Post Card from Washington: US business from the outside looking in
August 8, 2014
By Sarah Morris, EntreHub Washington D.C Bureau Chief
As an Australian currently working and living in the USA it is difficult to not be somewhat in awe. It has all the things that you expect to find in a melting pot of cultures, oversized cars to fine art, Walmart to Cartier and everything in between.
The U.S.A for the past half century has been arguably the one of the most influential nations in the globe.
America; the home of the “startups” and massive financial institutions that have dwarfed its European and Asian counterparts.(pre the GFC but I will get to that) art, culture and cuisine have grown in leaps and bounds (there is more to American cuisine than McDonalds and burgers I can assure you), Immigrants travelled far and wide to chase the American dream.
This begs many questions to be asked, where is the Australian dream? Did the GFC kill our dream and not the American?
I could go on and on about the differences between America vs Australia but as this is a post card I will keep it short. The simple answer is America is HUGE! Not just in size but in population, with 350 million people sitting within her boarders, if you are armed with a good product and a plan to reach your audience you stand a fairly better than average chance of making it.
The thing about Americans is they love to spend, credit cards, cash, loans you name it they will beg, borrow and steal to feed the shopping gene. The sheer size of their consumerism is simply staggering. Everything is disposable, everything needs an update or an upgrade before you have taken it out of the box, it seems there is a shopping outlet mall on every corner and each one is cheaper than the last. For those of you who have shopped at Ikea it is a country sized version of that, you go in for a napkin and come out with a new house of furniture and possibly someone’s child. So with such a large business world, how do you make your voice heard?
After the GFC, many companies in America had to shut the doors, people were out of work and on the streets. That was almost 5 years ago. To talk to some business owners here you will normally get the response of “oh yeah they were dark days” “Had to let many people go”. Although you would not know it today. Back to spending away but it is just not where you think.
Listen to the news reports and its doom and gloom. True, big business has taken a hit, banks are being forced to do massive pay outs, insurance companies are on the brink again, even the US military is taking massive cuts. So where is this money coming from? Where are these people doing business? Who is doing it?
Welcome to the new world. Online and social. Americans have embraced online business and it is paying off. In 2012 the USA had a $198 Billion online retail market. That is just a staggering number! It’s not just the big retail giants offering services online; it is businesses of all sizes. From your local cheese store on the corner to the giant Bloomingdales.
Everyone is online. According to the Wall street Journal 8 August 2014, 1.5 million small businesses advertise with Facebook. Not have page “likes” nor fan pages but actually advertise. Now as for actual businesses, Facebook's Director of Small Business Dan Levy has stated that face book now has over 25 Million active small business accounts. That is a small business that is running on face book not just advertising.
Today a business has the potential to build a massive following online using social media if done properly and then project from that into a successful business platform with an already existing client base. Bloomberg business week points out that businesses are cutting down on web ads. This is understandable as for the most part they don’t work, the only time we click on them is by mistake, however savvy social media marketing is another beast all together and the American market knows it. They have almost perfected it and as a result more small businesses now are able to reach globally. From the service industry to the logging industry you will find just about anything you need online in one of your social media links. You just need to know how to look.
Social media should not take away from the importance of a good website. According to Forbes magazine recent case study “Benefits and Barriers of bringing A small business online: A study was conducted and measured with responses of 1,050 business with 1-49 employees in China, France, Germany, India , Turkey and the UK. All the respondents were in the commercial sector and have a small online presence. Even just a blog.
What was ultimately discovered was of great interest. Whilst everyone understood the importance of an appealing website most just opted for a social media platform to advertise such as Facebook or etzy or ebay. Mainly because it had an easy to use platform. Full support given and cost. Most small businesses don’t have a savvy tech person to draw up a new website nor the technical knowledge to do it themselves.
This shows that some small businesses don’t understand the platforms and support that are available to them. (Such as wix.com) neither the importance of owning a domain name, nor the importance of web traffic to your company website. Ownership of a domain name can be seen as the hallmark of an “established” business.
So if you are starting a new business online business think about what you want you’re online and social media messages to be. The USA has been doing this a few years longer than we have. One thing that is clear America is not a “doomed” economy nor is it “failing”. The old days are gone, stuffy shirts are out, googolplexes are out. Home offices and good product are in.
About the Author: Sarah Morris is the Wasington Bureau Chief reporting for EntreHub
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