I can’t believe the final countdown to the end of the year is on. The kids have just one day left before winter break begins, there’s only one weekend left until the holiday, and snow is expected in our mountain town tonight (fingers crossed). It’s definitely beginning to look like a lot like something around here.
This new year is bringing a lot of anxiety to small business owners in Flagstaff because of the new minimum wage law that will go into effect. Now, I’m not here to talk the pros and cons of this law, because as I see it – it’s the law.
And honestly, I don’t think the anxiety is unique to just small businesses that are facing wage increases. Running a small business is hard, and money is always an issue. You have to want it real bad and I know, because I’ve been doing it for about 15 years now – in one form or another.
But there is a big marketing lesson in how small business owners are approaching the new law and that is to remember who your hero is. And here’s a hint – it isn’t you. It’s never about you, it’s always about them.
Telling the story of how paying people enough money to live will hurt your business is bad for business. Because your customer doesn’t care about your business. They only care about how you can make their life better. I know that’s harsh, but it’s true and it’s one of the very basic marketing principles that most business owners fail to understand.
Now of course life in Flagstaff is a bit different because chances are your customers like you because they actually know you. But in the end, they only become a loyal customer if your business solves one of their problems.
Many small business owners, the local Chamber of Commerce and others are fighting to repeal, or at the very least amend the new law. Now again, I’m not here to discuss whether this has merit or not. What I am here to say is focusing on why it’s bad for the small businesses in this town is a mistake. Calling the voters ill-informed and the vote a mistake is divisive and a slap in the face to the very same people you expect to do business with in the future.
And the opposite is also true. Telling a small business owner that they need to just suck it up is also wrong. Because it’s not about you and your desire to provide a living wage, it’s about them and their ability to stay in business. Telling them their fears about the viability of their business isn’t as important as the wages they pay is not the way to change their mind. Because in this story, it’s all about them.
People on both sides of this issue are focusing on their own fears and not addressing the fears of the other side. Want to win support for your side of the issue? Then start telling the story your opponent wants to hear. It is as simple as that.
Here’s an invitation to the small business owners out there. Instead of attacking the law, a better approach would be to look more closely at your business.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- How many paying customers per month would it take to cover the wage increase?
- What am I doing to actively grow my customer base?
- Am I growing my list, building my authority, and providing value?
Of course, these questions are designed around how you market you and your business and don’t address other fundamental business practices that can help your business grow. But hey, I’m a marketer, so I’m sticking with what I know. And what I know is chances are you are leaving money on the table. And maybe going after the money that is out there, rather than attacking the more than 50% of this community’s desire to make a living wage is a better approach.
As the new year comes, there is no doubt that there will be resolutions, a new focus, and some sheer determination as you (and I) set off to make this our best year yet. But let me tell you, that will only happen if there’s a plan.
And not just any plan, a well-researched, thoughtful, unique-to-your-business, science-backed strategy specifically designed to grow your business.
The best way to get over a fear is to take action. And as I help some businesses in my town come to terms with the new wage increases – I do it by focusing on growing their business, not scaling it down and laying people off. Growing a business is doable if you think strategically.
This year was a year of testing for me, and the results are clear.
- You want help, but your marketing budget is non-existent (or close to it)
- You keep trying what the experts are suggesting, but you can’t get anything to stick
- You absolutely need to grow your business, but you’re overwhelmed at all there is to do
Now, let me be clear, the wage increase will affect my business, too. The first thing to go when small business owners worry about money is marketing.
But that’s not stopping me. I’m committed to growing my business and providing value to the business community. And my goal is to continue to help this community I love so much by making good marketing strategies, planning and practices accessible and affordable. So you see, I’m practicing what I preach.