Mark J. Penn is a pollster and the man who identified the trend of “soccer Moms” in 1996. Later he wrote a book called Microtrends along with Kinney Zalesne.
He defines a microtrend as affecting a small percentage of the population that can have a large impact on society as a whole: “a microtrend can be as small as 3 million people, or about 1 percent of the American population, and even if that group never grows, it can still have enormous impact on society.” Those people in a microtrend “share an intense choice or preference, that is often counterintuitive and has sometimes been missed or undercounted by the companies, marketers, policymakers, and others.”
The Microtrends website is running a monthly contest where they invite you to submit your tip for a microtrend. Readers vote on the trends and each month they pick a winner. My microtrend won for April (I received a $50 Amazon gift certificate). Here’s the microtrend:
Small Business – Big Business Ecosystem
Large businesses and small businesses increasingly operate in a finely-balanced and symbiotic ecosystem. Each needs the other. The major shift is that big companies slowly but surely are recognizing this. Instead of the typical competitive or vendor-buyer relationship that big companies and small businesses traditionally have had, the relationships are getting much more complex and interrelated and cross-reliant. This manifests itself in innovation programs, such as Proctor & Gamble’s trail blazing www.pgconnectdevelop.com, to things as simple as big companies plowing money into websites and resource centers that have nothing to do with the product they are selling, necessarily, but focus on general advice to small businesses, such as Intuit’s Jumpup.com. The result has been an explosion of free resources available to entrepreneurs and small businesses supported by Corporate America.
This idea of the small business-big business ecosystem is a topic near and dear to my heart for five years. I know Steve King also has been doing research in this area.
This is a key trend for all of us as small business owners and entrepreneurs. There are lots of ways that a relationship with a large vendor or service provider can benefit your business.
I don’t mean that every large corporation is going to be willing or able to partner with you in every way you would like. That just wouldn’t be realistic.
But, on the other hand, if you look around, you will start to see opportunities to “partner” with large corporations, such as:
- innovation programs where a large corporation can bring your innovative new product to market in a way you couldn’t on your own; or provide access to key research or industry contacts.
- helpful resources and assistance that large companies are making available to help you run your business more profitably and effectively — examples: seminars, webinars, online educational websites, downloadable documents.
- discounts and specials that large corporations make available in their newsletters and online. Some can be quite valuable and save you hundreds of dollars.
- product giveaways at in-person events — example: companies sometimes give away free software.
- contests sponsored by large companies for entrepreneurs that offer large monetary prizes.
- customer recognition and award programs that will get you free press and online visibility.
My advice is to look at large corporations not just as vendors, but instead look at their community outreach programs. There’s something in it for your business, and it’s more than just another opportunity to spend money.