How many diverse entrepreneurs have sputtered in the effort to launch or grow their business because they did not properly market and/or sell products or services? What about those who certify their businesses, and then fail to leverage these hardearned certifications?
“I’m not a salesperson.”
“I’m busy working in my business.”
“I’ve tried working through supplier diversity channels, but I never get anywhere.”
– random WBEs
It’s possible you’ve heard these phrases spoken firsthand. Maybe you’ve uttered them yourself. As the innovator, the business owner AND an entrepreneur, you have countless responsibilities, limited time and probably even less financial resources. No matter how large your business grows, you will continue to have responsibilities and time issues.
An informal survey among several hundred female business owners who are members of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) revealed that approximately 95 percent of their energy is spent on keeping the engine of their businesses running, i.e. finding talent and capital, building infrastructure and managing all of their business components. Only about 5 percent is actually invested in building up sales and marketing.
These results also indicated that diverse small business owners shy away from business development. While it can be assumed that most entrepreneurs understand its importance to the sustainability and growth of their enterprises, why is it important to use scarce resources to invest in certifications?
According to the 2015 State of Women- Owned Business Report commissioned by the National Association of Women Business Owners and Web.com Group, Inc., “Marketing tops the list of investment intentions for women-owned small businesses this year (55 percent), with product/service development coming in second (25 percent).”
What seems to be the sticking point for many small businesses is leveraging certifications through supplier diversity channels to build a strong sales and marketing engine. On this point, respondents have reasoned they only became certified because clients require it. Alternatively, those who chose against obtaining certifications stated lack of time to complete the process or a belief the investment to return ratio is too low.
The key to successfully marketing and selling your products or services lies in the makeup of your staff:
- Do you employ a sales person?
- Do you employ a marketing person (or outsource to a marketing firm) to handle social media, inbound and traditional marketing?
- Do you have a business development director to oversee sales and marketing?
- What are your sales and marketing channels? What percent is digital? Mobile?
- Is supplier diversity one of your channels?
If you answered “yes” to the supplier diversity question, do you have someone on your team dedicated to working within this channel? For those who responded “no,” it is recommended that you either hire an expert consultant to train you and your business development executive, or move one of your sales people into this position.
Why invest time and money into a sales channel that has a long sales cycle and requires more time and investment than traditional sales? Three words: ACCESS, ACCESS, ACCESS. For a diverse small business, it can be the warm introduction We all clamor for.
Diverse small businesses are getting business and seeing sustainable growth by leveraging their certifications and working through supplier diversity channels. Both National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) provide statistics that show how certifying a business can be a worthwhile investment. Similarly, the Billion Dollar Roundtable, an organization that recognizes corporations that invest more than $1 billion with minority and woman-owned suppliers, shares published data on a corporation’s supplier diversity spend.
Several organizations provide diverse certifications including the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Small Business Administration (SBA), National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), and Veteran’s Administration (VA).
Is it easy to get certified? No. Who said that something worth having is easy?