How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Congress

CongressAs managers we all get busy. It's hard to remember to vote, let alone study up on the newly elected lawmakers in our respective states. But they might mean more than you think, especially when it comes to bottom lines and your business come January 1st.

Take, for example, a piece of legislation that directly impacts my company, ValoreBooks.com. It's no secret that students are being walloped by the exorbitant cost of textbooks, but this issue is being fought thanks to the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) that went into effect last July. Our mission is providing an online marketplace full of affordable textbooks. The provisions contained in HEOA helped steer more customers to marketplaces like ours by encouraging students and teachers to seek cost effective alternatives.

I truly believe other companies will also see an impact in some ways as a new Congress heads to work next month. Here is what you can do to prepare during this lame duck session:

Who's who?—Be sure to keep up to date on the elected officials in office and the issues they support. You never know what kind of powerful new law could turn your company around in 2011.

Educate your audience—We started blogging about the HEOA to explain how the issue directly affects them. We defined HEOA and outlined the details in a digestible format because we all know how cumbersome the law can be. Discussing it over social media channels helped us spread the word and build both awareness and interest that can translate to sales. Other companies may also find this tactic useful.

Find a partner — My company also researched and reached out to potential partners championing the cause. We found one national student group working grassroots events on campuses throughout the United States. We knew students would be asking about alternatives to the college bookstore and where to find affordable textbooks and we wanted to make sure they knew about us, without pushing ourselves on them or being too "salesy." As we all know, it's best when others recommend your company than if we sound our own horns.

Call to action—Most legislation stems well beyond education; it demands action. We took it upon ourselves to show our audience how to use these new laws to really save money. That meant encouraging students to talk to professors and faculty about the HEOA to see if they are complying and choosing lower cost textbook options. Here's where the rubber meets the road; companies must not just explain the new piece of legislation to prospective customers and partners, but get these audiences to do something that is in their collective interest.

Some companies do a lot of hemming and hawing when it comes to federal and local politics. However, today's dynamic economy can be significantly impacted—both positively and negatively—by what elected representatives do. Whether it's by design or default, lawmakers putting some ammunition behind your offerings could turn things around this year and help turn constituents into new customers, but only if you pay attention and take steps to leverage it.

Bobby Brannigan is the founder and CEO of ValoreBooks, a fast-growing online provider of cheap college textbooks to rent, buy and sell. He can be reached at bbrannigan@valorebooks.com.

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