Intuit Exec Sees Savvy Small Firms into Social Marketing
Rick Jensen, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit's Small Business Group, is a regular guy who has regular problems just like anybody else.
I interviewed him fresh off the slippery task of mopping up his garage, which had flooded due to a faulty kitchen garbage disposal.
That started us talking about small businesses and how they're managing in today's down economy. When his garage began flooding around 8 p.m. during a dinner with his in-laws, he logged onto his local Google and found a plumber who was able to come to his aid within the hour.
"I think that's how consumers are really looking for small businesses to provide services," he said. "The No. 1 thing that's happening right now is that small firms are thinking that they have to cut back on marketing, but in reality now is a great time not to stop marketing. As your competitors pull back this is an awesome time to get focused on your existing customers and to amplify your customer base. It's more important than ever to get online" and to expand beyond just the Yellow Pages and local ads.
He sees big opportunities for small businesses to promote themselves via existing customers who are willing to go online to social networking sites like Facebook and Yelp, where customers or even competitors can post opinions of a business. User reviews can touch on everything from whether a restaurant has good customer service, to if it serves vegetarian fare or if a store ships promptly with reasonable fees.
"Small businesses have loyal customers and we're seeing that blogs and Amazon.com reviews for example, are becoming much more influential. You can create positive words of mouth that can generate a bunch of new business," he said.
Intuit research has shown that a customer is four times more likely to post a negative experience about a business than a positive one. "It's never been more important for a small business to be on the offense and drive a positive word of mouth" or to agree to improve if necessary, according to Jensen.
He said small firms need to play to their strengths, be fast and nimble and move faster than bigger companies.
But he sees parallels between what both big and small firms should review internally right now. "Everyone should look at discretionary dollars," he said. It's important for a business to make tactical decisions to save where it can by reviewing things like energy use, time spent commuting or the number of vendor relationships. Additionally, he says "there are great deals out there, but you can also buy used."
I met Jensen in February when he was on Capitol Hill presenting the last installment of an in-depth report Intuit had put together called "The Future of Small Business."
I was interested to find out in our recent discussion if he thought the report's predictions for the landscape for small firms in 2017 still held true now that the country is in a recession.
Apart from social networking, the report discussed the effect of big businesses downsizing, which Jensen feels is still a relevant factor, even in the current economic downturn: "As they're downsizing they're looking to small businesses to help subcontract for products and services," he said. "Small firms typically innovate at a much faster pace and are innovative by nature."
Lastly, he believes that the global economy is a big opportunity for a small business. "As a business builds a Web site, they should build it global ready. Many small businesses in the U.S. are starting to get traffic from Europe and Asia - it's not that hard anymore and a small firm should consider including a multicurrency feature on its Web site right from the beginning."
By Sharon McLoone |
December 2, 2008; 12:30 PM ET
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