Big businesses, it seems, get volume discounts on just about everything, and until recently, small businesses couldn't compete. But today, small business buyers' groups allow the "little guys" to pool their purchases to earn volume discounts they couldn't get on their own.
The top three top tips to small business buyers' groups are:
- Find local and national small business alliances.
- Join co-operatives (co-ops).
- Become a member of industry-specific associations.
Explore small business alliances
Local alliances are a great way for members to support each other with advice, cross-marketing promotions and through the formation of joint purchasing groups.
Form a purchasing alliance
Form an alliance with local small businesses that have similar purchasing needs. A bigger order might allow you more selection or the interest of other vendors, as well. Consider doing the same thing with service providers – sharing secretarial, maintenance, advertising and other services.
Join a national cooperative
Check out marketing and buying cooperatives. Do any appeal to your business needs? Some require a low membership sign-up fee, and have other restrictions, so read the fine print before you commit to anything.
Join a local food co-op
Buying through co-ops can mean lower prices, higher-quality product, fresher produce, meats, and dairy items. The bonus? You're supporting local farmers.
Turn to associations that offer member discounts
Many local and national organizations offer member discounts – comparable with corporate discounts – on such high-ticket items as health insurance, rental cars, and educational opportunities.
- Contract: It doesn't have to be formal, but put your agreements with other businesses (and vendors) in writing to cover everyone.
- Emphasize Local Buying: Local alliance members should post signage and encourage consumers to buy locally.
- Speaking of Local: Check out your local Chamber of Commerce, which offers many free business resources and tools.
- Help in Unexpected Places: Not all of the "big guys" are enemies – in fact, some, such as American Express, IBM, and Airborne Express, offer special savings to small businesses.