'Big Break for Small Business' contest; listening to franchisees; tell your story to customers.



NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. Enter to win the "Big Break for Small Business" contest. Adding to its initiatives to help small businesses, American Express(:AXP) OPEN has teamed up with Facebook(:FB) to launch the second annual "Big Break for Small Business" contest, in which five small businesses will get $25,000 cash as well as advice and resources to implement social marketing strategies for their businesses.

All contestants will get educational and brand-building tools as well as a $50 ad credit on Facebook. American Express business card members and merchants who enter the contest will get $100 in Facebook advertising credits.

The winners will get advice from American Express OPEN and Facebook branding experts to learn how to use Facebook to build their brands and better market their products and services to customers as well as reach new customer segments.

Business owners can submit their applications at the American Express OPEN Facebook page.

2. Franchisors should listen to their franchisees. What do the McDonald's(:MCD) Filet-O-Fish sandwich and Dairy Queen's Blizzard have in common? Both were created by franchisees.

David Hood, president of iFranchise Group, used these examples to make a larger point in a presentation last week at the International Franchise Expo: Franchisors would be wise to listen to their franchisees. Not only is there potential for some great ideas, but as the franchise grows, it's imperative to have franchisees' support. The presentation was written about in Entrepreneur.com.

The International Franchise Expo, sponsored by the International Franchise Association, was held for the first time this year in New York City. The IFA says the number of attendees (at more than 14,000) and exhibitors (more than 300) exceeded expectations.

"The change to New York reflects a shifting small-business landscape with an increasing awareness of franchising overall," IFA spokesman Matthew Haller says. "As the country slowly moves out of the recession, franchising is on the rise. You saw some of that optimism reflected over the course of the weekend at the IFE."

"We believe that is a result of some pent-up demand for franchising," he says. "We are forecasting growth across all sectors of franchising, from restaurants to hotels, commercial and residential services, to automotive and business and personal services, and this growth was reflected in the record number of exhibitors."

3. Tell your small-business story to customers.Telling the story of how your business came to be can be a good way to connect with customers on your "About Us" Web page, Facebook page and other marketing materials, according to a post on Micro Business Perspectives, a blog created by Vistaprint(:VPRT) to share resources and advice on how to market and manage small or micro businesses.

Telling a great story can offer "tremendous value" by catching readers' attention and offering relatable information, the contributor writes.

If you're not a writer, simply start by being as clear and straightforward as possible but also using well-chosen details to bring your story to life. Not only will this will bring out the uniqueness of the business; Web visitors will feel more connected to you and more likely to use your products and services.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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