The Winner of The October 2013 Supplier Spotlight Contest is…

October was a fantastic month for the Supplier Spotlight contest! It was a very close race, with the top two small businesses helping to drive record breaking traffic to the blog.

Records Broken
Most contest votes in 1 month = 15,909 – Over 1600% higher than previous highs
Most views in 1 day = 3,611 – ~300% higher than previous high, more than our previous record for views in a MONTH!
Most views in 1 month = 10,766 and counting (previous high – 3,592 Apr. 2013)
Avg visits per day = 384 (as of 29Oct.2013) vs. previous high of 120 Apr. 2013]

Without further delay, our big winner is Factory Direct Promos! They shared not one, but five ways to market your small business. One of the ideas was using social media as a way to build relationships in a meaningful way. We think Factory Direct Promos is truly walking the talk. They’re active on several social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. In fact, Shane Shirley-Smith, CMO of Factory Direct Promos, recently participated in a Supplier Connection #ChatSmallBiz on Twitter. The chat featured a panel of experts who discussed ways to use Pinterest for your small business. If you missed it, you can catch the highlights here:

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention our runner up, Treasured Prints. Since it was such a close race, we’ll be featuring their business in a special way next month. Stay tuned for more info on that!

-The Supplier Connection Team

Oct. 2013 Poll
The November 2013 contest starts NOW
The Supplier Spotlight contest starts all over again on Friday, November  1st. You can follow @SupplierCon on Twitter for the latest updates.

Need some thought-starters for your entry? Look at how you run your business. Review the innovations you’re deploying that have improved your performance. Consider if those ideas could help fellow small business owners. Remember, this is not your chance to submit your company brochure or sell your service, it’s about sharing ways you improve your company’s performance.

Once you have your entry, email it no later than 8:00PM Eastern November 8th to mwolf[at] (For details on how The Supplier Spotlight works, click here).

Remember… You can’t advertise on the Supplier Connection portal for any amount of money.

This contest is sponsored by Supplier Connection, an initiative where a growing number of large member organizations have committed to connect U.S.-based SBEs to their supply chains. Registration is open to all U.S. Small Business Enterprises.

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How “The Supplier Spotlight” Works

Updated May 30, 2012, please read: Clarification of Rules

What would it be worth to your company to advertise on a business portal that had thousands of qualified monthly eyeballs? Where billions in contracts are up for grabs from some of the biggest organizations in the USA? AND your company would be prominently featured as the only advertised business on the site for an entire month?

Would it be worth an idea?

Your best ones?

We think so.

Announcing a monthly feature we call “The Supplier Spotlight.”  It’s part reality show, wholly interactive, and completely beneficial to everyone that participates.

It’s really pretty simple: Every month all registered small business suppliers with a 100% completed application email me ( the best ideas they use to make their business more profitable or more efficient.  And since we’re using this contest to raise awareness of our participating, registered SBEs and the Supplier-Connection initiative, all SBEs can vote on the best idea. The business that submitted the idea with the most votes wins a one-month opportunity to promote their business on the Supplier Connection portal.

Here’s how it works:

Day 1 – 8 of each month: 

Any small business registered on Supplier-Connection can email me at any ideas that promote innovation, create efficiencies, cut costs, or all of the above.  You can enter as many ideas as you’d like each month.

Day 9 – 11 of each month

I’ll evaluate all submissions and post a poll listing up to 5 of the best submitted that month along with the name of each SBE Supplier.  If your idea has been chosen I’ll send you an email to let you know you made the cut.

Day 12 – 26 of each month

I’ll post the poll by the 12th of the month and then any SBE can vote for the idea they think is the best.  Since the POLL is limited to one vote per email address and IP Address, it won’t likely turn into a popularity contest… Especially since you’ll only be able to vote once each month.

The votes are tabulated in real-time so you see the results as soon as you vote.  No hanging chads… No mysteriously missing votes from the opposition’s precincts… No intimidation at the polls. Just you and your PC, or MAC, or iPad, or SmartPhone.

After you vote you can post a comment debating the merits of the ideas, especially the impact you think they’ll have on your business. So even if your idea didn’t make the cut, chances are real good there’s an idea in the bunch that can improve your business in some material way.

Day 26 – through month’s end

On the 26th day of the month the polls will close at 8:00PM New York time and the idea with the most votes wins. Within the next 24 hours I’ll contact and post the winner. We’ll then work the rest of the month with the winning company to get their marketing materials posted on the Supplier Connection portal.

Clarification of Rules…

The primary objective of The Supplier Spotlight contest is to foster an envirnoment of community to help SBEs improve their business, promote our registered SBEs to Member Companies and to each other, and improve awareness of the Supplier-Connection initiative. In this spirit we provide the following clarifications:

  1. All “end dates” falling on a weekend or Business Holiday will be extended to the next business day. This applies to the 1. date we receive entries, 2. the date entries are posted and 3. the date voting ends.
  2. We will extend the entry date if we have not received two entries by the standard “end date” which is the 8th day of each month, or if the 8th falls on a weekend or Business Holiday, the first business day after the 8th of each month.
  • We will extend the deadline for entries by one full Business Day until we receive two entries, as this will allow all SBEs the opportunity to choose to send a submission.
  • Registered SBEs will be contacted via the Supplier-Connection LinkedIn Discussion Group as well as by email. Supplier-Connection will use its best efforts to contact all registered SBEs but will not be responsible for incorrect email addresses, downed email services, your spam filters, etc.
  • You can not offer to pay anyone to vote for your entry (including automated systems such as Amazon’s mTurk). If you do, and we find out, you will be disqualified from the contest.

Tell them what they’ve won…

For the next month the company with the winning idea will earn the following (it’s your job to supply all marketing materials, graphics, etc.):

  • Your company’s graphic/logo prominently displayed (300 pixels) on the Get Connected home page under the Supplier Spotlight banner, on the User Login Home Page, and a link on the Supplier-Connection Home Page.
  • A 200 word description of your business to be posted on the Get Connected home page under your graphic.
  • WINNING COMPANY’S OPTION: Write an article on the winning idea you submitted, explaining the value it’s brought to your company and we’ll post it on the portal.
  • A link to your corporate website, your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your company blog(s).
  • A link to online sales presentations with audio
  • Link(s) to product videos, commercials, and/or your YouTube channel
  • Posted links to white papers you’ve written
  • A link for interested parties to schedule an online sales meeting
  • An email will be sent by Supplier-Connection to the entire registered Buyer community highlighting the winning company with links to the company and to the Get Connected page on the portal (New!)
  • If you can attribute any new customer order to this promotion I’ll follow up by  interviewing your CEO or head of Sales and post it on my Supplier Connection blog.

I’m really looking forward to reading proven ideas coming from real businesses and the ensuing discussions over their merits. This is a great opportunity to share ideas, promote your company and find ways to improve your business—every month.  And isn’t incremental improvement one of our prized goals?

Spread the word around your company. Gather your best ideas and email them to me at  Don’t hesitate. Don’t delay. You can’t advertise on the Supplier Connection portal for any amount of money.  Nope.

The only currency we’ll accept is your best ideas.

May the best SBE idea win!

Dan Gallo,
Social Media Director & Small Business Advocate, Supplier-Connection
Managing Director, The Allasso Group

Contest is available only to businesses that qualify as a U.S.-based Small Business, that have registered on, and have completed their Supplier Application. Go to for more details on the program.

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Entry #5: Stand Out for Success

October Entry 5 Treasured Prints

Before starting our venture we discovered there was a trending problem with the photographer “freebies” and the huge influx of “photographers” that surrounded us.

This is where *STAND OUT* began. We looked for ways to solve these issues and break through the “everyone’s a photographer” problem.

In order to stand out, you need to recognize patterns in your industry where everyone is the same and break through those barriers. As a business, if you do not catch the eyes of your audience you’ll be boring…and bored people rarely buy. Break these barriers by following these steps:

  1. Do different things. Add spice to your website; offer your service with a twist. We offer ours with trained photographers that must wear the ‘Treasured Prints’ uniform.
  2. Do things differently. As Treasured Prints, we offer 24 hour service turn around on photography ONLINE. No matter the size or complexity of the event.
  3. Shake up emotions, spread cheer and be thought-provoking. People like to be intrigued by what you are doing. Curiosity goes far.
  4. Finally, be consistent in what you do different, even if you offer the things differently, make it a consistent. By being consistent people will expect a unique quality that brings them back, but it also brings a sense of comfort knowing you will deliver.

At Treasured Prints we discovered that standing out and offering the branded ‘Affordable, Timely and Professional Photography’ service has allowed us to put an edge in the market.  A little ingenuity goes a long way; do not be afraid to explain how you are different than the rest.

Stand Out!

Rachel Campbell
Treasured Prints

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Entry #4: Hunting vs. Farming: Cultivating Sales

October Entry 4 Luna Metrics

Many companies hunt for sales. They hire a salesperson, pay the base salary plus commission and the sales costs that go with it.  The salesperson closes one sale out of every ten leads (an estimate, different for every business.) So, a lot of effort goes into creating and working leads that never turn into sales.

I gave up that model before I ever started this business.  It wasn’t a strategic or financial decision: I didn’t have the money to hire a salesperson, and I’m not a very good hunter myself.

Instead, we farmed:  my employees and I blogged about our business and found opportunities to speak with or train potential customers.  Those potential customers often called and said, “Hey, can we talk about you doing some consulting for us?”

Farming is a much more efficient way to do sales than hunting:

  • The customer who comes to you is partially qualified.  They almost always need what you’re selling.  Sure, they may not be able to afford your price points. But you can qualify that on the first phone call.
  • They have identified your company as one they are potentially interested in doing business with.  That means you don’t have to turn somersaults to prove your worth. I learned that when I would ask at the end of a call, “Do you have any questions for us?” and the answer would be, “Oh, we already know you guys. We’ve been reading your blog for years.”
  • The person who contacts you may not be the final decision-maker, but is usually part of the decision process.  And just think how long it takes when you’re hunting to figure out who the right person is and then get them to take your call…
  • You may be able to be the only vendor competing for the business.  Lots of companies have rules about how many vendors must bid on a job, but plenty don’t.  Even if the company has those kinds of procurement rules, you’ve already made the short list.

Recently, I did an analysis of five years worth of leads, which for technical reasons had to include clearly unqualified inbound calls. We closed one out of four.  “You were lucky,” a sales coach said to me.  “Nah,” I replied, “those companies already wanted to do business with us. They just needed a little guidance.”

Robbin Steif
Tel: 1.412.381.5500


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Entry #3: Side-Step Resistance to Increase Employee Buy-In

Entry #3 October 2013

Many organizations struggle to get employee buy-in on critical policies. This is especially likely to be an issue during times of change, a common reality for many corporations today. However, approaches to this problem tend to only push against resistance (creating, at best, passive aggressive resistance), creating considerably more risk—especially if it results in litigation or other penalties for compliance failures.

Fortunately, that’s not the only possible outcome. Much can be achieved when you learn to employ strategies that side step resistance.

Here are a few insights on the Do’s and Don’ts for increasing employee buy-in:

1. Don’t just shove new policies at employees. This is less about the actual policy and more about exactly what you do.

  • Do find creative engaging ways to help employees understand why policy is personally relevant to them.

2. Don’t ignore employee resistance to policies critical to risk management because it’s often a precursor to a potential violation.

  • Do support development of innovative strategies that engage employees in making personal connections with policies vital to your success.

3. Don’t rely on strategies that focus on penalties to increase employee compliance.

  • Do use personalized creative incentives to celebrate anticipated progress with employee buy-in.

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get you started on the path to better results. Many of the Don’ts are rooted in traditional approaches to management that aren’t very effective today for a number of reasons.

Today, innovation is the name of the game and it’s not limited to technology. It all starts with building a culture that either cultivates or hinders innovation. Cultivating innovation into your approach to change management is critical to your success—now and into the future.

Thank You,
Yvette Dubel
WebAntiphon Group

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Entry #2: 5 Ways to Market Your Small Business

October Entry 2 FDP Pic

These days it seems like everyone is searching for the holy grail of marketing when many cost effective tools are already at their disposal and can easily be implemented to make an impact on their bottom line.

Here are 5 of the Easiest Ways to Jump Start Marketing for Your Small Business:

  1. Utilize Social Media –It is important to simply think of social media as another avenue to build relationships. Don’t simply shout your message but think about connecting with your market in a way that will help them shine and allow them to get answers to questions they have. Bring value to the conversation without worrying about selling and get involved in groups on LinkedIn (like The Supplier Connection Discussion Group). When the time comes, and members of your online community know and trust you, you will be the one they turn to when they have a need you can fill.
  2. Blog Consistently – Okay sure, you’ve heard this before, right? You need a blog: but do you know why? It is more important than ever to offer up stellar content that your online community is searching for and will want to share. You know your customers and you know what their questions are. Answer those questions in the form of blog posts and then utilize those posts as relevant and valuable content on the digital channels you’ve set up.
  3. Go Old School and Get Your Face Out There – There is nothing like building relationships face-to-face to market your brand. When was the last time you attended a trade show or even invited a prospect or client to breakfast? Get out of the office and make a point to visit prospects and clients each week in their offices or at business functions around town.
  4. Let Your Customers Do the Work – Creating a custom branded promotional piece can take your brand far beyond the confines of your location and function as a marketing piece for 3-5 years or more. Customize something amazing that will not only show off your branding but will also become your prospects’ and clients’ favorite bag and you will get terrific ROI on your marketing dollar.
  5. Use Google Analytics – This is one of THE most important places to really get your company where it needs to be and monitor how valuable your content is. Google Analytics lets you track where your efforts are and are not paying off. This analytical information is invaluable to your marketing success and it’s 100% free.

As you can see, these tips are not difficult to implement but they’ll get you in the game.  Remember: your customer is now heading to the computer to research almost every need they may have many times before they reach for the phone…

Thanks very much,
Shane Shirley-Smith
Factory Direct Promos
Coral Springs, FL USA
Tel: 1(866) 222-0949

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Entry #1: The EventSmarter Approach

October Entry 1 TCG Events Pic

No marketer should be complacent about branding. Even the most stable, long-lived brands can become irrelevant—and quickly. To remain vital, a brand must have a consistent flow of audience insight, gained through multiple touchpoints. One of the most effective: the live event. Face-to-face meetings and events should be an anchor in any brand’s marketing mix. When done right, live events are a successful technique for marketing, employee engagement, and networking.

The problem is perception: So many organizations settle for outdated, unimaginative, and, quite frankly, boring events… that the reputation of live events has suffered.

What’s needed is a guest-centric mindset when approaching event design. At TCG Events, we call this the EventSmarterTM approach. Every moment of a live event should be carefully examined from the guest experience point of view. Start at the moment of arrival and envision yourself as a guest. Your brand is “on stage” every step of the way.

  • There are no “small” details. Even the most basic processes should be reviewed during the planning of an event. Checking people in sounds simple enough, but few get it right. A guest arrives and stands in a long line only to find her name missing from the list. She is asked to handwrite her name on a tag, setting her apart from 98% of the other guests with typed nametags. Not exactly the best first impression. Next she goes to the bar, where she also stands in a long line, and then it’s the valet—most of her night has been spent waiting in line.
  • Your invitation is the first impression, make it count. Companies spend enormous amounts of money and resources on print ads, marketing, and websites. Many marketers forget the invitation is not only a marketing piece for the event, but also an important representation of the brand. Receiving an invitation is personal. The person who opens that envelope can be excited, annoyed, or apathetic. The invitation must be vetted for misspelled names, and the personal touch is demonstrated by invitations that are hand-stamped and are interesting enough to get through a gatekeeper. Part of that is the conveyance of the brand’s present and future, not its past. Keep it fresh!
  • Invest in the guest experience. At the event itself, invest your budget where it counts: the guest experience. Depending on the size of the event, the traditional stage at the front of the room arrangement can leave some tables feeling like they’re in Siberia. Consider placing the stage/podium in the center of the room, with surrounding screens overhead so everyone has a great view.

This approach will help you design a unique, resonant experience and your brand will leave the impression you want, long after the event is over.

Good luck!
Cassie Brown
TCG Events
1700 Camden RD STE 101
Charlotte, NC 28203
Tel: 704.376.1943
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Vote Now for The October 2013 Supplier Spotlight Contest!


We received a great response to the Supplier Spotlight contest this month! There are five entries for you to vote on and we think you’ll be inspired by each of them. 

Entry #1: The EventSmarter Approach | TCG Events
Entry #2: 5 Ways to Market Your Small Business | Factory Direct Promos
Entry #3: Side-Step Resistance to Increase Employee Buy-In | WebAntiphon Group
Entry #4: Hunting vs. Farming: Cultivating Sales | LunaMetrics
Entry #5: Stand Out for Success | Treasured Prints

Voting has Closed!
Why not stick around and read the entries?

Don’t forget to share who you voted for on social media, tag @SupplierCon in your tweets and use #SupplierSpotlight. 

The Supplier Connection Team

Supplier Connection Events

Join us for the next Smallbiz Twitter Chat – October 17th
Are you Interested in using Pinterest for your small business? Join our #chatsmallbiz Twitter chat on October 17th at 3 p.m. ET for a panel discussion around Pinterest best practices for small businesses. Our featured guest is small business owner and best-selling author, Jason Miles, who recently published Marketing on Pinterest. Our panel also includes several of our members:  John Cloonan of ZeroChaosShane Shirley-Smith from Factory Direct Promos and Curtis Rose of HansonEllis.

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