Big businesses don’t have to be competitors; they make pretty good customers.
Utah software company Allegiance makes customer-service applications that work through a web-based platform and has enjoyed triple-digit sales growth in the past 18 months and has hired 14 people in the past year.
Conicity Technology spent years trying to convince the nation's largest manufacturers that its products could save them millions of dollars. Since the recession began, however, its technology--which extends the life of manufacturing tools—has been an easy sell and revenues are up 75 percent.
Those are just two examples of small companies that offer big businesses ways to cut costs or retain customers. Small companies that offer unique ways to cut costs or help big companies retain customers are seeing their businesses blossom.
Chris Cottle, the head of public relations for Allegiance, says the company advises customers to clearly ask for feedback from its clients. “The goal is to open up the channels of communications. They’ll have a ‘contact us’ link but that’s not the same as ‘feedback.’”
In terms of finding other companies who can turn into customer, Cottle’s advice is much the same—engage them in a way that doesn’t make them think you’re hunting for business. That could mean recruiting possible clients through other contacts and by hosting business networking events in your local area.
Lynn Vos, the Savannah-area director of the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center (www.sbdc.uga.edu) has one word: “Network!”
Trade shows, local chamber events, and other business association events are good hunting grounds – and lets a small business owner learn more about prospective corporate customers and key players in more social settings, she says.