Give the (little) guy a break

Close-up of miniature souvenir Empire State Buildings • ‘Give the (little) guy a break’ Earnest Agency Blog

Give the (little) guy a break

Earnezt – our brand new office in NYC – opened three months ago to help us work more closely with our US clients and across the US market. But despite having been in continuous operation since we opened in London ten years ago, our move to the US has felt a lot like setting up a brand new business.

It’s shown us, first-hand, the many operational challenges faced by small businesses when setting up, as well as the extra ones that come with entering a new market. 

On top of this, I’ve also headed across from London to New York to help get the new office up and running. It’s given me my own ‘setting up’ challenges, and the chance to compare how the consumer world is currently doing versus the enterprise world. 

Based on my experiences so far, I’ve two points to make on these challenges:

1. Consumer brands are setting a high bar 

My own transition to the US has been very straightforward. I set up a US bank account with relative ease and speed despite some strange old fashioned elements (cheques? Seriously?) and with the ubiquity of Airbnb, Uber, ClassPass and Monzo I may as well still be in London. 

But whilst my cellphone provider was able to offer me an updated personal contract for a minimal fee, it wasn’t able to do anything nearly as cost-effective on the business side.  

Consumer brands – and the consumer division of your business – are setting the expectations of your customers, and so they are your competitors. If you’re a bank or a telecoms provider you have to understand that your business customers are having a very different experience of you in their consumer lives. 

When there are disruptive players entering your space every day, you have to stay competitive, so if you’re only benchmarking yourself against your B2B competitors, you’re bound to be falling short of what your customers need from you.

2. Big businesses don’t seem to care how hard they make it

For a company setting up in a new country, some elements are impossible. Companies who are there to support growing businesses moving into new markets have online forms set up to only accept US information. And staff unable to help with this seemingly unreasonable request. 

There is so much red tape and so many numbers to call and so many processes just to do things like setting up a business phone account – which should be a very straightforward task, but I found myself stuck on hold for two hours with a telecoms call centre.

Small businesses don’t have the resources for a dedicated a person to take care of all these tasks, so two hours on hold is two hours of client care and new business development lost – which is money wasted.

We stayed with these difficult companies only because they either have the monopoly on that service or because I was so far into the process that starting over with a different provider would have wasted even more time. 

But this should be an opportunity – the baseline for large organizations is pretty low, so if you’re the one to invest in improving the quality of the experience you deliver, from initial interaction all the way through to onboarding, you are winning. 


The key point for enterprise brands is: you could and should be doing more to support small businesses and startups.

I’m not alone in feeling this – 80% of CEOs currently think their brands offer a great customer experience, whilst only 8% of their customers agree with them, a subject we heard a lot about when we were at the ANA Masters of B2B event in Chicago back in May. 

In the first quarter of 2019, startups pulled in $30.8 billion in the US and in the UK they contribute £196 billion to the economy every year – which is why Forbes observed that a lot of economic growth is going to come from disruptive start-ups rather than large organizations. 

With startups shaking up nearly every sector, no one can afford not to be delivering the most satisfying experience possible.

If you want to know more about how to market to small businesses, we’ve got a whole heap of content for you over on our Think Small site.


[Header photo: Stephen Mayes on Unsplash]


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Sarah Przybylak

Head of Business Development (US)