Not All SMB Owners are Entrepreneurs

Author: Dan Gliatta is the founder and CEO of Cargo Agency, a full-service marketing and advertising agency that specializes in helping big brands like Lenovo, 3M, Mercedes-Benz and others connect with small businesses. He is an expert in the Business-to-Small Business space.

“What does success look like to you?” – it was a simple question we posed that sparked some surprising answers.  The common belief was that all small business owners measured their personal success based on their business success – that they all had that often-celebrated entrepreneurial spirit.  Where the corner coffee shop wanted to be the next Starbucks.  Or the local burger joint had Five Guy’s visions.  The reality was that a substantial amount of Small Business Owners (SBOs) measured their success not by their business growth but by their personal growth.

That simple question, from over four years ago, started our investigation into the psyche and mindset of SBOs, and it continues to this day.  Because the way an SBO defines success affects everything they do – how they shop, buy, lead, hire, invest – basically, all critical business decisions.  During our initial study, we uncovered two distinct SBO mindsets– The Artisan and The Crusader.  And, even though they share some common drivers, they have distinct differences that should be considered when any marketer is trying to reach, engage, and motivate SBOs.

The Artisan is the business owner that took a skill, an art, or a craft and turned it into a business.  Their definition of success is not based on business growth but is based on perfecting their skill.  They relish in sharing their creations with their customers.  Think, less entrepreneur and more craftsman.  Controlling their baby is a core driver, so they have a tendency to be more risk averse because failure is their enemy.  The Artisan is a passionate mindset that takes everything personally, especially how brands and companies market or sell to them.  Their #1 angst is being “sold” to – how can you sell me something when you haven’t taken the time to talk to me about my baby?

Now, The Crusader is the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit.  Their success is directly related to the growth of their business.  Like sharks, if they’re not moving forward, they’re dying.  They are the risk takers – for every failure they see opportunity.  Sometimes, they embrace failure too much and they often lack patience and focus.  They are driven by a big idea that will change the world.  And they are always looking at what’s next – even to the detriment of what’s now.  Their #1 challenge with brands marketing to them is not being there when they demand it.  Crusaders expect marketers to play at their pace—they don’t have time for brands that don’t.

When it comes to marketing to small businesses, nothing is ever black and white.  And this holds true for the Artisan and Crusader mindsets.  There is a lot of grey to understand. Nothing is absolute.  But, one thing is definite. If you want to motivate SBOs to buy it’s critical that you understand what motivates them to exist.

“What does success look like to you?” – a simple question whose answer opens up tremendous amounts of fertile ground for B2SMB Marketers.

We continue our investigation into the intersection of big brands and SBOs with our “Small Talk” content series launching in March, 2018.  If interested in joining the conversation, send me an email and we’ll keep you informed.