What do small companies do when they have the capacity to service bigger clients, but not the marketing budget to spend to reach those companies directly? One local firm recently facing that dilemma turned to a creative solution: online buying platforms, which provide additional avenues for business-to-business sales opportunities.
The company is JP Promotional Products, an Ossining-based business that provides and distributes imprinted promotional products throughout the United States. (The company is also a 2014 914INC. Small Business Awards winner).
Owned and operated by Robert Rosenthal and his daughter Shari Pulver, JP Promotional was started in 2003, and boasts an impressive list of clients: in additional to local businesses, it has serviced big-name firms like Fox Sports, Acorda Pharmaceutical, and even NASA.
But consistently reaching big companies—and the big opportunities they present—was challenging for this small business. That’s why Rosenthal and Pulver decided to sign up with Supplier Connection and Ariba, two commerce sites which have opened additional avenues of business for the company.
What exactly are these networks? Powered by IBM, Supplier Connection is a free, cloud-based business-to-business community which seeks to boost collaboration between small businesses and the supply chains of Fortune 500 corporations, mid-market firms, and other enterprises. Also cloud-based, Ariba provides a similar platform, which allows businesses of all sizes to connect to their trading partners from any application or device to buy, sell, and manage their cash more effectively. The two sites, says Rosenthal, “have given us is access to very large companies that we never would have been able to bid on opportunities yet alone actually do business.”
JP Promotional started with Supplier Connection in late 2013, and by 2014 had landed a big client: Lockheed Martin. The process was straightforward, Pulver says: “It’s free, and it was easy to register on the website.” With Ariba, which they began using in 2014, the partners decided at first to try a free registration, without much success. “Then we paid for what they call the ‘Discovery Membership’—about $600—and we landed a major Fortune 500 account, as well as several other large and small companies,” Pulver explains. The firm has also been able to participate in several large bids—one for 36 million pens, and another for 900,000 pens.
By utilizing a buying group like Supplier Connection and a business commerce network like Ariba, JP Promotional has been able to get in front of larger customers in a cost-efficient manner. “It is worth the investment in time and money,” they say.
They recommend the tactic to other small businesses looking to do business with larger organizations—with one key tip. “Don’t just sit back and wait for leads,” they say. “You need to constantly review opportunities posted.”