Get out from behind your computer

Overhead viw of two people drinking coffee together • ‘Get out and talk to small business owners’ • Earnest Agency

Get out from behind your computer

I don’t profess to like the man who pulls the puppet strings of the people leading our country but, very occasionally, Dominic Cummings does give good advice.

Big brands really need to understand the ‘why?’ that speaks to the heart of their small business customers and stop treating them as numbers on a sales sheet

Recently, for example, when he was doorstepped by the press and asked ‘what happens next?’ he suggested the media “get out of London and go and talk to people who are not rich remainers.”

It’s not the first time someone has recognised the importance of getting out of the ‘London bubble’ to get a sense of what’s really going on.

The incredible Guardian series ‘Anywhere but Westminster’ has been making films that give a voice to the members of public who are usually not listened to when it comes to politics.

Even some advertising agencies have been getting in on the game, spreading their wings to speak to ‘real consumers’ across the UK.

Two years ago we decided to break the great barrier of the M25 ourselves.

From the research we’d conducted with Imperial College London, we’d noticed that big businesses were struggling to connect with small business owners when it comes to their marketing and sales.

We wanted to know why, so we spent two weeks in a Skoda travelling 200 miles and interviewing just over 20 new business owners.

We learned a lot on that trip, and one thing that came up with every person we spoke to was their wish that big brands would do more of what we were doing – getting out and listening to small business customers.

Here’s what the owner of ‘Your bike shed’ in York had to say:

Why is ‘getting out there’ so important?

For the past couple of decades, people have busily been de-humanising all things marketing.

First, there was the rise of email, enabling us to drop generic messages into people’s inboxes, then came the rise of social media, which led people to think they were getting closer to their customers and prospects – but in truth, everyone was still just hiding behind their computer screens.

Automation then enabled marketers to fire out ‘right place, right time’ marketing messages. Highly efficient, but highly lacking in the human touch. And now we have the burgeoning promise of chatbots and AI that will remove yet another layer of human interaction.

Big brands really need to understand the ‘why?’ that speaks to the heart of their small business customers and stop treating them as numbers on a sales sheet. Put the time, resources and money into supporting more small businesses from the get-go.

Because small businesses are crying out for this. They’re actively seeking help and guidance from large businesses, but they also want to feel that they matter and that they have been understood.

How do you do this?

• Put on a small business roadshow

Think ‘Boris bus’ but without the lies – get yourself a big, branded bus full of demos, experiences and experts and get out on the road. Park up in towns and villages and offer help and advice to the small businesses in those areas – and also listen to what they have to say.

• Choose a customer a month to profile

Your small business customers want to feel loved by you and a big part of that is showing everyone that you’re proud to be their partner.

So, once a month, pick a small business customer to go and interview and then spotlight them through your online and social channels. Show that you’re proud to work with them and how you are helping them grow.

• Hold regionalised ‘listening sessions’

Just like all of us, small businesses want to feel heard. So why not host a regional series of ‘listening sessions’ where small business owners can not only ask questions but give suggestions of things they want from you.

This could then be fed back into the wider business (product, etc.) to further develop your small business offering.

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It’s about time we all connected and listened more, and brought a human face back to marketing to small businesses. If you’d like to talk more about small business and winning the hearts and minds of small business owners, get in touch.

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[Header photo: Joshua Ness on Unsplash]