What were they thinking?

small business owner marketing blunders don't compare

If you’re kicking yourself for dumb moves you’ve made as a small business owner (we all make them), here’s a collection of stories likely to make you feel better.

Sometimes I just clip these gems as I shake my head. I feel compelled to tuck this stuff away for a time when I’m blessed with clever ideas on what to do with them. Lately, I haven’t had those light bulb moments, so here’s a short compilation of this month’s brilliance bound to make any small business owner feel pretty sharp.

Why not start with local news?

small business owner marketing blunders don't compare
Photo: Nanette Levin

New York State (among other states in the Northeast U.S.) has been challenged with an exodus of young people. According to a recent report in the Rochester Business Journal  “New York has added to its list of dubious distinctions, ranking last among the 50 states on the Tax Foundation’s 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index released Wednesday (October 9).”

Many will argue that business owners use taxes, regulation and political decisions as excuses (some do). When you start to see a growing number of community stalwarts give up the charge and move out of state, however, it’s telling.

How long will it take to realize three men in a room isn’t working.

Pop on over the New England for more brilliance last month:

Logan International Airport (in Boston) had to send out some big apologies in September. In case you didn’t hear (it was one of those stories that seemed to be hushed, probably due more to the concern of being called exploitative rather than any political powers exerting pressure), they held a fire drill. This included smoke, flames and all sorts of other dramatic flair.

That wasn’t the problem.

It was the date.

I can only imagine how many people were involved in planning and orchestrating this display. None of the numbskulls considered that September 11th might be a poor scheduling decision. The two hijacked jets that were flown into the World Trade Center left from Logan 12 years ago (September 11th marked the anniversary).

It just wouldn’t be right not to include the Feds (I imagine this will put me on a short list with the NSA).

Anyone who has been involved in any project that includes government funding (this isn’t just limited to federal dollars – it’s the case with most state money too), is probably familiar with the use it or lose it policy. What you probably don’t see is the vast waste that occurs with such backward thinking.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis and the Washington Post, here are just of few of the ridiculous decisions made spending down the 2012 budget at the end of September (2013).

  • In one week, the Department of Veterans Affairs bought $562,000 worth of artwork.
  • In a single day, the Agriculture Department spent $144,000 on toner cartridges.
  • And, in a single purchase, the Coast Guard spent $178,000 on “Cubicle Furniture Rehab.”

“The reason for their haste is a system set up by Congress that, in many cases, requires agencies to spend all their allotted funds by Sept. 30. If they don’t, the money becomes worthless to them on Oct. 1. And — even worse — if they fail to spend the money now, Congress could dock their funding in future years. The incentive, as always, is to spend,” states the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Here’s the biggest doozy I grabbed this month:

According to Wired.com, starting in November, for a mere $99, kids as young as 10 can now get a live cockroach sent to them with a kit and surgical instructions. Now it’s easy-peasy for children to connect electronic circuits into bugs so they can control them with their iPhone.

I suppose Backyard Brains deserves a nod for their marketing ingenuity (this should be a big hit, though sadly, also likely to be an early precursor to speed up the animal torture phase of the next Columbine kiddie). They also claim (I do get what they’re trying to do) this is designed to introduce our youth to the realities of science in a fun way. Of course, it’s humane too, because instructions include dousing them with ice water prior to surgical procedures and applying Vaseline to the wounds to teach compassion. Right.

It looks like we won’t have to worry about disobedient dogs nor independent cats in the future. They’ll be an app for that.

So, when you feel compelled to ask yourself as a small business owner, ‘what was I thinking,’ don’t frown. Just take a moment to look at the monster missteps made by those with a lot more resources than you. Your slight error won’t seem so grand after all.

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