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A Lobster’s Look at Small Business

Constant Contactpioneered marketing research for Main Street with do-it-yourself services like online surveying and email marketing. In May of this year the company published “Small Businesses Then & Now,” a survey on the state of health of American small business, five years after the beginning of the so-called Great Recession.

The survey results don’t paint a pretty picture of small business over the last five years.  Nearly two-thirds of all small businesses say running a business is harder today than ever. How hard? Fifty-five percent of respondents say that the economy’s delivered a gut kick to their businesses. 

Nearly 50 percent say that the trying to keep up with technology has made business difficult. Floral wire service company Teleflora may be able to afford state-of-the-art websites, but Flowers by Florence down on the corner may have to rely on someone’s nephew to design its site.

Small business operators also say that they’re getting rocked by competition, including large companies. I think there are a few things that come into play here. 

First, recessions mean pink slips. A lot of them. Laid-off professionals, finding it hard to hook up another job, often hang out a shingle or take their 401(k) money and start that business they’ve always wanted to have. A fast-food franchise.  A consulting business. A landscaping service. Businesses that don’t require any professional certification and are relatively easy to launch.

Second, as the recession and the slow recovery have dragged on earnings, employees of large corporations got the word—if you want to keep your job, get out there and open up new lines of business.

But this blog wouldn’t be the Lobster Shift if we didn’t take a lobster’s contrarian view of an issue. Take if from the owner of one, a well-established small business has a lot of advantages over large businesses and Johnny-come-lately competitors.

According to the survey more than 50 percent of small businesses say that as a small business they benefit from the loyalty of customers who want to shop locally. Whether it’s a farmers market, hardware store, or community bank, a small business has an advantage when it comes to customer loyalty.

Small business owners also live and work in the community. The barber who cuts my hair works out at my gym, another local business. Somebody referred me to his barber shop and I referred Dave to the local gym.
Sure, local businesses may charge more. But, in my business time is money. If I can get in and out of the hardware store, the barber, the gym or the bank in a minimum amount of time and get back to work, I’m happy.

Perhaps small businesses have one advantage they don’t even know they have. It’s marketing. Large corporations have to go to New York or Chicago to hire a branch of a global advertising and PR firm to tell them how to sell to you. 

Small business operators don’t have the money to do that and probably wouldn’t know where to start if they did. But they do have the barber shop, the bank, the gym and other places where people in a community get to know each other. And that’s a huge advantage in business.

And when that fails there’s always Constant Contact.