Staples is a recognized and respected name in the business community.
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In 2010, they sponsored a small business contest with the grand prize of an eco-friendly makeover. The contest is over now, but it still provides some important lessons for entrepreneurs.
Why? Because at any given time there are a multitude of small business competitions your company can enter. By understanding how these competitions work you can increase your chances of winning valuable equipment and even cash prizes.
To enter Staples' "Small Business Go-Green Challenge", small business owners were invited to describe (in 100 words or less) how they would make their office more environmentally-sustainable. The grand prize winner received a $10,000 makeover featuring Staples' green product line. Second and third place winners received similar (albeit smaller) product awards.
This contest was a pretty good deal for business owners. But what was in it for Staples? At least four things:
- Exposure. Staples' small-business contest brought instant exposure to their Eco-Easy and Sustainable Earth product brands. It's likely that many small businesses didn't even know about these brands before the contest. For a net outlay of a few thousand bucks Staples received a fresh round of publicity for these brands.
- Credibility. Staples conducted their contest in partnership with an established company that was visible, but took a secondary role. By partnering with Entrepreneur, Staples increased the contest's exposure and leveraged Entrepreneur's name to gain extra credibility with small businesses business leaders.
- New product ideas. The contest rules required business owners to describe their office-related environmental concerns in 100 words or less, giving Staples access to the sustainability issues that are most important to today's small business leaders. The company can use that information for future product development. In fact, most small businesses could benefit by using a similar contest (with smaller prizes, of course) to solicit feedback from their customers.
- Industry reputation. Environmental sustainability is a popular topic in small business circles. By sponsoring this kind of contest, Staples established a reputation for environmentally friendly solutions within the office supply industry. From this point forward, business owners will be more likely to identify the Staples brand with an environmentally conscious approach to office supplies.