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.