October 23, 2014

The Small Business – Big Business Ecosystem Trend

Microtrends - small forces behind big changesMark J. Penn is a pollster and the man who identified the trend of “soccer Moms” in 1996. Later he wrote a book called Microtrends along with Kinney Zalesne.

He defines a microtrend as affecting a small percentage of the population that can have a large impact on society as a whole: “a microtrend can be as small as 3 million people, or about 1 percent of the American population, and even if that group never grows, it can still have enormous impact on society.” Those people in a microtrend “share an intense choice or preference, that is often counterintuitive and has sometimes been missed or undercounted by the companies, marketers, policymakers, and others.”

The Microtrends website is running a monthly contest where they invite you to submit your tip for a microtrend. Readers vote on the trends and each month they pick a winner. My microtrend won for April (I received a $50 Amazon gift certificate). Here’s the microtrend:

Small Business – Big Business Ecosystem

Large businesses and small businesses increasingly operate in a finely-balanced and symbiotic ecosystem. Each needs the other. The major shift is that big companies slowly but surely are recognizing this. Instead of the typical competitive or vendor-buyer relationship that big companies and small businesses traditionally have had, the relationships are getting much more complex and interrelated and cross-reliant. This manifests itself in innovation programs, such as Proctor & Gamble’s trail blazing www.pgconnectdevelop.com, to things as simple as big companies plowing money into websites and resource centers that have nothing to do with the product they are selling, necessarily, but focus on general advice to small businesses, such as Intuit’s Jumpup.com. The result has been an explosion of free resources available to entrepreneurs and small businesses supported by Corporate America.

This idea of the small business-big business ecosystem is a topic near and dear to my heart for five years.  I know Steve King also has been doing research in this area.

This is a key trend for all of us as small business owners and entrepreneurs. There are lots of ways that a relationship with a large vendor or service provider can benefit your business.

I don’t mean that every large corporation is going to be willing or able to partner with you in every way you would like.  That just wouldn’t be realistic.

But, on the other hand, if you look around, you will start to see opportunities to “partner” with large corporations, such as:

  • innovation programs where a large corporation can bring your innovative new product to market in a way you couldn’t on your own; or provide access to key research or industry contacts.
  • helpful resources and assistance that large companies are making available to help you run your business more profitably and effectively — examples:  seminars, webinars, online educational websites, downloadable documents.
  • discounts and specials that large corporations make available in their newsletters and online.   Some can be quite valuable and save you hundreds of dollars.
  • product giveaways at in-person events — example: companies sometimes give away free software.
  • contests sponsored by large companies for entrepreneurs that offer large monetary prizes.
  • customer recognition and award programs that will get you free press and online visibility.

My advice is to look at large corporations not just as vendors, but instead look at their community outreach programs.  There’s something in it for your business, and it’s more than just another opportunity to spend money.

16 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

16 Reactions

  1. You have a number of touchpoints for the business we’re starting – oriented towards soccer moms, creating an ecosystem where a large community and business may support small businesses supporting other small businesses. Let me know what you think of http://www.epaperchase.com – I think we’re a great example (and possibly a shameless plug.)

  2. Congratulations, Anita, and you’ve pinpointed dynamic methods for we small and solo business owners to collaborate with large firms.

    I’ll add these opportunities to my business planning, and I expect at least one of them to create a partnership that I had not considered.

  3. I liked your idea of contests sponsored by large companies, but why stick at large monetary prizes (which are notoriously hard to squeeze out of any organization!)? How about a prize that costs the company next to nothing but has great value for the winner?

    Two examples might be: exposure of the entrepreneur’s projects within the company literature for one year, or the opportunity to write journalistic articles for the company for one year as a joint venture whereby the entrepreneur has the chance to link their name with a major corporation. Good marketing.

    A press release could be arranged with a quality prestigious business magazine highlighting this venture. A win-win situation for all involved with no expense involved but with enhanced exposure of each party’s brand or interest. Ideal.

  4. Hi Shirley (Solo Business Marketing),

    I am glad it triggered a partnership idea for you. With the Internet, especially, it’s possible to search around for some of the kinds of opportunities I listed.

    Hi zowoco,

    Content and exposure of projects can be very good ways to partner, too. Thanks for bringing them up!

    Anita

  5. The best vendors supplying products to small business are the best because they realize their customers need more than the product. They know they need information, stewardship, general business guidance, a helpful community, and the ability to be heard and respected.

    Small business customers want to know they are being listened to and taken seriously. The companies who do this stand to gain the most loyal customers out there.

  6. Anita: I really like your trend description. It is a complex trend and you’ve done a great job of explaining it in a single paragraph.

    Your point on taking advantage of large corporate community out reach programs is excellent. As Brent said the best vendors provide more than just products, and more big corporations are realizing this and trying to provide their small business customers more value through their programs. I think these programs will get richer and more extensive as large corporations increasingly compete for the hearts, minds and wallets of small businesses.

    Steve

  7. You had done a Great job. Congratulations Anita, Keep up the good work.

  8. Congratulations on your winning of the awards.

    Those of us who are unable to predict or anticpate a trend do the next best thing. We look for people like you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Congrats Anita!

    As you know, one of the things that’s so important to us at Intuit is helping small business owners achieve their own dreams. It might sound cheesy or crazy coming from a big corporation, but we firmly believe that if small businesses aren’t successful, we won’t be either. In our book, it’s got to be a symbiotic relationship vs. a transactional one or none of us will succeed.

  10. Anita,
    I agree with Steve in that you’ve done a great job of explaining a complex trend and I’m starting to hear more and more about it. I love the opportunities that it presents for small businesses and it’s a win-win situation for both I believe. Congrats on your win, too!

  11. I think it is a great fit and plenty of opportunities ahead. Remember that all big companies started out as a small enterprise…

  12. Hi Kira, That attitude at JumpUp and Intuit is precisely what I’m talking about … the sense of lending a helping hand to smaller businesses, to make us stronger and help us grow. And in the end it’s good for all businesses. The benefits flow in both directions.

    Anita

  13. I think this paragraph should be larger and in bright pink:

    “I don’t mean that every large corporation is going to be willing or able to partner with you in every way you would like. That just wouldn’t be realistic.”

    There are a lot of assumptions here and ideal world scenarios.. I think Big Companies show there arrogance day in day out and the think a small businesses can just get in there and leverage off them is idealistic.

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