Puzzle pieces reflecting the process of developing a marketing strategy

What does it mean when someone asks you about who the stakeholders are in your business?

In our work with entrepreneurs we try to understand who are the stakeholders in our clients business, but what does this mean?

Many business owners do not know what is meant with the word stakeholders and have never considered who are all the stakeholders in their business. Typically the word is used by large corporates in their annual reports. But even small business have stakeholders!

Who are your stakeholders?

Your stakeholders are all all the important groups and organisations that have an impact on your business. This could include government, the community around your building, investors, employees, business partners, suppliers and finally, most obviously, your customers. Everyone that is tied to your business. Ultimately your business, through its branding and marketing, should communicate with all the stakeholders, not just your customers. 
Many small business owners make the mistake of leaving someone out, and often, that someone is the customer.

Research by Irene Inskip from Oxford University found that SMEs often fail to acknowledge the role of customers as key stakeholders:

Most small businesses have a rather limited view of important stakeholders as only the top management team and employees with only a distant recognition of customers

How to treat your stakeholders

You need to proactively engage with them not just about the things that are important to them, but also what’s important to you. There are two key things to highlight here:
  • Proactive  – which means you need to initiate the contact. Quite literally – out of the blue –  they need to hear from you!
  • You can’t just always talk about what THEY want – more money, a lower price increase, better quality. You need to also talk about what’s important to you – what YOU want.
Small businesses can be too reactive in how they communicate. They only talk to employees when there are issues. They only talk to the customer when the next order is placed or when issues creep up. 

It is time for your employees and your customers to take your call.

How to communicate to your stakeholders?

So what are some basic tips for doing this? Heres a few:
  • A bi-monthly newsletter to staff in which you highlight areas of excellence and improvement.
  • An end of year letter to customers in which you take your relationship in review. Highlight areas of mutual success, acknowledge frustrations and take a fresh look at the upcoming year ahead.

Stakeholder management is about recognizing who all the people are that have a material impact on your business, and making sure you talk to them about what is important to the success and growth of your business.

Thinking about it, all small businesses must be able to answer the question: Who are my stakeholders, and what am I telling them?

Want help with mapping out the stakeholders in your business?