Crowdfunding’s cool. Face it, when browsing the popular pages odds are you want EVERYTHING.
This is indicative not just of the success of Kickstarter and Indiegogo as product launch platforms, but in the narrow market subset that makes up most backers – basically we all like the same stuff. And it’s these similarities that strengthen crowdfunding as whole.
But backtrack a little, is building products exclusively for the traditional backer – the minimalist, the hipster, the cyclist, the early tech adopter…is this a good idea or flaw of founders everywhere?
The B2B That’s Never Broached
Crowdfunding’s all about creating products, products primarily for customers which often only sell to the traditional backers.
But there’s an enormous opportunity most inventors and entrepreneurs are missing out on by restricting sales to consumers and mass markets, ie other businesses.
B2B business is the gold mine few founders explore because in all honestly it’s less sexy and obvious. We’re startup minded folks, we live and love being the little guy – we’re the antithesis of big business.
But – Big Business Buys Big Quantities!
To illustrate the point let’s look at Shido, my new product company and explore some of the reasons I’m already actively pursuing B2B business deals.
So Shido Stand for those who don’t know or are new to Art of the Kickstart is the world’s first laptop case and stand desk in one. It’s designed for ultra-portable, space saving on the go standing work – with all the health and productivity benefits to boot.
And at moment we’re looking at retailing for $99, a modest price for a product like this but still enough to build and grow. There’s a problem though, well more like a complication, a flaw with traditional business approaches.
Even after succeeding on Kickstarter, getting the product rolling through production and setting up an ecommerce store with a platform like Shopify, I still need to drive customers to the product page. And there’s plenty of ways to do that: PPC ads, content marketing, even print ads works, they’ve been proven time and time again.
But it’s expensive. Customer acquisition costs eat away at profits and all that effort brings nought but a single customer. It’s akin to a fisherman, baiting the hook waiting for the bite and forced to reel in every catch he hopes to keep.
But, B2B business and government contracts on the other hand…
Rather than baiting the line and acquisition costs for every customer, it’s like suddenly scaling to industrial fishing. The setup and prep takes a little longer, the sales need a bit more selling(bait) but these nets can bring in boatloads of business from a single sail(or sale…).
Private Labeling the Products for B2B Deals
Most companies outfit their employees for the job. Whether high ticket items like company issued computers and tablets or smaller things like business shirts, briefcases and accessories, most professional workplaces seek a sense of unity and conformity amongst their workers, especially when dealing with out of office interactions.
This is the world of private labeled B2B sales and I plan to focus a large portion of the Shido Stand growth here.
But why? Well, today companies, even big businesses like Facebook, Google and most of Silicon Valley health and tech are starting to see the light when it comes to standing desks(for more on the health benefits of stand desks and why I’m building Shido Stand check this post.).
Businesses are built on employees and results and stand desks increase productivity, health and happiness of employees. Add to that the growing remote movement and abundance of business travel and the appeal of a product like Shido Stand starts to sell itself.
It’s a health and productivity conscious tool for forward thinking companies to outfit their employees – yet it travels with their workers, displaying their corporate logo and company’s commitment to excellence everywhere they go…at least that’s idea!
The Benefits of B2B Sales
Outside the enormity of the orders, think outfitting an entire office or corporation vs a single sale, there are many advantages of private labeling products to companies. Chief among these are switching costs, specifically for your customer.
When companies like Dell, Target or even your local law offices commit to a change there’s a huge sigh of relief. Most companies, especially larger corporations have a bunch of red tape and paperwork which slow the speed of change – hence why some firms still are on XP. This alone can turn companies into corporate mines in certain circumstances. Software and operating systems are notorious good with this – can’t migrate half the company, but it sometimes works with physical products as well.
This often manifests in the path of least resistance. If it’s easier to buy from you again this year than find a new retailer or the company stresses uniformity, it’s possible you’re in business.
Once the sales occurs it’s a simple standardized process to scale orders. What worked on that first corporate client – wash, rinse, repeat. And it gets easier, and better. After outfitting Apple will Google think twice?
Plus customer referrals become bigger too. Your customers run their own businesses, they understand the importance of referrals and are usually well connected. Mutual referrals and building a business around trust and respect will solidify your salesman status while simultaneously adding new accounts, all of which impact the bottomline.
Business to Business Targeting
Marketing to businesses is very different than marketing to individual consumers. At the end of the day though there’s typically one trigger man that makes the sale happen. Find and convince them and the contract’s yours.
That said though it’s important in a world full of businesses to find those most likely to buy your product. This means identifying not only industries but company sizes, corporate structures, missions and types of businesses most interested and ABLE to purchase your product.
Notice how able is bold. Even the best product falls flat when sold to a market unable to afford it.
But the niches or markets you attack are largely dependent on what you’re selling. Back to our example, Shido. Initially while growing Shido Stand we’ll be targeting a few different verticals. This can then be tweaked as we see what works, what doesn’t and where I was completely wrong. But pick a place to start, something that makes sense. For us, Shido’s initially aimed at forward-thinking companies with large remote workforces. Having a remote employees signifies that the company’s serious about employee health, productivity and happiness and also creates a situation where a mobile stand desk could easily be inserted for instant boost.
Another area I plan and am beginning to enter is the healthcare and healthtech spaces. We’ve already secured agreements with a large medical firm for employee small scale trial runs and see health focused companies as a major avenue to expand.
Ps. If any of this sounds perfect for your business, employees or department, I’d love to chat. Please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to Your Business
But honestly that’s enough of Shido, let’s get back to YOUR business, the real reason you’re here. Does B2B make sense for you, does it even fit with your brand and mission?
These are the hard questions, but the ones worth tackling nonetheless. That’s the point of the article, not necessarily an answer but to open options for discussion because let’s face it, no two situations are the same.
A couple of questions to keep in mind if post-Kickstarter B2B sales sounds intriguing.
- Are my margins high enough?
As with selling retail or wholesale to distributors, the quantity comes at a cost. When negotiating with large business clients you are not going to be selling for MSRP. Companies will expect bulk pricing which you can more than make up on volume, if your margins allow it.
- Can I sell to both businesses and individual consumers?
It can be hard to say no to money. Splitting time and focus can be a devastating drain on a fledgling startup though. While it’s entirely possible to launch a company and product line while marketing to both B2B and B2C customers, it’s not the strongest strategy starting out.
After analyzing strengths and weaknesses of the product it may be worth testing B2B sales early on to understand the fit, but to scale and grow quickly may well require a harsh choice between two promising paths.
- How will this impact long term branding?
Another big question to consider and something I’m weighing myself is the brand image impact of large corporate sales. Shido’s meant to be a hip, modern company for creators, travelers and minimalists looking to change and improve the world. Certain business partnerships and clientele might not fit with that vision or could even create conflicting goals and views on the direction and longevity of the company.
- Is my product good enough for other businesses?
This last and most common question is nothing other than inner self-doubt and fear – the voice that lies and tells us we can’t.
Though not universally, most Kickstarter products have applicability and even interest in the business community, assuming you know where to look. While a better bike lock might seem an obvious customer play, who says Apple’s not interested in outfitting their headquarters, the NYPD doesn’t need a better solution for officers or the local parks wouldn’t pay to protect patrons wheels…?
If customers want it, companies want it…it’s just a matter of finding them.
Hope this helps open the world of B2B sales. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the article, the direction I’m trying to take Shido and most importantly any B2B experience you’ve had and would be willing to share.
Just leave a comment below and if this has helped you please share to help reach more inventors and entrepreneurs looking to grow.