Monday, 30 March 2009

Could you help a small business?

I mean help a really small business. Turnover of well under half a million per year.

Why not? After all, to be reading this, you're most likely an experienced media professional.

I ask because of a recent conversation with the head of an outdoor adventure sports school (those who know me hear far too much about the sport to bang on about it here too...) Prospective students occasionally offer benefits in kind in return for lessons - maybe they can service the school van, or revamp the business website.

A media planner had offered to do some work in return for lessons and he'd turned them down. No surprises there, I'd have turned them down too. But what could we agency staff offer small businesses? I'm a media analyst in a big agency, and wouldn't expect that I could really do anything to help the school either.

Some people with other professional careers could certainly help - it's not just tradesmen. Web designers, accountants, graphic designers all have something valuable to offer.

Maybe we only do big business. Big ideas. Big advertising budgets.

Which is a problem this year. A client last week was contemplating how to spend a budget 80% lower than they usually have available. 80%. We still started to approach the problem from a standpoint of 'how much of your usual media strategy can you now afford?'

A change this big should put client and agency into a whole new mindset - much more like a small business. What's the best way to spend this money? And crucially, could it make a difference and should I spend it at all?

Virtually everyone in the big agency world has had the experience of missing out on a client (or losing one) because they're felt to be just too big. Turnover below £500k is an extreme example, but until we can honestly say we could barter with a smaller company for their product, we'll always lose, because they're right. We haven't really got what they need.

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