Sign up to learn more about the evolution of Trade Shows
Thank you!

Only super useful info is coming your way.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

5 Contrarian Ways to Win With Your Small Marketplace

When you have a small multi-line B2B site, it can feel daunting to match up against the big well-funded marketplaces with 10,000 vendors and 5 Million+ products. Like it or not, wholesale buyers are going to compare the shopping experience with large established wholesale sites.

So how do you stand out? Well, you’re small, they’re huge which means you have to change the rules of engagement.

"Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak."

-Sun Tzu / the Art of War

First thing, this isn’t a zero-sum game. The total addressable is market for marketplaces 3.2 Trillion Dollars and according to McKinsey, about to surpass the retail market in the next three years. It’s a wide-open field. With that in mind…

1. Go Narrow and Deep

Large e-commerce sites have to grow fast and sign up a lot of brands to serve their investment goals.

You can do the opposite.

Take advantage of the problem buyers encounter when wading through an endless stream of shit.

With your site, on the other hand, they can opt in to find highly curated goods.

They just need to know what you stand for.

“We represent the best home and apothecary for a North West Coastal Lifestyle” is a clear actionable message and you showcase the best-curated brands in that space."

So when buyers want to shop, they know where to go. When you have a strong stand, perks like deep discounts, net 60, free returns that big sites can throw money at won’t matter in the long run.

2. Make it Personal

You know when you go to some marketplace and a little chatbot pops up? Sometimes the bot has a cute name like, “Ash”

When customers have a question, the response is “What is your email?” A slightly more personal version is a real live but generic support person who just as effective behind a counter at Mcdonald's. That’s the Achilles heel of a large site.

The modern sales rep can use technology to be more visible versus hiding behind a digital curtain. What story do sales reps have to tell?

Start with your name. Your background, your expertise, where you grew up, what makes you tick. Make it known that your reps are the best freaking reps in the territory and that you and only you can solve their pain in their zip code and area of expertise.

3. Forget Self-Serve. Collaborate

Google docs changed the game, with collaborative editing in the cloud. Start writing in one place, a colleague else jumps in offers suggestions, and even finishes it.

Similarly, with new cloud technologies, you can now collaborate with buyers in real-time while writing orders.

Imagine a scenario on your B2B site where the buyer starts a PO, you get alerted over email and then you’re able to check with the buyer if they need help finishing it. They’re more inclined to say YES. You can take over and get the buyer the best combination and terms.

This is permission-based interaction versus pushy selling.

Compare that with large marketplaces where the goal is to use software to scale with as little human interaction as possible.That’s why you see a ton of filters, and “AI recommendations”.

The difference between marketplaces and sales agencies is YOU, the sales rep.

You’re familiar the territory. The vendor. And the trends. By collaborating with buyers in real-time. The conversation changes from you being a support person to almost behaving like an assistant buyer uncovering the buyers’ problems.

4. Filter, Filter, Filter

According to Forrester, 74% buyers research the vendors before making a purchase. Your filters should bend towards quick discovery. Since you’ve already curated down to the smallest number of vendors, now your filters can go deeper on trend-defining qualities like values, room, and color.

Large sites on the other hand will focus on Best-Sellers and Price pushing the most popular items to the top instead of giving buyers the room to formulate their own ideas and enjoy the discovery process.

5. Make Every Brand Stand Out

If you have a small B2B marketplace, every brand you represent should have a killer back story. The technology shouldn’t be the inhibitor. As long as you have a good Content Management System to tell personal stories. Here’s a great story from the two sisters from Bitters Co.

6. BONUS: Don’t Limit Payments Options

The large marketplaces will have a handful of options for checkout. Instead offer the buyer every option under the sun.

But recognize how buyers want to pay.

Buyers have a few quirks:

  1. They worry their cards will get compromised
  2. They don’t have time to enter credit cards
  3. They prefer paying later

The B2B marketplace should make it very easy for the buyers to add cards instead of either sending a link or calling them.

You can easily achieve this by integrating a tokenized credit card system.

These are just a few ways your B2B site can beat the odds. With Ribbon, sales agencies have found the tools to increase their sales by 30% Month over Month by activating the ultimate size-shifting superpower — SMALL

Vinit Patil is the CEO/ Co-founder of Ribbon, a Multi-line E-commerce platform for Sales Agencies and Tradeshows. If you’d like a demo on how things work IRL, visit