How can you tell a real business opportunity, one with staying power, from last year’s opportunity?
Some fields might seem hot right now but, for many, there’s a good chance that the real opportunity was over five months ago and the field will be totally glutted by February.
Then, too, the opportunities that shine like a beacon for larger firms might not work so well for microbusinesses.
So, how do you find microbusiness opportunities with staying power?
Microbusiness opportunities often build from everybody else’s opportunities. If one of the big trends to watch in 2011 is travel and tourism (at least, according to Entrepreneur.com), then the microbusiness opportunity lies in providing the personal touch–for example, via a B&B or by supplying the handcrafted soaps used by the local Big Tourist Hotel.
As I look over that Entrepreneur article, I see a lot of the same trends I’ve been seeing over the last couple of years. There continue to be business opportunities attached to Baby Boomers, social media, health care and clean energy, among other things. The big difference in 2011, though, will be not what you do but how you do it.
So, let’s start at the top.
1. Experiential products and services. This overarching trend will impact everything else in the consumer economy. This is not necessarily about changing what you sell, just changing how you sell it. People have, experts say, entered a new period of austerity … but not really. What it means is that people don’t want to collect stuff anymore. On the other hand, they will pay for experiences because they last longer — a lifetime, in fact. From a marketing point of view, that means you need to go beyond the features vs. benefits meme and focus on experience (emotional) over benefits (material).
2. For the technically inclined, mobile apps (and especially phone apps) for business are very hot. Added benefit: This opportunity is not anywhere near glutted yet. Microbusiness programmers might consider developing low-cost phone apps for their fellow microbusiness owners; that fortune at the bottom of the pyramid is not to be sneezed at.
3. Another technical B-to-B niche that’s very hot right now is Web apps for business, especially small business. Once again, if you can develop a product that is affordable for microbusinesses and will save them time or money, you’ll have that niche almost all to yourself. Too many developers chase the small business market but run from the microbusiness market, so the field is wide open.
4. Marketing services, believe it or not, are back and big but, once again, it’s all about the specifics. Social media is gathering momentum, and some creative people (like the folks behind Swipely.com) are combining it with e-commerce in interesting and profitable ways. The same goes for mobile marketing, which is still pretty leading-edge and has a bright future ahead of it.
5. This one is a bit of a blast from the past: fitness products and services are making a comeback. (I’m reminded of Huey Lewis’ Hip To Be Square.) People are still busy and always on the go, so the challenge here is to develop fitness products that can be used anytime, anywhere. Promising variations include small group training and home fitness products. Above all else, find a way to connect to your customers and make it an experience!