3 Things I Learned in Atlanta

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Atlanta in partnership with the United States Chamber of Commerce "Small Business Master Class Series". I've enjoyed sharing my point of view with small business leaders and it has been so inspiring to spend time 1-on-1 with such a diverse group of small business owners. Below are three things I learned while I was in Atlanta.


1) Atlanta Small Business Owners are FRIENDLY (because they just are, but also because it's good business!)

I could tell how important the local personal connections are in getting a business up and running in the South. Not only were all of the people I met in Atlanta outgoing, kind and generous, but several of them mentioned how important it was for them to establish an informal network of other local small business (SMB) owners as they were starting. It really reinforced for me how important it is in large cities to establish small communities of like-minded and experienced entrepreneurs, so that you can ask tough questions or learn from more mature small business owners early on.


2) Professional Services firm owners are wary of Social Media for Marketing

I spoke to several financial advisors and professional services people who didn't feel that establishing a social media presence would benefit them, either because they were older or their primary customer clientele was older - or both. In most cases, I asked questions about their usual word-of-mouth and referral channels, as well as their current online and marketing strategy, and it was clear that a variety of standard social media content marketing approaches that are now 'old hat / required' for consumer products and local retail just don't make sense for local and regional professional services firm owners. However, I did get a strong sense for how important mobile-optimized websites and email communications programs are to these types of firms.


3) Small Business Owners rely on word-of-mouth and personal recommendations when it comes to trying new software tools

Simply put, if something works for Accounting, Payments, Marketing, Human Resources, or any other key business function for small business owners, they tell others about it. And by and large, it is mouth-to-ear referrals that drive software tool awareness and selection preference. Many of the small businesspeople I spoke with had not heard of some of the established & industry-leading software platforms for SMB website hosting and management (Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, as well as other categories. Of course the exception to this was MailChimp -- the run-away leader in SMB Email Marketing, which is a home-grown home run software success story based in Atlanta!

Clay McDaniel

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