Last month, I joined up with Cass Bailey of Slice Communications for a webinar titled You Had a Matchmaker. Now What? A matchmaker is a one-on-one meeting between a certified women’s business enterprise (WBE) and corporate representative at a national WBENC event or a regional event from one of WBENC’s Regional Partner Organizations (RPO). It’s exciting to get a matchmaker because the corporate representative, a potential buyer, has reviewed your profile and chosen to meet with you because they are actively looking for your product or service. What Cass and I found is that many WBEs looked at the matchmaker as the end of their sales journey with a particular corporate target. In reality, a matchmaker is just the beginning. In our webinar, we discussed how to get a matchmaker, preparing for the meeting, and, importantly, how to follow up. Cass presented some marketing tips which are valuable at all of these stages and participants walked away with some concrete steps they could take. You can check out the webinar by clicking the video above.
For certified women’s business enterprises who haven’t had a matchmaker yet or women-owned businesses who are not certified but want to know more, I wanted to provide a brief overview of the process, where you can expect to have a matchmaker, and how to approach the meeting. As we discuss in the webinar, the most important tip you can take is that having a matchmaker, even a fabulously successful one, is just the beginning.
What is this WBENC certification business? How do I become a WBE?
WBENC Certification is simply the process that determines whether or not a company is owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women. Women-owned businesses certified through this process become certified women’s business enterprises (WBEs). Other entities provide certifications for other diverse suppliers – minority-owned businesses, LGBT-owned businesses, or businesses owned by a person with a disability. If you are a member of any of these groups and own 51% or more of your company, there are corporations who want to do business with you. You can read more here and here and download my free guide to which certification is right for you on my website.
How do I get a matchmaker? Most of my advice can be narrowed down to three themes: Show Up, Follow Up, and Scale Up. You get a matchmaker meeting by registering, or showing up, for the events where they host matchmaker meetings. If you’re a certified women’s business enterprise, this might be at your regional partner organization’s programs, another regional partner organization’s programs, or at a WBENC national event such as the Summit and Salute or the WBENC National Conference. You will have to register by a certain deadline and may have to fill out additional profile information. As part of the certification process, you will fill out an application that becomes your first marketing piece for many of these opportunities. Make sure it’s complete!
Hold on, I can go to programs in other regions, hosted by organizations that are not my home RPO? Yes! Whether or not you are eligible for matchmakers depends on each organization and their policies but if you have a potential client in Washington, DC and you are located in Boston, you can still attend their programs and may be eligible to participate in matchmakers.
Once I register for the event, is that all I have to do? In some cases, WBEs can contact the people participating in the matchmakers to request a meeting. Remember, they may be getting A LOT of requests so one or two customized notes briefly explaining your business and why you feel like you’re a good match is enough. If you don’t know specifically why you’re a good match, do your research.
What do you mean by research? It’s critical to approach your potential clients knowing a little bit about the problems they face and how you can solve them. One of the big DON’Ts I hear from corporate representatives is asking them “What does your company do?” You should have a good idea of their services and how you might fit in. Their websites, social media feeds, and recent press about the company are good places to start.
Does it work? I was able to secure 10 matchmaker meetings at the WBENC National Conference last year and have had solid follow up meetings with 2 of those 10. My clients had several meetings are continuing to follow up as well. This is when follow up, follow up, follow up is key to maximizing your certification. In business development, we often talk about “pleasant persistence” and this is when you employ that. Follow the tips in the video for how to continue to distinguish your business and present your services as valuable solutions to the problems these corporations face.
TL;DR: Show Up, Follow Up and Don’t Give up!