EqualFooting.com is an online marketplace for small businesses in need of industrial supplies. Since its start in June 1999 with three employees, itís grown to more than 130 staff and is considered to be one of the largest online industrial supplies catalogs with over 12,000 members.
Angie Kim, EqualFooting.comís President and Chief Customer Officer, is an acknowledged leader in the marketing to small biz services industry and recently appeared before the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee. When MarketingSherpa asked her about her personal insights into what works for marketing to small business, she gave us an earful -- based on her own first-hand "in- the-trenches" experience.
According to Kim, there are really only two things that work: affinity marketing and market research.
Kim is a big advocate of building relationships with established organizations in order to build credibility by association, especially if otherwise ďpeople have never heard of you.Ē Her own marketing efforts have tapped organizations with millions of small business customers. These partners market Kimís site to their membership by sending direct mail letters. These letters, printed on each organizationís own letterhead tell the story from their unique perspective of "why EqualFooting is compelling to small businesses."
"Obviously, when your story is told through these trusted partners, [it becomes easier] to get the attention and the trust of the small businesses you're trying to reach," says Kim.
Market research, Kimís second line of attack, is often an area start-ups skimp on to save money. Kim admits that she once had the misconception that market research was "really expensive," as in tens of thousands of dollars, then a colleague suggested that she gather a group of potential customers for research purposes. She treated them "like employees," complete with perks.
"We promised them a 5% rebate on everything they were going to buy on the next year at our site. That's a nifty little thing that anybody can do, to very effectively market and conduct customer research without having to pay huge costs for it. We did it through emails and I wrote them one by one directly.
We told them about the opportunity for people to get involved with a brand new dot-com and to shape things. We talked about putting links and some of their contact information at our site. As we got press, we mentioned them, referring reporters their way. We tried to be creative with each one on a personalized basis. There are only 80 people so it wasn't that big a deal."
Kimís guerrilla market research tactics have allowed her to continually obtain actionable market research directly from her customers. This has paid off handsomely in a more usable site, creating compelling service offerings and partnerships with the players who can really make a difference.
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