Every once in a while it’s a good idea to sit back, take stock and assess how some of today’s current trends could benefit your business. Here are four to consider that have both marketing and operations implications for your company.
1. Going mobile. Mobile marketing is becoming increasingly important as consumer adoption of smartphones increases. Whether you market to businesses or consumers, your customers are increasingly accessing the Internet and using phones as shopping tools. But according to the fifth Small Business Success Index survey released recently, few small business owners currently use mobile marketing methods such as texting promotions to customers, creating a mobile site or mobile application, and advertising on mobile sites. Just 15 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed said these activities have the potential to be “extremely” or “very valuable” to their businesses. I think this is a big mistake. Young people are an obvious market for mobile marketing, but with smartphones becoming essential tools for everyone from soccer moms to businesspeople, no business can afford to ignore this trend.
And speaking of busy businesspeople, are you taking full advantage of your smartphone’s capabilities? With phones doing more and more, lugging your laptop is becoming less and less necessary. Whatever type of smartphone you have, explore its features so you can streamline essential tasks you need to do on the road.
2. Social deal sites. Social deal sites—where customers sign up to get daily emails of deep discounts on products and services in their areas—are sizzling hot. Currently, Groupon and LivingSocial are the biggest names in this industry, but there are plenty of local and regional offerings too. If your business caters to local customers, you’ll want to explore these sites as a marketing tool.
Wish there was a social deal site where businesses could sign up to save on the products and services you need? Then check out Bizy, a company I’m working with, which just launched this week. Bizy bills itself as the first dedicated deal site for small businesses. The site (BizyDeals.com) offers discounts of 50 percent or more on a range of products and services including office supplies, software and hardware, shipping, legal and accounting services, travel and insurance.
3. Subscription services. Slowly but surely, subscriptions have become woven into our daily lives. I’m not talking about magazine subscriptions (although they still exist) but the subscription business model in which everything from software to IT services to consulting is paid for on a monthly basis by automatic charge. Subscription services can streamline your expenses because you pay only for what you need. On the flip side, remember to keep track of your subscriptions and reassess them regularly, or it’s easy to end up paying for things you never use.
For your business, providing products or services on a subscription basis can be a smart way to boost your cash flow by generating recurring income streams. Just about everything can be sold on a set-it-and-forget-it basis, whether it’s a quarterly shipment of skin-care products, a monthly phone consultation or ongoing access to premium information on your website.
4. Seniors. Americans age 65 and older are a hot market, but one that’s too often ignored by small business. A recent MarketWatch article  cited one expert who noted that while the teenage market is trendy, “there is … 10 times as much money to be made from seniors.” In fact, Census data show seniors are more affluent than most segments of the population, with the median net worth of households aged 65 and over at $108,885 in 2000, compared to a measly $7,240 for households under age 35. By 2030, people over 65 will account for 20 percent of the population—so if you’re not already targeting this market, figure out how you can.
Seniors can benefit your business in another way: as employees. If you’re like most small businesses, you could use some extra help right now, but you’re not ready to hire a full-time worker. Consider hiring retirees as part-time employees. Their experience and work ethic can make them valuable assets to your business, without the full-time commitment.