Big brands are always looking to reach small businesses, but navigating the best ways to connect and determining what influences a small business’s purchasing and hiring decisions to can be tricky in this day and age. So, we thought it was best to hear directly from the amazing CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs. They have shared their own preferred ways for big brands to reach them and what inspires them to work with, hire or purchase from a larger company. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Send Some Web Traffic Our Way!
The best way for big brands to reach out to us is by giving us a shoutout (and tagging us) on our Facebook business page. As a rapidly growing online publication hungry for traffic, we’re always looking to get in front of the eyes of our readers. In fact, the last service we purchased also offered us an added incentive to share our content on their social media channels once the deal had been finalized. We got a great product for our team, and some extra web traffic to go along with it!
2. Go Old-Fashioned For Me
Because I'm such a huge fan of old-fashioned mail order advertising, I love when big brands advertise through the mail. There's nothing like getting a direct-response sales letter, complete with a great headline, skillfully-crafted body copy, and a compelling reason to order now.
Plus, because most companies ignore this marketing tactic, my mailbox is emptier than ever before. This means it's relatively easy for big brands to get my attention. So, go get your stamps and start mailing.
3. The Magic of Marketing
I run a branding and communications firm so maybe I am biased, but marketing really works for me! Whether it is a coupon or direct mail piece from a retailer, a sample from a food & beverage company or a clever ad for a new technology device, if you can get my attention with a compelling story for your product or service I am hooked. Great headlines, photography/images or a free sample may be all it takes to break through the clutter and for me to take notice. Pique my curiosity and you create a fan!
4. The Niche Knows Best
The one best way for big brands to reach me is through email. The way I decide to work with a big brand is if they are in the technology industry, since my expertise lies in reviewing products, tools, and services of brands in the tech niche. We then ultimately select who to work with through word of mouth recommendations of friends and family, and online reviews.
5. Call Me, Maybe?
Regardless of the brand, I know the value of good relationships and lasting partnerships. If a big brand wants to work with our agency, the best way for them to connect with me is the old fashion way - over the phone. Owning a business means I am always on, but not always online. If you give me a ring, I am more than happy to pick up and talk shop with you. I’m a simple guy who believes personal interaction goes a long way. So, if you're interested in partnering with Porchlight, call me.
6. Envision Opportunities
I love connecting with big brands initially through social media, especially Twitter. Brands that are savvy and interactive stimulate my interest in buying from and reaching out to them for sponsorships and partnerships. Being aware of needs in my community and connecting a trending issue with the interests of a big brand can inspire the creation of unique opportunities, like a paper or office supply company sponsoring vision board parties for college students or small business organizations.
7. Send Me Some Socks!
Big brands need to make better use of uncommon sales mediums.
For instance, these days, when I receive an email for a SEO, PPC, or marketing automation platform, it goes right into the trash. I'll hardly even notice it.
But, one company really got through to me -- they sent me a pair of socks in the mail.
That's right, a physical pair of branded socks! They had my attention, and as a result, I gave them the benefit of a virtual demo, and now they're top of my list when I'm ready to buy.
8. Ask Me What I Want!
We live in this amazingly technologically advanced world, where data is at the fingertips of every brand that tells them a lot about what they think their clients want... but when do they actually ask?
What if big brands went out quarterly & actually said, what are you interested in? What if brands asked what teams I followed & what were the interests of the people in the household... & then sent me content that spoke about teams I was interested in and things that were of interest to me?
9. Email - But Be Smart About it
Email is always the best way to reach me. But, it had better be relevant to my business or my needs. Most emails are not, whether from lone wolf salespeople or big brands. "May I have just ten minutes of your time to discuss your [something] needs?" And "something" is often (usually) not something I need, such as mail room or HR items. So, that shotgun's not a very smart way to outreach.
10. Storytelling on Social Media
More than the channel, it depends on how relevant and helpful your message is. There has to be an emotional connection and that is not possible without personalization and high-quality storytelling. The old salesy techniques and pitches are not going to work. If it’s social media, it is critical for big brands to learn and use the art of authentic storytelling. If it’s email, it is important to segment and personalize (though Social Media is a better choice than email).
11. Small Biz Right For Big Brand?
If a big biz wants to connect and explore the possibilities, we're in all the regular spots: website, email, phone, social media.
The better question for me: 'is my small business RIGHT for a big brand?'
We're looking for 'our crowd': it's not about size. It's about those looking for value, connection and smarts with a touch of smart a**.
VIckie MacFadden of PROMOrx
12. Connect With Conversation
The best way for big businesses to connect is on a conversational basis. They should engage on issues that are impacting the business community broadly or a specific industry. For example, our company enables big brand companies to engage with construction workers & small building firms on issues workers care about. These brands are not trying to sell something. They’re hearing perspectives from potential customers about what they care about and what they value, building brand loyalty.
13. We All Like to Laugh
We appreciate vendors who can add a little laughter to the workday. Godaddy has always relied pretty heavily on comedy in their ads and we’ve used them for hosting since our inception. Another good example would be Uline, whose catalogue covers bring levity to the otherwise humorless business of shipping supplies.
14. Target Unique Companies
We regularly work with large brands. In fact, we have relationships with large consumer product companies like Under Armour, Garmin and Blue Apron. Really, what we look for when deciding whether or not to work with a particular company is whether their products or services are differentiated. The partnerships that we've had the most success with are companies that fall into this category.
15. Genuine Interest = Smiles
When a big business takes an actual interest in the product and services we provide, it brings a huge smile to our face. Sadly, bigger businesses can often make the smaller guys feel, well, small. No one wants to feel small and in doing so, the business owner such as myself feels alienated from the big business product and oftentimes, prefers to move in a different direction. As with my own clients, I think the best way large businesses can interact with us is to take a genuine interest.
16. Provide the Right Information
I have always found that the big brands who have gained my trust are those who provide the right information to me, right when I need it. Typically, my decision to buy starts off with me just searching for information about a particular thing. In many cases, when I’m searching, I’ll fall on a brand that is providing an answer to my question through a blog article or content piece. Immediately, this starts building my trust because I know that they are knowledgeable within their industry.
17. Cut the Crap and Drop the Act
As both someone that runs their own brand and works as a marketer, there's nothing more obnoxious than obvious marketing. This is especially the case regarding big brands attempting to network or partner up.
Perhaps the biggest deciding factor for me when deciding who to partner up with, purchase from, etc. is how honest they are in their communications. If they talk to me like a person, and not like a walking advertisement, I will absolutely reply and at least inquire about more info. Be real!
18. Face-to-face Above All
We tend to do things the old fashion way. No amount of social media followers can beat a good business model and trusted partnership. At SellMax, we do our research and then meet with companies face-to-face. We found many of the big companies we work with at small business events. The bigger companies that we work with can count on our business and we know we’ll be taken care of if a problem arises. It’s also been a great marketing tool. We’ve earned some new clients that way and vice-versa.
19. Build a Connection
In order for me to buy from and maintain a relationship with a large brand, I need to have human contact. For example, I chose my payroll company because a representative visited me periodically, and I felt connected. After the rep left the company, the visits stopped, and the connection was lost. I am in the process of finding a new company. The new company was a referral, but they responded quickly when I called them and a rep came to see me, which made me feel confident in working with them.
20. Being Social is Good
Social media is a great way for big brands to connect with small businesses. Not only is the engagement instant, but connecting on social media also gives big brands entry into niche circles and community hubs. They can expand their market locally and find new consumer communities in otherwise uncharted spaces. This way, big brands can also get connected with micro-influencers who can help them popularize their products and brand message in different and new customer pockets.
21. A Locked Box in the Post
The smartest idea I’ve ever experienced is when a brand sent us a box in the post which was securely locked by a pin code combination lock. The only way to gain access was to reach out to the company to request the pin code. The response rate must have broken all the records for direct mail campaigns. It wouldn’t have been cheap and won’t work for big brands selling low value products or services, but for higher-end brands, it’s a very clever strategy to connect with prospects.
22. Get a Quick Response
For my business, I provide several ways to reach me from social media to email.
The fastest way for me is through email; it is up all day long and all emails are responded to before closing up the office. We tried the social media way and boy did we get distracted! So much to see and read, we spent too much time having fun and we missed the business side.
23. Make Adventure Happen
Or more importantly, make the spotlight shine on small business to attract them. In Microsoft’s case, having their Surface Pro stand beside the spotlight with small businesses via television and social campaigns is powerful.
A favorite is a series which introduces Nomad Hill, a travel business. Although Larry Fitzgerald, the charismatic NFL Wide Receiver for the Arizona Cardinals owns Nomad Hill, Microsoft has created campaigns for non-profits and small business owners that are new to television.
24. How Big Brands Connect With Us
If a client searches for us with Google, they will find our address, our phone number, fax number and email address. Our website contains all our business services along with prices for our services and letters of recommendations from satisfied customers. It's all there on our website.