Small Business Government Contractors - Sorry No Pity Here

Indeed, I have been amazed that during the government shut down how the media and Democrats in congress try to tell us how it is having such a dire effect on small businesses. Well, it may have a big effect on those with government contracts, or those with nearby businesses to government facilities, installations or buildings, but I'd say overall, it doesn't hardly affects small businesses the way it affects big corporate welfare. Let's talk, because I think the small business community is being used to score political points with the public.

You see, the approval rating with smaller companies in America enjoys a rate of 70%, whereas the US Congress and this administration have dismal rates of approval. I bet you didn't know but if you are going to run for office the best title to put under your name is "Small Business Owner" and that automatically garners you more votes and likability. No one in the US wants to see our small time entrepreneurs and businesses hurt, the public feels their pain, and 10% of us are in that smaller company owner category, while we employ including ourselves 70% or more of the population.

Now then, in the past my various companies and sub-brands have had many government contracts (to clean vehicles, facilities, and equipment) for agencies and quasi-government organizations. One thing I always noted was when I lost a big to secure a service contract with the government, invariably the company that beat me out on the solicitation to get awarded the contract had extremely poor ethic when it came to labor exploitation. Low wages, poor if any benefits, and lousy working conditions. Sure they were the low bidder, but more often than not they were not following the rules of the contract.

In that case, I am not the least bit moved when I heard these smaller firms crying in their milk because the government bureaucracy has shut down. In fact, maybe they should have thought about diversifying their customer and client base rather than attempting to sponge off the government through some "politically correct" mandate that allowed them a bid advantage.

Further, for us to believe that our elected representatives who get handsome campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists really care about the little guy small business is ridiculous. Oh sure, they might care a little, but they surely care more about their big campaign funders who soak even more taxpayer money in corporate welfare. So, basically, I don't want to hear that excuse for a reason to allow the socialists in our government a blank check or unlimited debt ceiling credit card.

If you'd like to debate me on this - bring it on - because, I personally know of 100s of real examples to back up what I've just said here today. So please consider all this and think on it.

Is This an Ugly Marketing Tactic?

Imagine you own a menswear store. You might be positioned in a Mall or shopping area were there are many other menswear stores. You sell shirts, trousers, ties, socks, t-shirts and jeans just like every other menswear store. And if you are a small business, you likely don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a marketing campaign.

You need to attract more customers to your store. Word-of-mouth may be good for you and you may even have a database of clients to whom you send an e-news every week. But you need NEW customers too. You can't rely on the customers you already have.

What do you do?

You need a strategic communication solution. One that is compelling, memorable, relevant and cost-effective.

Max owned a menswear store. He had the same problem suffered by many retail stores - not enough customers and no enough money to spend on a big marketing campaign - a campaign that would put a huge dent in the problem.

His solution? Max developed 'The Ugliest Tie Competition'. It started small to begin with as Max put up a sign in his shop window, posted on Facebook and invited customers to bring in their ugliest tie. The winner would receive a $500 voucher to send in Max's store.

Customers thought this was a fun idea and word spread. People were coming in to Max's shop just to see the growing collection of ugly ties. Customers were telling friends and pretty soon the local media picked up on the story. It was different and would make for an interesting local news item. Max was interviewed on television and the story spread even further - and it didn't cost Max a single cent for the extra 'public relations' coverage.

Max attracted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people to his shop who had never stepped foot inside his door before. And Max didn't just rely on the uniqueness of his competition, he leveraged all the promotion. He asked people to sign up to his e-news because they would receive information on new clothing lines, sales and special customer events. He was able to show customers that he provided great customer service, had terrific clothes, and he started raising the brand profile of his store. He started changing people's perceptions of his store. He was building his brand.

The competition ran for three weeks and the media even covered the 'award ceremony' when the ugliest tie was announced. This fun, relevant and memorable event cost Max virtually nothing, plus the $500 voucher - although the 'real' cost to Max was much less.

How can you broaden the scope of YOUR communications? What will enable you to gain more confidence about the marketing messages you are sending? Can you develop a competition or generate free media publicity like Max did?

And please remember, your strategic communications should align with your business plan to ensure consistency.

Email Marketing: Is It Dead or Complementary?

With all the attention on social media, have you given up on email marketing to build relationships and grow? Do you view them as an either-or strategy for your business? If so, you might want to re-think this When they work together, the combination is far more effective. Here's why.

It's all about the customer! Some prefer email, some prefer social media - and yes, some prefer both so they can choose each week or month. By eliminating one of the channels of communication, you may actually do more harm than good.

Why Together is Better

Subscribers vs. Likes or Contacts. With permission based email, subscribers choose to receive your emails - and will continue on your list if you deliver quality content that meets or exceeds their expectations. Not all social media contacts or likes actually receive your feeds - so building up those likes on your business page may give you a false sense of delivery. According to Facebook, about 15% of your 'likes' receive them. They need to opt-in for this, it's not automatic. By doing both you reach more people using the channel they prefer.

Targeted vs. Mass Distribution. Email marketing is typically more targeted if you allow for various list options at sign-up. Social media has the potential for mass distribution through search engines and sharing. Most email marketing programs allow for expanded reach through simple or automatic sharing on social media and friend forwarding. Depending on your purpose, they can complement each other and improve your marketing efforts.

Amount of Content. Email marketing allows you to provide more information to encourage subscribers to act - in most cases, visit a landing page. Social media is designed to be brief; it's a tickler to entice people to click for more information like a blog post or offer. When used together properly, they can draw more visitors to your website or business.

Quality of Content. Consistently poor content is a killer regardless of the channels you use. Think helpful and relevant to build relationships and eventually sales! Email marketing tends to work best with unique content at a regular frequency - determined by you and your subscribers! Social media requires a lot more posting to be effective. But by design, social media allows you to combine your unique content while sharing helpful tips and ideas from others. You are not under the gun to create ALL the content you use on social media. This can be a time-saver if done right.

Reporting. A good email system provides plenty of information down to the subscriber or contact level which can be a valuable learning and improvement tool. While some social platforms provide sharing, click and reach data, you have difficulty finding your advocates - those who viewed and shared posts on your Facebook business page? But using what you learn through email marketing can help you improve the other.

Video, Surveys and Events. All are very popular today - and both platforms allow for use of them. Whether you utilize email, social media or both will depend on your goals and who you want to reach.
As an advocate for integrated marketing - using a variety of methods to get the word out - I recommend you use both email and social media within your marketing mix. They build off each other and work together to drive traffic to your website so prospects can learn more about your company or offers and take the actions you want to make them a customer!