactics for reaching small businesses online."

Melissa Campanelliis a marketing and technology writer in New York City.

This story appears in the December 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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