As you read this article, put yourself in the mind of your customer: a small business owner. Maybe you once were a small business owner. Maybe you can draw on a marketing persona you’ve developed.
Whatever it takes, draw on that idea.
You need outside support for HR functions, for your technology needs, for your finances, for insurance. You need everything.
Imagine that every time you search for a new vendor you need to go through this process:
- Research the topic.
- Research service providers.
- Compare their rates.
- Integrate the vendor with other services.
- Manage the bill.
- Maintain the ongoing vendor relationship.
Welcome to the exhausting multistep process your small business customers go through every time they look for a new vendor. That is, this the process they go through when they don’t have access to a one-stop small business marketplace.
The growing prevalence of online B2B marketplaces
More and more businesses are making digital strides. The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted that worldwide digital transformation investments will reach $7.1 trillion in the coming years.
In this kind of environment, higher proportions of new small businesses will be digital natives.
European financial services firm iBe projected that 30% of B2B online sales will be conducted through marketplaces by 2024.
The message is clear. If your SMB customers don’t already have a preferred B2B marketplace, you have the opportunity to provide them with their entrance into a world that’s ripe for expansion, and ready to grow just as the SMB does. You can be the company that helps them take the first step down the path they’re already headed toward.
Not convinced that’s the way the wind is blowing? Want to explore why SMBs would want to access small business products and services through B2B marketplaces like integrated platform ecosystems? Here are four main reasons.
1. Reduce costs
B2B marketplaces enable customers to comparison shop right at their fingertips. If they use a simplified platform ecosystem, they’ll have price transparency right in front of their eyes instead of having to wade through multiple sales pitches over the course of several meetings, during which they have to negotiate and play various competing offers against each other.
Instead, small business owners can select the plan that best suits their needs for a price they can afford.
They can also more easily visualize bulk-purchasing price breaks and alter service orders as needed.
Bundling products together in a platform ecosystem, with rates negotiated by the platform, could also help customers spend less on any single small business service vendor.
2. Streamline reporting
SMBs, in particular, often don’t have the in-house capabilities they need to closely monitor, audit, analyze, report and improve their operational procedures. They’re too busy focusing on their core business functions, differentiating their service and enhancing their operations. Most entrepreneurs didn’t go into business to pore over spreadsheets about payroll, departmental budgets and bounce rates.
Platform ecosystems that integrate B2B marketplaces with centralized dashboards can seem like heaven-sent multipurpose tools for small business owners.
By placing information about multiple vendors and suppliers alongside various performance metrics at the fingertips of their end users, these platforms multiply value for their customers.
This type of holistic view empowers users to make informed decisions without sifting through dozens of documents and synthesizing information from scores of sources.
3. Lower administrative burden
Reporting is only the beginning of the benefits that SMBs can realize from leveraging rolled-up B2B marketplaces and business management platforms.
Simplified billing processes connected to the user’s accounting systems will improve payment processing on the front end while reducing errors that have to be remediated later.
Having a centralized command center for business dashboards can also minimize the time the end user spends with customer support. As long as the platform has robust and responsive customer support capabilities and can serve as a go-between with various integrated services and solutions, the platform user won’t have to waste time troubleshooting on the phone with multiple programs or suppliers.
Generally speaking, using an online B2B marketplace also reduces administrative burden compared to working with offline vendors. Ordering online usually takes a fraction of the time that you would otherwise spend chasing down vendors on the phone and scheduling time to talk through your concerns.
4. Ensure quality control
Like most of our points, this one also depends on the particular B2B marketplace or platform ecosystem that the SMB uses. In most cases, however, users can expect that the vendors they select through these sources have been vetted and meet the platform’s accepted quality standards. If nothing else, the vendor or supplier can be booted from the platform for violating service terms or quality protocols. Platform partners have an incentive to maintain standards.
Some marketplaces may provide the end user with access to only a small number of vetted options that have been fully integrated into the platform.
If you provide solutions or services for SMBs, find out what it means to partner with Company.com to roll out a white-labeled B2B marketplace that provides added value for your SMB customers.