The WBE Digital Disconnect



By: Cassandra Bailey, CEO of Slice Communications and Laura Berry, Founder and CEO of Cogberry Creative

As a female CEO, one of my favorite events of the year is always the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Summit & Salute. The Summit & Salute is one of WBENC’s annual events that highlights the accomplishments of America’s Top Corporations for Women Business Enterprises and top Women Business Enterprises (WBEs). The networking and knowledge that I gain every year from this conference is invaluable.

In New Orleans this year, the pace was fast and furious. That said, this event is smaller than the WBENC National Conference which makes it easier to make real connections with the other attendees.  The roundtable sessions give speed-networking a whole new definition.  Imagine meeting 8-10 people at a time and getting know enough about them to want to find time to reconnect at the Summit and beyond.  It’s thrilling.

This year, the Forum, which is exclusively for WBEs, added its own meet-and-greet / speed networking.  This is particularly exciting for me because I fully believe in the power of WBE-to-WBE business and all it has to offer.  That’s part of the reason that Slice Communications and Cogberry Creative chose the WBENC Summit and Salute to launch our new study aimed at helping other WBEs better market themselves.  Solving The WBE Digital Disconnect: Connect To Corporate Buyers With Confidence made its debut at the WBENC Summit and Salute in New Orleans.

Since 2007, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate five times faster than the national average. Yet, women entrepreneurs are still much more likely to be sole proprietors with limited staff and even more limited resources than their male counterparts. In addition to challenges accessing capital and networks for growth, women entrepreneurs often do not adequately leverage social and digital marketing best practices that have been shown to open doors to corporate buyers and other customers. This disconnect between how corporations buy and how women-owned businesses sell is becoming more pronounced as millennial buyers gain influence.

According to Google’s report The Changing Face of B2B Marketing:

  • More than 40% of B2B buyers are now millennials.
  • 42% of researchers use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process.
  • B2B buyers have already completed 12 research steps, including having searched for comparison products, watched videos, and read reviews before contemplating contacting businesses directly.

“How B2B Sales Can Benefit from Social Selling,” published in Harvard Business Review showed:

  • 53% of B2B buyers say social media plays a role in making a final selection.
  • 82% of B2B buyers said winning vendor’s social media content had an impact on the buying decision.

Working with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, three women-owned firms, certified through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), combed through almost 900 women-owned businesses’ websites and social media accounts to present a research-backed toolkit for the community of growth-oriented entrepreneurs.

The team intentionally sought research to understand the complicated reasons why WBEs were missing out on market share despite a climate of access in the supplier inclusion industry. A “digital disconnect” was uncovered between what WBEs are presenting in the digital space and how corporate buyers typically initiate and conduct supplier research.

An analysis of almost 900 women business enterprises (WBEs) across 43 states in addition to DC and Puerto Rico enabled the team to develop a weighted average system and resulting classification rubric. Businesses can take the test to see where they are on the scale from 0 to 4, with four being completely branded on each social platform. Each business reviewed for the study was ranked according to the rubric.

The researchers examined the websites and social media pages of the WBEs, including their corporate LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.  The study found:

  • 45% of WBEs have a below average website which may not be found through keyword search or the content may make it difficult to understand all the company’s products/services.
  • 62% of the surveyed firms scored 0 or 1 out of 4 on their Twitter channel, meaning that most WBEs either had zero presence or owned a Twitter channel with minimal information that was not updated.
  • 40% of the WBEs surveyed engaged on LinkedIn with a score of 1 to 2 out of 4 on their profiles, meaning they owned a LinkedIn page with minimal information that is not updated or a page with minimal information that is current but posts infrequently.

It has never been more important to elevate and empower women’s business development. More than 270 of the 500 members of the S&P 500 publicly advertise supplier diversity and inclusion programs. However, WBEs are not meeting those buyers’ marketing expectations. By sharing resources like this toolkit, WBEs can evaluate their marketing and scale their digital marketing and social media best practices to meet buyer expectations.

The 2017 WBENC Summit and Salute gave us the perfect opportunity to connect with other WBEs in an effort to help them grow.  I’m really looking forward to continuing this work at the WBENC National Conference in June.


About the Authors

Cassandra Bailey is the president and CEO of Slice Communications, an agency that makes people pay attention to their clients using public relations, social media, and email marketing.


Laura Berry is the Founder and CEO of Cogberry Creative, content strategy firm assessing market impact, building brand equity, and engaging targeted audiences through powerful messaging.