Small Business Tip: Get Off the Bandwagon

If you run a small business, it is increasingly important to stay ‘ahead of the game’ instead of just being a player. It would not be a smart business decision to open up a small food market on the adjacent corner of a Loblaws, Walmart Supercentre, Whole Foods and Costco. It doesn’t make sense. You would quickly become part of the small business graveyard.

Your business needs to stand out from the crowd, and since the world is a growing every day, you’re going to need to get creative!

Don’t jump on a bandwagon as it’s barreling through, be a member of the construction team that BUILDS the bandwagon to reap the most benefit as it picks up speed.

Easier said than done – a very select few thought that a micro-blogging platform that only allowed users to speak 140 characters at a time would amass into the social media giant Twitter is today. Ashton Kutcher was a bandwagon builder, and was the first to reach 1 million followers. How many followers do you have?

Not to say that Twitter is dead or dying soon, but if you don’t have a large Twitter following by now… perhaps it’s time to look for a new way of building your online reach and conversation. A new idea is emerging every second of every day, do some research and become an early adopter!

Here are a few leads to get you started:

Group Buying – is on the cusp of becoming huge, and it has been for a few years. Do some research and get involved with sites that give away daily deals- it might actually help promote your business/products. Best case scenario? The site becomes huge in your area/industry and sales skyrocket as a result.

QR Codes– Smartphone barcodes that are starting to pop up everywhere (heck, I even sit on one in the subway every morning). Since 1 in every 2 people will have a Smartphone by Christmas (it’s true!) this might just be the next massive trend in technology and advertising. “Social scanning” includes tools like Stickybits and SCVNGR that incorporate the new location ‘checking in’ fad that might also be on the brink of social domination.

Q/A Platforms – Millions of people are starting to ask questions on sites like Quora and Linked In. Pick a platform that speaks directly to your audience, and start answering some questions. Get in on the conversations; build a reputation as an expert and you’ll start to stand out from the rest of the social media crowd.

Find an alternative to the ‘biggies’ – use Statusnet instead of Twitter, use Aardvark instead of Linked In Answers, use Brightkite instead of Foursquare. Try to hit the bigtime with an emerging trend rather than trying to scream over the noise of the crowd.

Be proactive and set yourself up for success!

Best Resources for Small Businesses

Being a successful small business is not easy. The five core challenges most small business face are time management, pricing, cash flow, managing growth and marketing / client acquisition. In order to succeed, you must arm yourself against these challenges. The good news is that there are a number of fabulous resources to help you with these issues.

Actively seek out the right small business information.
Many small business owners are so over-extended that they neglect staying informed about business trends. This is a fatal error. In today’s modern marketplace, you simply cannot succeed if you run your business on intuition alone. You may stay afloat in the short run, but you will eventually lose out to better informed competitors.

There are a number of incredible online resources that are both free and invaluable. Sites like Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com provide tips on just about everything from starting your business to navigating advanced legal issues. They feature in depth information on running your business, leadership / management techniques, sales & marketing tips, small business technology and finances.

Helpful Tip: Set aside at least 1 hour each week to review these sites. If you find that you prefer to read in bed, consider subscribing to a few of these magazines. This information will make you and your business stronger.

Know your industry and target market in real time.
In our modern age, trends shift at break-neck speed. It is important to stay abreast of developments in both your industry and your target market’s microcosm. After all, more often than not, what concerned your target market 3 months ago is now ancient history.

Subscribe to industry related publications and consume the same media as your target market. If you sell jewelry for eco-friendly women in their thirties and forties, spend an hour each week reading news and publications that are relevant to that market. Likewise, be sure to check industry news every week. For example, using the same eco-friendly jewelry analogy, you might read up on green product developments, new fashion trends or even ecological political issues.

Helpful Tip: Set two separate Google Alerts – one on your industry and one for your target market – to send you period updates on relevant news. Google will send these news stories to you automatically, making it easy to skim over the headlines and read through the meaningful stories.

Find the right on-line partnerships.
The proliferation of online office supply stores makes economically and efficiently stocking your office a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. Buying office supplies online takes less time and makes price comparison easy. Because of online competition, online suppliers are eager to earn your business. The good ones will provide a wealth of free information on their site and happily take your calls to field questions and offer advice. For example, if you are looking for discounted printer ink cartridges but are a little confused about toner versus regular stores like compandsave not only provide free yet invaluable printer cartridge information resource center but they also eagerly accept calls and offer advice on how to save on office supplies.

Helpful Tip: When you find a supplier with great prices and customer service, hold onto them for the long-haul. A good supplier relationship can save you thousands, streamline your operations and free up your time so you can focus on growing your business.

Barrier Busters of the Top 6 Most Common Misperceptions of Mobile Small Business Apps

The trends are very telling – mobile small business apps is the smart way to reach your audience.

The latest research shows that the primary reason small business continues to place traditional advertising such as their annual yellow page listing is because everyone else does.

With the sharp downward trends of traditional advertising it’s time to go where your audience already is. Let’s examine closer where you can improve a much higher promotional ROI with your mobile apps for small business investment.

First Steps Toward Mobile Apps for Small Business

1. Know your current ROI.

What is your yellow pages (or other print) actual ROI?

How many new customers came to you through your print listing?

What was their average purchase amount?

Does your incremental sales margins cover the cost of your print ad?

2. Start small. Take just say 10-15% of what you are already spending and pilot some of the mobile small business apps.

3. Leverage both. For example, use your yellow page listing to include a promotion that drives traffic to free Facebook business page such as opting in for a discount coupon.

The Most Commonly Perceived Barriers for Mobile Small Business Apps

Anything new and different always has initial barriers.

Let’s explore whether they are fact or fiction so that you can decide if this exciting and fast growing medium is right to consider for your business.

We’ll start with the most common perceptions.

  • Time – Overwhelmed business owners have little time to research new technology for mobile small business apps and consumer tastes.

Fact- Customizable templates offer turnkey solutions for even the most non-technical business owner.

  • Cost – Normal development costs for mobile apps can be costly. Typically $4,000 to $15,000. Don’t forget multiple technology formats and future software changes create additional costs.

Fact – Affordable options are now available for the smallest promotional budget.

  • Branding and Customization – Mobile app templates don’t allow me to express my unique brand, benefits and features for my business.

Fact – Menu driven templates allow you to choose which small business apps functions will engage your target audience the most. You can even choose your own logo, color, look and feel that mirrors your web site and print collateral. This custom menu approach saves you thousands of development dollars.

  • Technology – How could I ever keep up to be sure my mobile small business apps can be viewed on Android, Apple iOS, Blackberry and Windows smartphones. How about all the different tablets?

Fact – Exciting cloud based solutions mean all that back office technology stuff is done for you so your business apps are always easily accessible to your customers, no matter what device is in their hand. More importantly your information is secure.

  • ROI Tracking and Control – How do I keep up with a repeatable tracking system for my mobile apps?

Fact – You select the measurable traffic and customer conversion indicators you want to track and the system does it for you. Once you decide what you want you can maintain your system in less than 15 minutes a day.

  • Type of Business – My business isn’t about connecting with local mobile shoppers like restaurants and Realtors. I don’t see how mobile business apps would work for me.

Fact – If you have a product or service that provides additional value to help people with solutions they need there are mobile business apps waiting for you to connect to. Because of the widespread use of smart phones across all demographic groups (1 billion by 2016 globally!) every business has a sizable audience to reach.

Think outside your local market. With mobile apps it’s time to consider regional, national and even a global reach.

While this article emphasized smart phones don’t forget to include tablet users, another exploding mobile platform many small to mid-size businesses are not effectively connecting with.

With a world gone mobile the time is now to rid all the barriers in helping your mobile small business apps connect with growing your business.