Sage Expands Small Business Outreach At Annual Event and Online

Sage Listens bus

A year ago, a team from Sage embarked on a cross-country road trip in an RV. Along the way they visited with customers.  And, as we pointed out back then, they learned lessons from their customers.

Sage is a maker of business software and services for small and medium-sized businesses. Offerings include accounting platforms, cloud-based data systems, and mobile payment solutions.

While on the trip, called the Sage Listens Tour, the Sage team visited around 75 businesses that were using the company’s software. The Sage team, which included senior executives, was interested in learning from these businesses about their experience with Sage products.

They did indeed learn from customers, but by the end of the journey, Sage had learned something they consider even more important. One of the lessons Sage had learned was that customer relations go beyond a customer’s interactions with your products.

Sage Small Business Event Expanded

Sage small business - annual Summit

Sage’s Executive Vice President of Customer Experience Brad Smith said last week at the company’s big annual customer event that a business’s customer experience is more than about products.  “It’s  about building relationships.”  It includes “what else you provide for your customers” beyond your products and paid services.

But the company says reaching out to existing customers is not enough. Sage is seeking to create relationships with non-customers too.  For the first time at last week’s annual customer event, called Sage Summit, non-customers were invited, also.  The event, which had 5,000 registered attendees, attracted “about 7% to 8% members of the public and prospects” in addition to customers and partners, said CEO Pascal Houillon.

Sage’s Executive Vice President for Marketing Gabie Boko said in a briefing that acting as an advocate and forum for small business owners is one way the company hopes to add value to small businesses.  Sage Summit featured 400 business-specific seminars and sessions.

Customers and other small business owners were able to interact with and learn from each other. There was a “Product Garage” where they could explore various Sage software and services.

Sage Small Business Online Community

Sage City website small business

Boko said another way to reach out to those who are not yet customers is through Sage’s evolving website.  The company has created a community site for partners, customers and other small business owners, called Sage City.

She explained, “The website can be a destination not just for product support but for new audiences.  [We want to learn] … how do they connect to us and what do they need?”

The company created Sage City in part to be a place where business owners can share experiences and their expertise while they learn from each other.  For example, Smith says the community contains one section where small business owners can ask questions and find answers from other small business owners. After one year online, the site has more than 150,000 active members.

Most importantly, Smith says, the new Sage City’s communities focus on building conversation among businesses, not on selling the company’s products. He noted, “If we’re going to have a relationship and that’s the thing that matters most, we have to have an ongoing dialogue.”

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO 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.