Small Business Ideas: Marketing Trends for 2011

As we review the year 2010, and start to think about 2011, it is interesting to see the trends that are emerging when it comes to small business marketing.

As I review the year, here are the top 9 trends that I am seeing for 2011:

1. Online is where it is. I recently read 92% of all purchases being online. Consumers are researching more and more. They want to shop around, get educated and see what options they have. If you are not online, you are missing the opportunity to be seen not just locally, but potentially globally. Having a website is no longer an option, but a requirement.

One of the fastest growing platforms for websites is WordPress. These websites / blogs are easy to set up, you can maintain them yourself and you can add content quickly and easily. Often these sites can be set up fairly quickly and with less cost than a traditional site. Hiring a web developer to design a really cool website on this platform is also very affordable.

2. SEO your site. If you already have a website, you are like millions of other businesses. In fact, as of today (Dec 27, 2010) there are 13.99 billion pages (Google). The day of just having a website and getting found is long over.

Today with so many websites out there, it is important to set up your website to be found on the internet. If you have not optimized your website for search engines – you are are missing out on the biggest opportunities to generate business.

Search engine optimization is simply making your website more popular so that Google, Bing and other search engines can find you and route traffic to you. To get started with SEO, you will want to know your keywords. These are the words that your site wants to be known for. Then there are several techniques for increasing your popularity on the internet based on your keywords.

3. Educate, don’t sell. The days of “This is a great product – buy it” are gone. Today the consumer wants to be educated and consulted. Consultative selling is the key to sales and marketing. Taking time to understand the customers needs and advise on the proper options is what the consumer wants. Spend time educating and training. Marketing materials that are educational based yield higher results than those that are pure advertising.

4. Value add. Offering discounts can attract customers, but today’s customer is more educated and smarter. They want a good deal, but above that they want value. I am seeing them spend more for quality and specialties items that provide real value compared to just a discounted price. Being the cheapest is not always the best route for today’s customer.

5. Low cost services. During 2010, I became aware of more and more freelance sites to get marketing project completed outside the traditional routes and for low costs. Below I have listed three different types of sites that can drastically cut costs for getting services done.

For example: crowdsourcing. Crowdsoursing is where the power of a group is leveraged. Consider sites like 99Designs.com. You submit your graphical design request and a monetary prize that you are offering. Graphical design requests can be logos, websites, business cards, and more and each starts at a minimum amount. For logos, the minimum is $295. Then the community of graphical designers comspetes for your prize. Often a contest will get 10-100 designs. For small business owners what a great way to get quality work at a VERY reasonable price.

Another example is sites like fiverr.com and Zeerk.com. These are site where people offer to do smaller tasks for $5 up to $25. For small tasks this is a unique way (and cheap way) to get some small items accomplished, like a video for your product or small graphics.

Yet another option is oDesk.com and eLance.com. These are sites where you can hire freelancers to complete larger projects. Consider having an eBook writer, oDesk and eLance have several very inexpensive writers that can provide these services for you.

I predict more services will be available via these kind of online stores. Since the world is truly flat (like Thomas Friedman wrote), we have the whole world available to help us get our marketing tasks done, no longer are you limited to just your region.

6. Social media. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have become part of our everyday life, like it or not. Your customers are using these services and maybe wondering where you are. Being on social media is the start, but users want more than just to see you. They want to interact with you. They want to learn more about you and your business.

Customers want to control the process today more than ever before. They want to get information when they want it and in the way they want it.

7. Interaction is key. Even if you are on social media, having a static presence is not enough. They want interaction. Consider games, sweepstakes, contest, and resources; use these opportunities to interact with your client, not just talk at them.

Having a conversation with your prospect and client is really what they are looking for. They want to know if they ask you a question, you will respond. Consider using your website to provide resources, ask questions, allow them to provide feedback. Today’s consumer wants to communicate with the company and be heard.

8. Who has time for patience. I recently read you have 7 seconds to catch your website visitor’s attention before they click off your site. WOW – 7 seconds. That is not much time. Today’s buyer has so many choices, they quickly decide if what you are offering meets their needs. If your content is not clear and concise, they are on to someone else’s website. This means communicating your offering effectively will make all the difference. Great copy will make the difference in your brochures, flyers, websites, and emails.

Today’s prospect is BUSY. Forget the general terms, they want specifics. Becoming a specialists is becoming more and more important. The specialist is getting more sales and more referrals.

If you are using the web, no longer is one website cutting it. Using specific landing pages for each message and audience is the key to communicating directly to them and their needs.

9. Follow-up is king. As marketing infiltrates more and more of our lives, it will seem like marketing is every where: on the tv, computer, even your cell phone. As a small business, it will be even more critical to stay in touch with your prospects else they will go else where. Staying in touch can include: emails, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, postcards, phone calls. Now more than ever, communicating with them on a regular basis is critical.

We know in marketing, it is getting the right message at the right time. Using follow up systems will help you save time and keep your prospects coming to you.

2010 was a wait and see year, 2011 will be ea make it happen year. The economy has been down for several years and the rebound is building. We are now entering an economic spring and this will be the year for your business. Take advantage of these trends and 2011 will be a game changing year.

Calculating Business Trends

Being at the cutting edge of business trends may help companies of all sizes stay afloat, but this needs to be done in a calculated manner. The right blend of marketing, administrative, sales, support, and social media provides the key to success. Trends come and go, so look for the ones that have staying power. This is especially true for a small business that may operate on a shoestring budget and need to make every dollar count.

Marketing and Sales Trends

Most experts now agree that the first thing a company needs to do is to establish a brand. This may involve changing your business direction, but it is essential for prospects, clients, and customers to know the purpose of your company. Create a company mission statement, and use it in your marketing campaigns. Your brand must be dynamic and inviting in order for your company to thrive.

Gone are the days when all you need to do to be successful is to run an ad in the local newspaper or nationally distributed magazine. Even television ads lack the pizazz and sizzle they once had. Current business trends dictate developing and maintaining a powerful Internet presence with strong SEO (search engine optimization) and a reason for clients to return. This is just as true for a small business as for any large corporation.

Administrative and Support Trends

Current business administrative and support trends dictate integrity being at the foundation of your company. With the onslaught of fraud, the public is skeptical of anything with which they are not familiar. A proven track record once gave people confidence, but that is no longer true.

Running a lean company is currently on-trend for businesses. Avoid redundancy in staffing and administrative duties. If your company maintains an electronic database, there is no need for the same information in hard copy.

Enable employees to work from home if they are able to do the same duties without taking up valuable real estate in the office. With an Internet connection, many administrative jobs can be done remotely. This accomplishes several things. The office space can be saved for essential on-site tasks and storage. The employees’ transportation costs and commuting time will be a savings. Giving people an option to telecommute makes people more satisfied with their jobs, so you will be able to maintain a higher level of trained staff.

Internet and Social Media

Today’s business must be Internet savvy and keyed in to social media to reach the highest level of success. A company website that is easy to navigate is essential. Design an app that people can download to their computers, tablets, and smart phones. Tuning in to social media provides a vehicle to stay in the minds of prospects and clients while allowing them to see the latest news from your company. It also enables people to connect in a more personal way, and this helps build brand loyalty.

A company blog with a variety of topics will help keep your Internet presence interesting. You may use a combination of interviews with company executives, customer reviews, frequently asked questions, and other topics you feel will bring prospects to your blog often. Use your blog to feature new products and services.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media can be effective if used properly. Publicize your social media pages and encourage others to forward the information to help get the word out. Post frequently to prevent people from getting bored. Keep your social contact interesting, and do not forget to interact. This is a good way to show that you care about your customers and meeting their needs.

Why Do So Many Small Businesses Fail?

You frequently here that 99 percent of new online marketing businesses fail within the first year. That’s a staggering and very discouraging number. It was really bothering me. I just had to do some research to see for myself if it was accurate. After reading a few periodicals and numerous articles on small businesses in general my research shows that performance statistics for all small businesses, whether home based or not, are very similar across the board. I must say, to my surprise, that what I have seen statistically suggests that, actually, 60 percent of small businesses have a chance of surviving two years and 40 percent have a chance of being around after five years. The chances of success seem to be much better than has been popularly believed for some time. Some of the sources I tapped for my research include: Small Business Trends, Business Week, USA Today, Allbusiness.com and others.

Despite the optimistic numbers I discovered in my research a large number of small businesses do fail. Why? Opinions and statistics vary. In the interests of taking a closer look at online marketing, specifically, here are some big reasons why new online marketers fail so early on in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

1. Why Are You Doing This? So many people get into the marketing business for the wrong reasons. For example, if you think you’re going to get rich quick it’s an unrealistic expectation. It is possible to produce substantial profits in a short period of time in the online marketing industry. However, on the average, it takes six months to a year for most new marketing entrepreneurs to be able to build strong lists of leads and consistently convert sales. If you’re doing it to have more time to spend with you’re family you might be underestimating how much time and effort it takes to start up a business. Furthermore, If you think you wont have to answer to anyone else think again. The demands of your customers, business partners and tax issues alone will quickly dispel any of these naive notions.

2. Mindset And Fitness. If you don’t have the right mindset to begin with you are in trouble right out of the gate. To build and run a successful business takes a mental toughness that many do not posses. Failures and setbacks cannot deter you. You have to have a passion for what you are doing. You have to like, if not love, your fellow man. It really helps to be adept at dealing with a diversity of personality types. Also, many small business owners having had to fold within a year or two can be attributed to poor physical fitness and health issues. You have to stay fit to keep up with the demands of your new lifestyle. Undoubtedly your financial success will almost always be directly proportionate to your personal growth and maintenance.

3. Insufficient Capital. It not only takes money to start a business but it takes money to keep your business going until you do start seeing consistent conversion rates. The initial start up capital required to get a new online marketing business up and running is somewhere between $5k and $10k. Most people getting into marketing have not done nearly enough research to know just what they are getting into and will wind up having to fold before they ever have a chance. Buying into a marketing or sales system, web hosting and design, and add costs are just a few of the initial expenses you will incur.

4. Poor Planning And Money Management. I recently read a story about a man who hit the lotto for over $3 million. Two years later he was homeless, living in the streets of Philadelphia somewhere. His family was looking for him and put an add in the newspaper asking if anyone had seen him. If you’re contemplating starting a business in online marketing because you want to make millions with your laptop from your lounge chair on the beach while sipping mai tai’s… well, let’s just say you might need a slight reality check. If you do decide to jump into this marketing melee and you are one of the diligent ones who find success guard it. Be wary of fraud and counterfeiters. Do your research and find reputable, successful financial institutions to help you make sound financial investments. Plan for your future and look ahead.

5. Web Sites and Technology. Remember that 70 percent of the population in The United States is now shopping and doing business on internet. Internet marketing and sales is a $90 billion dollar a year industry. Americans lead the world in internet usage. There are thousands of people just like you and I turning to the internet as a means of earning an income. There will be so much growth on the internet in the next five to ten years that it is next to impossible to represent it in numbers. Not growing with and taking advantage of new and evolving technologies and schools of thinking will, inevitably, prove disastrous.

There is a lot to consider before jumping feet first into the online marketing industry. You will do yourself a great service by conducting as much research as possible before you decide to do so and with whom you will go into business. Perhaps The Global Resorts Network might be a good place to call your marketing home. Before you make any decisions take a look at The Global Resorts Masters. Maybe we can help make your decision a more educated one.