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July 28, 2011
by Barbara Hannan
Manager, External Communications
Online voting closed last week on Pitney Bowes’s Business Makeover Contest, and for five small businesses the future just got brighter. Small businesses owners from all over the US were encouraged to enter a competition to win a full marketing makeover--custom tailored to their business--valued at $10,000.   Winners will be announced next week after the judges weigh in.
About 170 small businesses stepped up to the plate and entered, with some submissions receiving well over a thousand votes.  With the economy down and competition fierce, the chance for a business to set itself on a course for success with experienced advisors and powerful marketing tools at its disposal is a golden opportunity that was not lost on these business owners.
As I looked through the candidates, I was struck by the wide range of entrants: insurance, nanny services, voice transcription, eldercare, hula hoops for baby boomers, and online cupcakes. The common thread is passion and pride in these diverse entrepreneurial ventures. I wish they all could win.
I also observed the many marketing issues they were struggling to understand and execute. Here’s a sample:
  • “Looking to direct and improve traffic to the website”
  • “Want to figure out how to efficiently combine email with social media”
  • “Need to expand our brand recognition”
  • “Trying to find our audience online”
  • “Want to learn how to develop mailing lists and do an email marketing campaign”
  • “Wondering if we should invest in an online video?”
  • “Should we use QR technology?”
With so many marketing options to be considered in today’s business landscape it’s really tough for a small business to have the tools or the knowledge of how to execute – and more importantly, execute successfully.   
These entrants speak directly to the findings of a survey Pitney Bowes commissioned in April among small and medium business owners. In it, nearly three quarters of respondents said they would do more marketing if they had the right customer communications management tools. With more than 27 million small businesses in the U.S. today, it would seem there is much educating to be done about the traditional marketing methods, like direct mail. advertising and email marketing – and even more about the newfangled tools like social media, mobile apps and QR codes. 
The Pitney Bowes contest Grand Prize winners will have those tools, along with the advice and counsel of an expert panel of judges, well seasoned in small business development and social media, for the next year. Five will win the Grand Prize and receive an onsite day-long review of their business and their marketing needs by the judges, as well as access to Pitney Bowes’s pbSmart products that are specifically designed to help the small business owner improve their customer communications and ultimately grow their business. 
That combination has the power to change five businesses this year. For another 20, access to those pbSmart products will be provided free of charge for the next year. For everyone else, an ongoing dialog with winners and experts will be posted on a blog intended just for small businesses,
To all 170 plus entrants, I say congratulations, job well done stepping up to make your future brighter. To the five soon-to-be-named Grand Prize winners, much success – we’ll be watching!