Small Business Contracts…or are they Big Business Contracts?

The Small Business Administration has released their contracting data for fiscal year 2008, and the numbers show a shortfall in contracts awarded to small businesses to the tune of $6.5 BILLION. The government reports that while congress mandates that at least 23% of all contracts should go to small businesses, only 21.5% of them were awarded to qualified businesses. These are the best self reported numbers to come out of Washington in years, so they do represent some hope…except they’re probably not accurate.

We spoke with Chris Gunn of the American Small Business League on my small business radio show this afternoon. The ASBL did a study of the top 100 contracts awarded to small businesses in 2008, and found that 65% of them were actually given to large multi-national corporations. These contracts were given to companies such as Xerox, HP, AT&T, Boeing, and General Electric. Do any of those sound like small businesses? According to the ASBL, actual contracts awarded to small businesses is less than 10%, not 21.5%, representing a shortfall of over $100 Billion! You can see a raw copy of their study results here.

One way that we can help to combat this problem is to contact our congressional representatives and urge them to support the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act of 2009 (H.R. 2568). We’ll have another visit from the ASBL on the Small Business Hour next month, and will keep on top of this story to let you know the latest.

Rule 15 – Conserve, Preserve and Reserve

This week I’m giving you a sneak preview at the online exclusive bonus chapter to my book, The Rules of Attraction. To read the full chapter, head on over to www.markdeo.com/rulesofattraction

This rule is becoming more and more important to marketers today. It is the social responsibility rule. While the 70s and the 80s were the “me” decades, the new millennium is the “us” decade. More than ever we are feeling the pressure to tighten our belts and adopt a more conservative approach, build larger reserves for our families and preserve what we already have. The spend, spend, spend and boom/bust mentality is passing away in favor of a more “grounded” mindset. This extends itself to the marketing arena as well.

Conservation-based Marketing
Everywhere we look, we see the “green story” being touted. This doesn’t just apply to energy companies, manufacturers and Fortune 500 companies looking to join the “green” bandwagon. Organizations in every industry and field of endeavor are opting for adding this element to their communication strategies. According to the American Marketing Association, green marketing is the marketing of products that are presumed to be environmentally safe. Thus, green marketing incorporates a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, packaging changes, as well as modifying advertising. Yet defining green marketing is not a simple task where several meanings intersect and contradict each other; an example of this will be the existence of varying social, environmental and retail definitions attached to this term. Other similar terms used are Environmental Marketing and Ecological Marketing.

Preservation-based Initiatives
One way that we can leverage the current focus on the “green mentality” is to promote sustainability. It’s getting difficult to find an industry or profession that doesn’t have some type of sustainability initiatives. This can encompass alternative energy initiatives, ride sharing, new recycling alternatives, lower consumption levels and the like. I know a display manufacturer that completely retooled their manufacturing process to eliminate ALL harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) thereby reducing their consumption footprint by 70%. While this did require a significant upfront investment in new equipment, it has resulted in a 136% return on investment to date. Their return came in the form of lower material prices, energy rebates and a special low rate financing as a result of the reduced environmental impact.

There are many more ways that we can leverage this 15th Rule. In short let me say that the more we sincerely focus on preserving, conserving and reserving, the more powerful our marketing will be to those who are socially responsible. What can you do to use this rule in your business?

Attraction-based Marketing for Professionals

I coach and consult with many professionals that are doctors, dentists, lawyers, bankers and CPAs. Often times when professionals focus on sales or marketing, they can appear desperate. In a sense, “marketing their practice” can reduce their credibility rather than increase it. For this reason, using “attraction-based marketing” can be particularly effective.

There are a number of very credible ways in which professionals can create attraction. Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing on four PROVEN methods by which professionals can create positive client attraction. The first is:

Leveraging Knowledge through Exclusivity

Since professionals have a highly specialized vertical skill, they possess deep knowledge in a very specific area of expertise. If this knowledge is properly used in a carefully orchestrated campaign, it can produce fabulous results in attracting potential clients and referrers. Unfortunately, few professionals perform the planning necessary to properly educate and inspire their prospect base. It often comes off as “self promotion” which has the opposite of the intended impact. Instead, I recommend first crafting the educational message in a way that is interesting and relevant to the target audience. It should be, however, most critically in a way that demonstrates the “exclusivity” offered by the professional. That is, “what do you offer which no one else does?” How do you do it? Why is your exclusive method more valuable that the traditional approach?

The next step is to create a series of messages that clearly articulates the significance of the exclusivity in a way that does NOT promote the professionals services. Shameless self-promotion by professionals is the “kiss of death!” This can accomplished through e-blasts, seminars, webinars, teleconferences and most importantly in a casual way through personal conversations and networking. Finally, the all-important follow-up step. Without consistent, valuable follow-up we are unable to maintain the top-of-the-mind awareness so that when a client need arises, we are the first call they make. More critically, our series of carefully orchestrated messages succeeds in motivating someone to take action based on a latent need. This is the most influential from of selling for professionals.

For more examples of how professionals can use “attraction-based marketing” to build their practice, particularly during economic downturns go to www.markdeo.com and check out my new book, The Rules of Attraction.

How Professionals Can Leverage Exclusivity

Since professionals have a highly specialized vertical skill, they possess deep knowledge in a very specific area of expertise. If this knowledge is properly used in a carefully orchestrated campaign it can produce fabulous results in attracting potential clients and referrers. Unfortunately few professionals perform the planning necessary to properly educate and inspire their prospect base. It often comes off as “self promotion” which has the opposite of the intended impact. Instead, I recommend first crafting the educational message in a way that is interesting and relevant to the target audience. But most critically in a way that demonstrates the “exclusivity” offered by the professional. That is, “what do you offer which no one else does?” How do you do it? Why is your exclusive method more valuable than the traditional approach?

The next step is to create a series of messages which clearly articulate the significance of the exclusivity in a way that does NOT promote the professionals services. This can accomplished through “customercentric” e-blast announcements, seminars, webinars, teleconferences and most importantly in a casual, informative way through personal conversations and networking. Shameless self promotion by professionals is the “kiss of death!”

Finally the all important follow-up step. Without consistent, valuable follow-up we are unable to maintain the top-of-the-mind awareness so that when a client need arises, we are the first call they make. More critically our series of carefully orchestrated messages succeeds in motivating someone to take action based on a latent need. This is the most influential form of selling for professionals.

For more examples of how professionals can use “attraction-based marketing” to build their practice, particularly during economic downturns go to www.markdeo.com and check out my new book, The Rules of Attraction.

Minimum Wage Update

The minimum wage saw another increase July 24th, 2009. Even if you don’t have employees being paid at this rate, this affects your business.

Taken from the US Department of Labor Website:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. The FLSA requires employers to pay covered nonexempt employees a minimum wage of not less than $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

Poster Requirements
Every employer of employees subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage provisions must post, and keep posted, a notice explaining the Act in a conspicuous place in all of their establishments. Although there is no size requirement for the poster, employees must be able to readily read it. There is no requirement to post the poster in languages other than English.

What does this mean for employers?
If you have a poster with an outdated minimum wage posting notice, you need to update this section of your poster or hang a new poster to avoid potential civil penalties.

What do I need to post?
With the myriad of state and federal regulations with which you must comply, it can be difficult to know what you need to post for your business. We recommend consulting an expert in the compliance business that can help you discover what you need.

Do I need to get these posters from the government?
While in many cases you can download or order posters directly from government agencies, in most states you will wind up having to deal with a multitude of agencies at the federal and state level. In California, you could end up with a dozen or more separate sheets of paper hanging on the wall! Obviously this can be difficult to manage and keep up with any updates, and as such we recommend using a combined labor law and minimum wage poster that has all of your required federal and state postings.

What happens when things change and I have a combined poster?
If you deal with a reputable poster provider, you will be contacted and notified that a change has occurred. In many states these changes happen infrequently (every few years), but in California, New York, Texas, and other large states these changes can happen as often as every 6 months. Some poster providers will require you to purchase an entirely new poster, so we recommend dealing with a poster company that has the option of stickers that you can place on your existing poster for smaller changes.

One company that we recommend dealing with for your labor law and minimum wage posters is Compliance Poster Company, a small business based in Monrovia, CA. They have a full time dedicated research staff to make sure that when changes happen, their clients are notified right away. You can also easily call them and talk to a knowledgeable representative on the phone. They offer free compliance audits for any business- just answer a few questions for their representatives and they can tell you what the law requires you to post, and what you need to communicate but not necessarily post. For the most recent minimum wage change, they offer a Peel-n-post sticker option so their clients don’t need to replace their entire posters. You can even talk to the president of the company, Patty Blum. Just call 800-817-7678 and ask for her, and you know you’re dealing with one of the most knowledgeable persons in the country when it comes to posting requirements.

As my friends at CPC like to say, “Don’t get caught with your posters down!” With this new minimum wage change, make sure that you get the most recent posting from a labor law and minimum wage poster provider such as CPC, or directly from the Department of Labor. It’s a very small investment to make to ensure that you aren’t fined.