The Online Marketplace: Your Competitive Advantage

As the pandemic struck, businesses around the world were forced to close their doors and get online fast in 2020. New technologies were adopted, ecommerce stores were set up, and small business owners turned to local experts who could help them do this. 

A transformation of this scale inevitably has a ripple effect, and this resulted in the evolution of the clients’ buying behaviors. “While business owners were busy adapting to meet their customers' changing habits, they were also experiencing a new way to purchase digital solutions for their own business in a similar fashion,” says Janessa Yeomans, director of vendor management at Vendasta, says.

Business owners' expectations are becoming more similar to those of end consumers who seek convenience. They, too, want everything online and in one place a marketplace. According to Mirakl, 87 percent of business buyers, across all age ranges, are making business purchases on marketplaces. Marketplaces are now the top buyer channel exceeding RFPs, digital channels, procurement channels, and person-to-person.

Popular channels to buy from in general

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The Marketplace advantage

So how do you use an online marketplace as your competitive advantage? 

Janice Christopher, CEO and Queen Bee of The Christopher Marketing Agency does exactly that. By stacking appropriate solutions into three simple bundles, Christopher has expanded her revenue and become known for her “basket size”. Basket size refers to the number of tech solutions sold to each client including bundles and add-ons. 

The lowest tier combines online Reputation Management and Listings Management products. The second tier includes the products from the first tier as well as Customer Voice Pro. Customer Voice  In addition to everything from the first two packages, the top-tiered bundle includes the option of either a chat-bot on the client's website or the add-on for text messaging to Customer Voice as well as a voice page to help with SEO.

So how does she decide what her clients need? “Our clients are going to lead us where we need to go; we simply listen to them. They ask questions and present us with their problems. Then it’s up to us to figure out the most appropriate solution. I have found that the Vendasta Marketplace has a solution to almost anything a client could ask for,” she says.

Christopher finds success by selling her pre-built bundles and then adding other solutions as she learns more about her client’s needs. The tiered system she uses has three starter packages to choose from, each of which includes listings and reputation management as a base. “We make it so that it’s affordable to everyone. The foundation is set and any work we do on top is going to be successful.” 

This extra work includes additional products from the Vendasta Marketplace that stack success for each of Christopher’s clients. This is an opportunity to use an online marketplace to add to your client's tech stack and increase. As an example, a competitor once reached out to one of Christopher’s clients with an offer for a text messaging product that he needed. This client came to Christopher and she was able to counter that offer with a similar product from the Vendasta Marketplace. In the end, the client opted to keep everything in-house with The Christopher Agency, saving himself another login and another party to work with. This is the online marketplace advantage for both clients and agencies.

Global SMB software tech stack 2021

Marketplace products can go well beyond marketing technologies into financial technologies, human resources, and more. There are 12 categories included in the global SMB software tech stack of 2021. 

  1. Marketing and Advertising
  2. Productivity and Collaboration
  3. Ecommerce and Inventory Management
  4. Booking and Scheduling
  5. Billing and Payments
  6. Accounting and Finance
  7. Connectivity and Security
  8. CRM and Customer Success
  9. Logistics and Shipping
  10. HR and Recruitment
  11. Legal and Insurance
  12. Procurement and Vendor Management

This stack consists of 19.8 thousand product vendors, 3.7 million channel partners, 230 million SMBs, and a $995 billion total addressable market. The marketing technology landscape hosts over 8,000 solutions and is growing quickly. Navigating such a landscape can be overwhelming for any small business. 

According to Yeomans, “One in five of the solutions in this year’s Martech landscape wasn’t there last year. That’s the issue your clients are facing. If we look outside marketing at HR, finance, and supply chain with shipping and inventory management, we start to see exactly what the clients are coming up against every single day.” 

Experts like Christopher are the people these SMBs need to guide them in the right direction.

“There are thousands of technology solutions available to small business owners today. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with everything and understand the difference between one and the other, and then decide if you want to and how you are going to integrate it into your business. With Vendasta’s Marketplace I have everything at my fingertips, and I know that they have done the due diligence. I know that when I plug into that, it’s going to be good.”

Janice Christpher

CEO, The Christopher Agency

How to choose a tech stack 

  1. Understand your client
    1. Like Christopher, have a meaningful conversation with each prospective client so that you can understand where they are, where they want to be, and then you can give them the solutions to get there.
    2. The reporting tool from Vendasta, called the Snapshot Report, gives a comprehensive overview of where a business falls short online and where they excel. 
  2. Be familiar with your marketplace of choice
    1. Online marketplaces have a distinct advantage of having everything in one place; it’s your job to know what is available and what products are coming down the pipeline. This will help you to quickly identify the right products for each client's individual tech stack.
  3. Have a basic package or bundle that covers the necessities for everyone
    1. It’s common to have a system of three bundles varying in price and functionality. All should include the products from the lowest tier and then include add-ons from there for the next two tiers up.
  4. Be flexible
    1. Not every client has the same needs. Every business is unique and will need your help to understand what products will work best for them. Have a marketplace of solutions at your fingertips that you can pull from for your clients.

Set up clients for success

As someone who wants to set up her clients for success, Christopher asks clients, “Do you want me to just give you what you want because I can, or do you want me to give you what you need?”

Christopher knows that each client has unique needs, and sometimes they don’t fully understand what their needs are. “As consultants, we can either let the client tell us what the solution is, or we can remind the client that they came to us because they were trying to solve a problem. If they say they need a website, we know they also need SEO.” 

By working with prospects and learning what their problems are, Christopher can offer them a complete solution. 

An online marketplace is a secret weapon many agencies and managed service providers use to help their clients. Everything is under one login and there is only one point of contact for SMBs, simplifying the entire experience. As the global tech stack continues to grow, so do marketplaces.

About the Author

Emily is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta. Over her career, Emily has worked as a Marketing Strategist, freelanced as a Social Media manager, and enjoyed working events for local and national not-for-profit agencies. When she's not researching her next blog topics you can bet she's challenging a friend to a card game or planning a hike in the wilderness.

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