Q. I own and operate adage.com.au, a leading job board for mature age workers and age-friendly employers. Our sales strategy to date has been to focus on corporates given one contact can result in many job ad postings. However, we believe Adage could be a very valuable resource for the SME market in their recruitment strategy. Given mature workers often bring a wealth of experience and lower turnover, they can provide a great ROI for small business. Given we are small business as well, the struggle is how do we best connect with a very large and diverse market? While they might only look to recruit a couple of times a year, if we had greater brand awareness among this audience they could represent a high value customer group for us. Therefore, how do we best connect and communicate our sales message to the small business community?

A. Congratulations on having developed what appears to be a very successful and also worthwhile business that is helping mature age people find employment. Your website looks most impressive and has an excellent Google page ranking of five - not so easy to achieve.

Your idea of now shifting your promotional focus from corporates to small businesses would appear to be very sound. As you will no doubt be aware, the number of people employed in Australia by small business is huge, estimated at around 4.8 million in 2010, or around half of the total workforce. As you also note, the number of these businesses is large, making reaching them quite a challenging task. Indeed of the around two million registered business in Australia in 2009, 96 per cent were small businesses.  

Small businesses dominate most industry sectors: for example in manufacturing 88 per cent of active businesses are small; in services it is 96 per cent; while for agriculture, forestry and fishing it is almost 98 per cent.

Small businesses are therefore very diverse and are also spread widely around the country both in metropolitan areas as well as in regional and remote locations.

As I have mentioned in a recent response in this forum, finding and attracting staff is one of the areas that small business really struggles with and is in need of assistance. So what you are offering with your business should be very appealing to many small business operators.

So how should you go about raising your awareness level in this sector? I think there are many ways of doing this and I will mention a few that came to mind. Because small business is such an important part of our economy it attracts considerable attention by government. For example state governments run information and training programs for small business and in some states they sponsor business mentoring programs such as the one I mentor for, the Small Business Mentoring Service. I suggest you get in touch with these departments and organisations in each state to see if you can become endorsed by them or at least get them to add your site to their list of useful links.

Local councils are also active in supporting businesses in their areas and often run networking and training events as well as also supporting business mentoring. I would recommend contacting councils to see if they would spread information on your business through their networks.

The federal government is also active in supporting small businesses and running programs to help them grow. I would imagine there would be an opportunity for you to play a role here.

Then there are local chambers of commerce around Australia as well as other regional business support networks. I understand Rotary is actively supporting small business programs.

And of course you should not forget social media. A recent survey I read showed that at least a third of small businesses were active in this sphere and based on what my mentoring clients are telling me, I would guess that this is growing very rapidly.

Some of what I have suggested would of course be quite time-consuming so you might want to do some trials in each area to see where you get the best paybacks for effort expended. I suggest developing a brief marketing and promotional plan to assist you in this process.

Good luck with your further business development.

Guy Ward,
Business mentor, SBMS