Are Online Marketplaces Right for Your Small Business?

If you plan to join an online marketplace to sell products and services, here are three things you should consider.

Online marketplaces (i.e. etsy, eBay, OnBuy, etc.) have become de-facto targeted marketing centers for many small businesses. After all, the small business economy in the United States has extensive purchasing power. So much so, that small businesses have been cited as one of the primary driving factors in the nation’s economic recovery.

In a nutshell, online marketplaces allow small business owners to access aggregated purchasing power by simply signing up, creating a profile and listing products and services associated with their company.

If you plan to join an online marketplace to sell products and services, here are three things you should consider:


1. Understand the nature of online marketplaces.

An online marketplace is a web-based forum that may be open to the general public, or closed, meaning you have to be a customer or member of the parent organization to take advantage of the marketplace. Both kinds of online marketplaces can help your small business drive growth through access to new customers. What’s more, many online marketplaces deliver savings through discounts on services offered at price points typically only associated with big business purchasing power.


2. Consider why online marketplaces are helpful marketing tools.

There is an inherent trust factor when you sign up for an online marketplace. For instance, if you are a member, you can assume that other businesses have similar interests, concerns and values. If the online marketplace is regional in nature, you might find promoting and buying from businesses in your area is also supportive of your local economy.


3. Find the right type of online marketplace for your products and services.

Look at relevant organizations you currently do business with (i.e. health, human resources, government, technical companies and more) that might provide online marketplaces. Then ascertain whether or not the marketplace is right for your business by asking key questions such as: a) Is the marketplace opened or closed? b) If it is closed, is this something I am willing to join or become a customer? c) Are other businesses in the marketplace my target audience? d) What is the size and cost of the marketplace? e) How will my business benefit from promoting products/services in the marketplace? f) Will it deliver ROI?


There are a lot of online marketplaces out there, so every entrepreneur should conduct comparison shopping before signing up. Either way, they’re worth a look because marketplaces can give your company a new way to tap into the purchasing power of other small businesses and customers. At the same time, online marketplaces offer a new channel to communicate with your current customers.


Steve Apfelberg is the Vice President of Marketing at TriNet. Steve brings more than 20 years of experience to TriNet. Previously, he was held senior leadership roles at Skire (acquired by Oracle in 2012), Yammer (acquired by Microsoft in 2012), CallidusCloud, Siebel, Remedy and Oracle. Steve received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Stanford University. He serves on the Advisory Board at CaptureToCloud and served on the Advisory Board at Eventbrite from April 2009 to July 2010. Steve enjoys spending time with his family, coaching youth sports, tennis, running, sports trivia, history and traveling. Connect with TriNet on Twitter.


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