Ages ago barter was the thing to do to get something of value in exchange for another, then money was invented and to date it is one of the most valuable assets one could have. Money has become so valuable that we all want to earn a quick buck and to ask “what’s in it for me?” has become the norm.
With the growth of mass communication, marketing through word of mouth have been overshadowed by more sophisticated forms of advertising such as graphic filled TV commercials, billboards, glossy print advertisements and more. It has become a lucrative business for those in the advertising industry, knowing that there is quite a huge number of business owners out there hungry for exposure.
Individuals who have personally tried a product or service usually share their experience with others and make recommendations, while people in the advertising industry don’t do so unless you have the money; and if you have the money it does not matter whether they have tried the product or service and believe in it too as long as you can afford to pay their fee.
It is common for businesses to submit press releases to newspapers to promote a product launch, the opening of a new branch of store or to announce the company’s new officers. Public service oriented institutions which are government-funded such as policemen, firemen, men and women in the military, get free media mileage when they do a good deed and are given preference in terms of free exposure. Needless to say, those who can afford to spend left and right on every form of mass media get more than an ample space too. Now where does this leave small business owners who are not government funded and have just enough money for operating expenses?
Here’s a case in point. Last year Scott’s Building Solutions, Inc. launched Legalbargain.net, an online legal document preparation company. Legalbargain.net is the most affordable and one of the largest sources of legal documents and information online. The website is loaded with answers to frequently asked questions for every legal form, educational videos for those who want to learn in a more animated manner, and the company also refer customers with complicated legal problems to lawyers specializing in the field of law they wish further enlightenment. On top of these, it has a viable business opportunity for those out of work or wishing to augment their income.
The efforts of husband and wife team Scott and Maria Britton, the owners of Legalbargain.net, are geared towards attaining justice within everyone’s reach. They strongly believe in the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr.: "Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists... it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status." It is a noble cause yet nobody seemed to care.
The couple joined Facebook to get the word out. Adding real friends wasn’t a problem but it was a challenge adding strangers in and out of the community; they got reported for spamming, and their account have been suspended about a dozen times. Eventually they got a sizeable number of “friends” as there are others out there who are also into networking for their business.
With social networking, promoting one’s business for free should be a breeze, right? Wrong! Legalbargain’
The only time friends responded favorably was when Legalbargain.net launched its “push us and we’ll push back promo” – there was an exchange of Facebook tags for promotions for Legalbargain and a friend with a small business. This brings us back to the “what’s in it for me” syndrome which only proves the theory posited earlier that unless you give, you will not get anything.
Nobody is paying attention on Facebook so Legalbargain.net tried sending press releases to newspapers and churches as well, hoping that those who will read their press release with also read their hearts – that they are good citizens who would like to give back to society. Some acknowledged that they got the press release but never gave them a date as to when it will be printed. Others referred them to a paid service since Legalbargain.net is “a business for profit”.
There is no denying that Legalbargain.net is a commercial business, it is for profit; but its prices are so marked down that it is almost like getting food from your nearest fast food chain. As a business, its owners naturally incur operating expenses, and since the prices of their products are so low, one can imagine that there is very little room to make a profit on.
They tried traditional advertising to increase awareness about their business. The couple spent thousands in advertising, and it’s not because of careless spending but for the simple reason that it is expensive to advertise, period. The rates for an advertising space vary and can be cost prohibitive for those who are just starting a business but it seems to be the only route to get promoted.
The several print advertisements and a daily 30-seconder radio announcement barely worked since their surveys show that most of their customers were people within the neighborhood and some discovered Legalbargain.net through LinkedIn, a social networking website for professional. In sum, for every $10 spent in advertising, there was only a dollar income which drove the couple to the conclusion that traditional advertising was a useless expense that they have to stop putting their money into.
Scott and Maria understands that those in mass media need to make a living just like they do, the realization that there is almost no separation between the personality of an advertising agent as an individual and as a marketing person just hit them.
Before they placed the ads, advertising agents were all agog, excited and believed in everything that Legalbargain.net stood for but once they were told that the company has no more money to pay for advertising, they stepped out of the door, walked away and did not take with them the trust and confidence that they had in Legalbargain.net when they were introduced to it.
No one knows whether they still look at Legalbargain.net the same way they did when they were still getting money for advertising, but one thing holds true – they are no longer promoting Legalbargain.net, not even by word of mouth, for the simple reason that they didn’t get the desired answer to the question “what’s in it for me?” They have to be paid to get the word out, and they won’t do this on a personal level since that is what they do for a living to begin with.
Greed and corruption are two subjects never left out in discussions especially in this election season. People always clamor for change and express their disgust over the system but is not change supposed to come from within? It is the “what’s in it for me?” self-centered mentality the is the core of the greed and corruption in society that everybody seeks to weed out and yet practically everyone is doing it wittingly or unwittingly.
Shame on those who accuse the corrupt but are greedy themselves. Shame on those who cannot lift a finger unless compensated. Shame on those who put a price on their principles and beliefs. Shame on those who help the moneyed but ignore those who needs its most. Unless we rid ourselves of the mentality that we have to get something in order to give, can you guess what’s in it for us as a society?