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Why 2011 Will Be a Huge Year for SMBs

Wheels in Motion for Online SMB Success

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I am declaring 2011 the Year of the Online SMB.

For the uninitiated, SMBs are small and medium businesses. They are the Holy Grail for business service providers because there are so darn many of them. They account for around 95% of the businesses in the US. (Either that or they supply 95% of the jobs but either way, it’s pretty impressive.) I like the definition of an SMB being under 100 employees, but up to 500 employees can be deemed an SMB also. There are no hard and fast criteria for determining SMB status but we all know one when we see one.

Why do we know them? Because they are regular people trying to make their way in life and live the American Dream of being their own boss etc, etc. They are also the business people who wear so many hats that they don’t have time to do half the things they need to do to be successful. They are often local business people who still feel that real relationships (ones that might actually involve an in-person look in the eye and a handshake) are important. They also are told by the Internet industry that they need to be doing all the latest and greatest Internet tricks in order to be truly successful.

This last point has resulted in some serious push back and skepticism about Internet marketing by the group, and deservedly so. They are usually fiercely independent—often to a fault. They frequently represent the best (and the worst) of the American entrepreneurial spirit, and they don’t like it when someone calls them stupid, which is what the Internet marketing industry does in not-so-concealed fashion. I would say that most times the people saying these things don’t even realize how they sound (which is another problem with the industry but I will not address that here).

As a result, SMBs are not as advanced as the Internet Retailer 500s of the world, but they are poised to take full advantage of Google’s play into the local space. Google Place Pages, Hotpot, Boost, Tags, and whatever else Google has up its wealthy sleeves are all pointed directly at the SMB market, both B2C and B2B. Get the hint?

Google is entering a mammoth struggle for the SMB marketing budgets with the likes of Facebook, Groupon and others. They are so dedicated to this market that they are even staffing real people (that’s right, warm bodies with no chips installed) selling to the SMB market.

All these factors lead to my prediction that 2011 will be the Year of the SMB. Not only will there be enough critical mass to see a real impact for many more small businesses, but there will even be an understanding of just how Google and Facebook’s Places concepts will allow SMBs to enter the Mobile Age without having to spend tons of money reinventing their Internet wheel. Have you ever seen how good a fully-optimized Google Place Page looks on an iPhone or Android device? It’s pretty cool.

Want another reason I am so confident that this is a safe prediction? It’s the influx of Android devices (which are optimized for Google service delivery) that are hitting the market at a rate of 300,000 activations per day. It brought me into a completely other phase of the mobile age as I went from BlackBerry user to Droid X user,now using Google’s free Navigation service to put Place Page layers over the GPS directions to see where restaurants and services are. I have even discovered new local businesses in my little town because of this device. I honestly thought I knew about every place here but Google proved me wrong.

Suffice it to say that I am bullish on 2011 being the year that the SMB gets into the full swing of the online marketing world. It’s exciting to think about because we need more stories about people from more walks of life than the Fortune and Internet Retailer 50s who are having success online. Those stories are old and recycled to death.

I look forward to 2011 being a year of telling the hundreds, even thousands, of success stories that will help SMBs not only to be more successful but to pull this economy out of the ditch it seems to want to remain in.

What are your thoughts on my prediction?

Originally published on Biznology.

Why 2011 Will Be a Huge Year for SMBs


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  • http://www.smbresearch.net Robert Eastman

    Frank,

    With regard to the definition of SMB, you are quite right about there being “no hard and fast criteria for determining SMB status”. In my article on the SMB Research Blog, “Sizing up Small-to-Medium Business (SMB)”, http://smbresearch.net/blog/sizing-up-smb/, I make the point that while “definitions” vary widely – even within the same Analyst firm – perhaps the most common metric is for firms with from 100 – 1000 employees.

    There is an interesting dynamic at work here: while the smaller companies certainly do not mind being referred to as SMB’s, I get the distinct feeling that the larger the firm, the more the disinclination to be referred to as an SMB.

    The net-net is, it seems to me, that while “SMB” persists at least as much due to convenience ‘ease of use’ as to anything else, the reality behind the numbers is anything but.

    Whether “2011 will be the Year of the SMB” or “the year that the SMB gets into the full swing of the online marketing world” very much remains to be seen in my opinion. I wonder how we will even know that a year has been ‘the year of the SMB’ at the end of the year. As for online marketing, I continue to be surprised by the relative clumsiness of company’s online efforts. I think it just must be very difficult for a company, focusing so much on its business, to put the right focus n the right places when it comes to leveraging a presence online.

    Bob Eastman, reastman at smbresearch (dot) net

  • http://www.csewebsolutions.com Dan

    I totally agree with you Frank. I posted something very similar on my blog at http://www.danderoeck.com/local-search/local-search-and-smb-paradox/ which covers the reasons, I feel SMB’s are not so fast to take on the recommendations of Internet Marketers these days.

    I then followed up on a more recent post that covers why I believe the SMB market is ripe to start seeing the gains the Internet has to offer: http://www.danderoeck.com/local-search/local-search-transformation/

    What we are both echoing here seems to hit the nail on the head. The SMB market is somewhat “behind the times” when it comes to leveraging the Internet. It’s really up to the business owner (and to the marketer to a large degree) to seize the moment, and take advantage of this trend. I also see 2011′ as a monumental year for SMB’s.

    Dan

  • Chris Crum

    There’s no question that the web is becoming a much more interesting place for SMBs with all of the evolutions in local search, deals (like Groupon and its competitors) and all of the check-in apps/location-based services. We’re definitely going to see a lot of innovations in this area in 2011. It will be particularly interesting to see which services (and combinations of services) most businesses flock to.

  • http://FirstPageMatters.com Tom Hennessy

    Frank,

    I agree 100% with you, this is the year for SMB’s. Google is putting “boots on the ground”, infiltrating local communities through relational marketing tactics and proving the SMB with cutting edge tools and dynamic resources which will be cost effective. Not only will it be easy for them to understand the new marketing strategies, a concierge will be available to assist, dedicated to there marketing needs, so the SMB can get on with what he or she does best, run there business.

    We are about to see a major shift in the market place by the first of Feb. 2011 concerning the way we bring this technology to these business owners. They are and always will be, the blood line to this nation.

    “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    Tom Hennessy, IMA
    FirstPageMatters

  • http://www.anthemlegal.com Legal Documents Guy

    Frank, I agree with you. The next big thing has been local geographic pushes, just like real life brick & mortar, only as you walk down the street, not only will you see physical signs in person, you can hold up your mobile, and get a coupon of the place your 50 yards away from.

    As a local business myself, I find the best way to get business is the good old fashioned handshake, person to person. Being number 1 in Google helps, too. but those are only 2 of perhaps 10 things an SMB does to market their business.

    Like you said, Frank, I am one of those business owners that have recognized the SEO experts telling me that I am dumb. Got it. Thanks, but your not the only game in town. It’s important to have a good internet image. But for an SMB, it’s important, more so, to have a good community image, a good business network exchange image, a good trade show booth image, a good better business bureau image, a good chamber of commerce image, a good local non profit engaged image, a good local newspaper image etc, and so on. You see what I’m gettin at?

    • http://FirstPageMatters.com Tom Hennessy

      Very well put, I couldn’t agree more!

      The business model you described above is critical in these times of uncertainty. It’s Relational Marketing in the true sense, assisting the SMB in creating this image. It can be done in a cost effect way that will not only secure his position in the market place, but yours as well.

      It will allow the individual providing the service to be recognized in the community as someone of influence, integrity and wisdom. I would love to hear how you’re implementing that strategy in AZ. My email address is attached.

      “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”

      Thank you for your post.

      Tom Hennessy, IMA
      FirstPageMatters

  • John

    I think I know one reason why many SMB’s are appear to be slow to adopt internet marketing strategies. I think it’s the high degree of high pressure sales tactics and lack of transparency and honesty in the overall Internet Marketing Provider Ecosystem. I’m the Director for Marketing for a B2B SMB. In our sector we are a medium sized firm, but overall we fit the SMB definition. We started our experiments with Internet Marketing (social media, email marketing, webinars, blogging, key word optimizing, etc

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