Thursday, April 06, 2006

An entrepreneur’s most precious resource

Why, someone asked me today, do marketers need to pay special attention to the needs of business owners? What makes small business different from standard business markets?

Luckily, I was able to illustrate this need by recounting a conversation I’d had just an hour before.

We were at the Ontario Global Traders awards in Barrie, where I was working my passage as emcee of the luncheon. In the morning, however, I attended the related Export 360 forum, where various speakers offered their advice to prospective global traders. One of them even mentioned an “export-readiness” quiz that rookie exporters could take online to determine whether their company is well enough prepared to sell its goods or services abroad.

“And it only takes 45 minutes,” she said. As if that was a good thing.

That struck me as a long time, so I leaned over to the entrepreneur who was sitting beside me and asked, “Would you spend 45 minutes filling out an online questionnaire?”

I’ve known this man for 10 years. He’s a genial, low-key guy. But his eyes were blazing as he spat out, “Never!”

He went on to note that most entrepreneurs don't have 45 minutes to eat lunch, let alone spend that time filling out an online quiz. He seemed quite offended as he added, “Who do they think their market is?”

I agree with him. Savvy marketers to entrepreneurs would show much more respect for their prospects’ time.

Most entrepreneurs would kill to find a 45-minute hole in their schedule – so they're not about to spend that time taking a quiz. Sure, they might learn something useful about their business and its export-readiness – but that’s a pretty vague payback when you balance it against all the other opportunities entrepreneurs would happily chase if they had more time.

A 45-minute quiz may work for a large organization loaded with expert analysts whose jobs involve acquiring intelligence. But for busy entrepreneurs and their multitasking workforce, this goes to the bottom of the priority list, somewhere ahead of buying new tea towels but just behind alphabetizing their business-card collections.

As my friend sort-of said, “Know your market.” And remember that time is an entrepreneur’s most precious resource.

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