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No, I Mean Really Small Business, Microbusiness!
by Mike Banks Valentine

Last week I attended two giant web shows at the Los Angeles
Convention Center. The huge InternetWorld Spring 2001 and a
concurrent show titled eCRM, both offered in the sprawling
four block square building in the City of Angels. I went to
seek out and report on ecommerce solutions for the little
guy. You know, that's you and me. The companies that have
less than 100 employees!

The traditional label of "Small Business" has come to apply
to far too many companies. I guess we should adopt the term
"Microbusiness" to get realistic about what most of the world
imagines when you say "Small Business". I mean a business with
less than 10 employees and I think most of the rest of the
world does too. Monstrous companies define us as invisible.

Well picture this if you will, I brazenly approached one
sales guy (there were dozens of them) at Siebel Systems
booth (more like a small city dominating 10 spaces in the
convention center). I simply asked him "Does Siebel offer
any solutions for the small business?"

His response was predictable. "Our enterprise solutions can
be applied across multiple platforms to unite all legacy
systems throughout . . ."

STOP right there please! You might just as well have said a
very simple NO! You could go on to say something really quite
derogatory like, "NO, you puny imbecile! If we created anything
for worker ants like you, we'd be broke in nothing flat! Go
away and come see us when you have $30 grand or so to spend and
we'll be happy to TALK with you then!"

I have to be honest and say that the Siebel salesman was really
very courteous and pleasant. It's just the fact that they don't
get big by providing small solutions for small business people.
So here is my list of really worthwhile solutions that I was
able to find for at InternetWorld 2001.

As reported last week, my best of show award goes to CallButton.
Reasonably priced, powerful, all around useful and a great ROI
(return on investment) potential for small businesses online.

This is another of my picks from a previous conference called
the Upside Events Showcase 2001. I like it so much I'm making
it a repeat winner since they've now partnered with Expert City.
Someone else clearly agreed with me on this one. ;-)

This company offers free classified ads for your web site. Hold
on now, not just another business opportunities classified site.
These folks offer searchable, co-branded, subject specific ads
and auctions that match the theme of your site! Brilliant!

Set to capitalize on peer to peer technology in a huge way, they
are offering a browser "skin" that allows linking to and download
from other desktop users -- any digital content you like from
ebooks to music. But they've worked out a way to pay YOU for it!
This site is still in beta and will go live soon. (Bookmark it!)

Affordable advertising for the little guy. And guess what?!
You'll be in the rack with the big boys. It's open to even you
and I on a first-come first-served basis. Your postcard on racks
right beside American Express and major manufacturers in big cities!

Various payment processing solutions for the small business online.
These folks have been around for awhile and although they take a
hefty chunk of sales, it beats some of the other options for little
tiny businesses like mine. ;-)

These folks were a big hit at the show. As attendees lined up to
grab CIhost tchotchkes like keychains and pens with thier logos
on them, sales staff started throwing CIhost t-shirts to the crowd.
Good natured fun, and not reason enough to choose a web host, but
they offer top-notch customer service as a key component of sales.
Good pricing and great webmaster revenue share affiliate program.

Back-up and restore software that tops anything I've seen for
system crash recovery. $40 bucks that could save you thousands in
lost time and information. You just gotta check this one out! It's
unbelievable in it's power to get you back up and running after an
ugly system failure.

My favorite crowd pleasing publicity stunt was from

Your picture with a friendly Tarantula on your shoulder. They
offer a wonderful product aimed at the small to mid-sized ISP
or company with it's own servers. Traffic spikes and heavy
bandwidth users gain stability and reduce peak loads. Where
does that spider come in?

Unbelievably, there are more. But I'll save them for later.
Good show. Most journalists were discussing the low crowd count
and a few no-show show demonstrators. I was real happy to have
the chance to talk with some innovators without too much t-shirt
tossing and was glad to see Siebel Systems salespeople with
nothing to do. Little-guy solution providers were quite busy.

WebSite101 "Reading List" Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet
Ezine emphasizing small business online
e-tutorial online at:
By week's end you're ready expand your business to the web!

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July 29, 2001